Thursday, June 5, 2014

Joe Searching For Some Life On A Lifeless Ballclub

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I didn't watch much of last night's game even though I had it on ESPN because the Rangers were obviously the priority, but I did have the Gameday feed up so I followed along enough to know that last night was another in what's become a common theme of Yankee losses.  It was their 4th in a row, 6th in their last 8 games, and the 6th straight game in which they failed to score more than 4 runs.  They scored early, with 4 runs in the 3rd inning, then never scored again as their below replacement-level 5th (4th??) starter and Quad-A middle relief corps slowly and methodically killed the 4-run lead they were given.

In boxing terms, last night's game was like a Floyd Mayweather fight.  The A's were the better team, the Mayweather in the matchup, and they knew it.  Instead of changing their approach, they stuck with what they do best, played their game, and slowly picked the Yankees apart by outclassing them as a baseball team and winning an easy decision.  Outclassed is a perfectly appropriate term here too, because last night the Yankees were outclassed by the A's.  The A's did everything better than the Yankees last night.  There was never any doubt, in my mind, that they were going to come back and win that game the minute Yoenis Cespedes hit his first home run to get them on the board.

That's what it's become in Yankeeland right now.  They are a team that inspires no confidence, no level of comfort in any lead, and almost no hope that any deficit can be overcome.  They're playing slow, sloppy, sad baseball and the manner in which they're playing it isn't even fun or entertaining to watch.  That's what really concerns me here.  The Yankees are playing with a certain deadness in their game that I can't ever remember seeing, not even last season.

When I was watching last night during hockey intermissions, I didn't get any kind of vibe from the the team at all.  None.  They didn't seem like they were pressing, they didn't seem like they were down about how poorly they had been playing, they didn't seem like they were upbeat and positive to try and turn things around.  They didn't seem like they had any feeling at all.  I didn't see or hear many guys chattering from the dugout.  I didn't see many reactions on missed swings or questionable calls.  Not even many positive or negative facial expressions.  It was a bunch of boring, quiet, tired-looking guys playing boring, quiet, tired baseball.

To his credit, I think Joe realizes this too and I give him some props for trying to shake things up a bit over the past few days.  He got Scott Sizemore back up and into the lineup as a potential platoon bat against left-handed pitching, he's sitting Alfonso Soriano and going with Ichiro in right field, and he gave John Ryan Murphy a second straight start behind the plate last night.  When the game went into the late innings, he used his 2 new relievers Jose Ramirez and Wade LeBlanc.

In hindsight, that may not have been the best decision, but it was something new and better than watching Aceves.  It probably had more to do with the heavy workloads Betances and Warren have been taking on than Joe actually wanting to get a look at his new guys and even that shows a change in approach from Joe.  Maybe the 2 of them could use an extra day or 2 off to recharge and get themselves right.  If getting a look at another potential Betances-type middle relief prospect has to happen as part of that process, so be it.

Joe should get another helpful piece for this shakeup back tonight in Carlos Beltran.  He's going to plug Beltran into the regular DH spot, which should further limit Soriano's at-bats and lengthen the middle of the lineup a bit.  If he really wanted to maximize that offensive improvement, he could make the call to move Jeter down in the order and keep Gardner and Ellsbury at the top.  That combination could give the offense the spark it so badly needs and get some juice back into this team, and they need some of that in the worst way.  I'm not a big subscriber to the rah-rah theories of sports where "showing your passion" and "playing the right way" and all of that is valued over winning, but with the team looking this lifeless and out of sorts right now I'll take anything over doing nothing.

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