Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The 2016 Yankees have returned

Last night - in the middle-inning blur before Tyler Clippard started tossing moonshots - I watched the next four months play out in a dream sequence. We were down by just one run, though that familiar sense of hopelessness was already creeping from my TV screen, like the watery girl ghoul from the 2002 horror classic, The Ring. Batting was Brett Gardner, for many years now, my favorite Yankee. Gardy turned on an inside pitch and nailed it, bam, a carbon copy of the HR swing that earlier this season stunned the Cubs. But this one went foul. Then, on the next pitch, Gardy tapped an infield bouncer. He hustled to first, almost beat the throw. Out by a step. And I felt the water creeping at my toes. 

I looked it up. Across his career, we have known two Brett Gardners. Over nearly 4,000 at bats, in the first half of the season, Gardner hits.278. He made an all-star team, notched six out of every 10 stolen bases and two-thirds of his homers. Then, poof. Over the second half, his average plummets by 32 points, to .242, and virtually every aspect of his game diminishes. (In Augusts, he hits .232; in September-October, .235. And these are not small sample sizes, folks. This is career-defining reality.) 

I looked it up. Over the 30 days, Gardy is hitting .245. He has already reached his second-half malaise, aka "normalcy." And maybe, so have we.

In the month of June, we are 8-10. Since May 8, the mighty "Baby Bombers" have gone 17-20. What obscured our mediocrity was a bunch of lopsided wins: We are an astounding 19-2 in games classified as "blowouts." But in one-run games, we are 7-9. In simple terms, we are padding our stat lines in meaningless situations, but failing to deliver in the clutch. 

And it's in those critical situations that we were supposed to be led by veterans such as - gulp - Gardy and Clippy. Rookies are undependable, right? That's why we kept Gardner, and why last July, in the midst of the youth boomlet, we traded a 23-year-old prospect, Vincente Campos, for the 31-year-old Cliptard. Those are the guys who are supposed to come through in big moments, right? 

Insert sigh here. Clutch at-bats used to be Gardy's thing. With a game on the line, he was a grinder, a tough out. Now, he taps to the middle infielders and always arrives a foot behind the throw. This entire franchise - which spent the month of May celebrating the Cooperstown credibility of Brain Cashman - now lists in the water like that Navy destroyer off the coast of Japan. 

In the way that we recall other recent Yankee collapses by the likes of Sidney Ponson, Vernon Wells and "Wallflower" Bobby Abreu, I fear this 2017 team will be remembered for Clippard and the beached whale known as Chris Carter. Last night, under media fire after the game, Joe Girardi shrugged and said something to the effect of, "They're all we've got," and you know what? Joe was right. The same can be said of Pineda, Tanaka, Headley and Gardy, the entire veteran brigade: They're all we've got. 

Nevertheless... I am not quitting on this team. Coming into this season, we knew the Yankees were two years away from dominance, and that Boston was going for broke. We never suspected Aaron Judge would become such a monster, or that Aaron Hicks could so elevate his game. In many respects, we've already over-achieved. Boston still has to beat us (though Chris Sale looms.) But soon, it will be time to cut ties with some old friends. It will mean sending Tanaka to the DL, maybe waiving Clippard, benching Gardy and Headley, and maybe even trading CC Sabathia and Pineda - in favor of no names from Scranton. It happened last season with Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, two upstanding citizens of the game. It'll be time to shed skin. Watching your team collapse is never fun. But watching a wave of youngsters can be quite refreshing. In that regard, I am looking forward to the second half, because frankly, games can't get more dreary than last night.

8 comments:

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...


You are either a person of Sicilian ancestry ("all is lost" - all the time) or a major fan of The Pope and his religion's belief system.

You go from depressing reality to some kind of fantasy. IN ONE POST!!!

If I really believed this team would do all of the things you outlined in your final paragraph -- dump all of the deadwood -- I would MOVE to Vegas, watch the World Series line on the Yankees, and put a huge amount of dough down in mid-August.

If I really believe things were as bad as they look at this very minute, I'd become a Mets' fan. Which, due to the tenets of my personal religion ("all NYMet fans must die") would entail throwing a molotov cocktail at myself.

RJ said...

Betances, with 4 days off, has to be in to pitch in the 7th inning last night.
Coming off 6 straight losses, and his rest, he should be in to preserver the tie and give them a shot to win the game.
Ridiculous decision making by Girardi

I'm Bill White said...

I totally agree with you. But we cannot prevail over Binder 7, Tab 39.

Tom said...

Remember how Terry Francona used Andrew Miller last fall? He brought him in as needed, not for a predetermined inning. The Yankees should never consider doing that because they have two of the best relievers and they don't want to go to the World Series.

John M said...

I know I'm beating a dead binder, but Girardi loses us at least 5 games per season, and arguably many more.

On ESPN today, the story about our lousy pitching featured this line: "Girardi seemed to be considering removing Clippard from the seventh-inning role." Seemed? Considering? Wtf?

The same article leads with Joe's put-down of Carter: "It's what we have." The question is, why? Does that mean Joey has no control over getting Ty Austin up? Is he pissed because Cashman stubbornly is sticking with Carter? Wtf?

It's not just that the pitching has gone south and the team gone cold. The choices being made are obviously bad. I mean, wtf?

Alphonso said...

1. I agree

2. With what doesn't matter.

3. Holliday has gotten old.

4. We may, indeed, have lost the Pineda trade.

5. First base and third base are Yankee sink-holes.

6. We are down to three pitchers worth watching ( two young starters and Bettances ).

7. Four if El Chappo can re-establish himself.

8. When Chekhov spoke of a dark winter.....

joe de pastry said...

I'm not giving up on this team-I will continue to watch most of the time-but I'm not expecting to see them in October.
But, as a pessimist since Game 6 in 2004, I never was expecting to see them in October.

Anonymous said...

WHAT AMAZES ME, IS IT LOOKS LIKE GIRARDI'S PLAN TO GET CLIPPARD SHARP AGAIN IS BY USING HIM EVERY SINGLE DAY! ..... HOW CAN THIS BE WHEN ALL HE EVER SEEMS TO WORRY ABOUT IS WHO NEEDS A REST TOMORROW? ...... SOMEHOW, WHEN IT COMES TO CLIPPARD, HIS CAUTION GOES OUT THE WINDOW......YOU MEAN TO TELL ME A "REST" FOR CLIPPARD AFTER BEING BOMBED, GAME AFTER GAME HASN'T CROSSED GIRARDI'S MIND YET? ...... ISN'T IT INSANE?