These past 3 weeks have not been enjoyable as a Yankee fan or a writer. There isn't much to be found in the way of positive talking points, and I feel like the Yankees' pathetic play has been taking its toll on me. It's mentally and emotionally draining to watch the team play the same tired, sloppy, lifeless brand of baseball and then have to either stay up way later than I wanted to or drag my ass out of bed way earlier than I wanted to the next day to write about it. So you know what? Rather than sit here and agonize over the crummy bullpen or RISP Fail for the umpteenth time, I'm just going to offer up a few friendly ideas for what I think needs to be done in these last 3 weeks of the regular season. Some of them could help the Yankees win more game, some might not, but at this point I'm fed up with watching the same things continue to happen and continue to generate the same results. I fancy myself a pretty knowledgeable baseball guy, so maybe these suggestions are actually the keys to righting the ship. They can't be any worse than the strategy Joe's already rolling with.
Give Ichiro's At-Bats to Chris Dickerson
I liked the logic behind the Ichiro trade, and he has done some good things here and there, but now that rosters have expanded it's time to stick his ass on the bench where he probably belongs. Ichiro's overall numbers are still better than they were in Seattle (.285/.310/.409 in 144 PA), but he's just 11-50 (.220) since his big 2-HR game against Josh Beckett on August 19th, and those numbers are juiced by his 3-hit game last night. In that same timeframe Ichiro has only 2 runs scored, 0 SB, 0 BB, and 10 Ks. His defense hasn't been a difference maker and he's just 4-7 in SB attempts in pinstripes, so what is Ichiro really bringing to the party right now?
Everything that Ichiro was brought in to do can be and already has been done by C-Dick in his limited playing time since coming up. Dickerson can play all 3 OF spots well, he's got speed on the basepaths, more pop in his bat, and actually knows how to and is willing to take a walk. If/when Teix comes back and shifts Swisher back to right field, Dickerson should be getting the bulk of the PT in left field against RHP.
Keep the Situational Bunting Thing Going
I commented on the right-and-wrongness of both Dr. Long and Joe's takes on the matter already, and I'm a believer that the Yankees should keep the sac bunt trick in their bag moving forward, even when they start to get their entire regular lineup back together. They're still going to be old, they're still going to be banged up, and they're still going to be platoon-heavy. In an attempt to keep Teix, A-Rod, Jeter, and whoever else is hurting as healthy as possible, you have to assume guys like Jayson Nix, Raul Ibanez, Eduardo Nunez, and Andruw Jones are going to continue to get put in the lineup. These are the guys who aren't hitting, and they're the guys that should be laying bunts down with runners on base, especially at the bottom of the batting order when it turns the lineup back over to the top, the better hitters that you theoretically want at the plate with RISP.
Get Better Length From the Rotation
This one's obviously easier said than done as it involves more than just managerial decisions, but the Yankees can't continue to go every turn through the rotation with 2 guys giving them just 4-5 innings. The bullpen is too weak to pick up that slack with the group of middle relief arms that Joe keeps rolling out there, and now the late-inning guys are starting to show some cracks in their game as well. Each of the non-CC or Hiroki starters has turned in a sub-6 inning outing their last time out, and both Freddy and David Phelps have done that in consecutive starts. There's no definite timetable for Andy Pettitte or Ivan Nova's return, so for the time being this will continue to be the starting 5. The Phils Hughes and Freddies Garcia of the world need to be more efficient with their pitches and work deeper into games. Period.
Do Something With Adam Warren
I didn't understand bringing up Adam Warren when the Yanks obviously weren't going to let him start and Triple-A Empire State was going to the playoffs, and I still don't. Warren hasn't pitched since 8/27, and hasn't come close to sniffing the mound since being called up last Saturday. I know he bombed in his Major League debut, but he's still a guy with some value and he ended up having a solid year in Triple-A after a rough start. If you aren't going to let him finish what he helped start in the Triple-A postseason as the team's de facto ace, then you better damn well find something for him to do in the Major League bullpen. Even if it's just pitching garbage time innings in blowouts, that's more useful than rolling out the Cody Eppley-Derek Lowe-Justin Thomas buffet table of mediocrity. If nothing else, it gives the Yankee brass and coaching staff another chance to evaluate Warren and see how, if at all, he fits into their future plans.
Get Derek Jeter As Much Rest as Possible
Another one that's easier said than done, as the coaching staff would probably have to strap Jeter down in the clubhouse to prevent him from playing late-season games in a close pennant race, but something that should be considered. Jeter's played in 135 of 137 games this season, which puts him on pace for 159, a number he hasn't reached since 2005. He hasn't gotten any free time off with a DL stint, and the Yankees' other injury problems have necessitated keeping Jeter in the lineup and prevented him from getting as much time off as Joe probably wanted to give him. He has to be more banged up than he's letting on, and while it's important to have his production in the lineup to help secure the division title, it's also important that he has something left in the tank. There's ways that Joe can get creative to make this happen; give Jeter a few more DH days this month, yank him in the 6th or 7th inning of a blowout here or there, anything to give that 38-year-old body some downtime.
So there's my free amateur advice, Joe. If you're reading and you feel like jotting some notes down, be my guest. If not, I'm sure there's something in that binder of yours that will work too. Go get 'em, tiger!