A Large, Unsettling Question


If you are a baseball fan, and you woke up feeling good about your team today, that team probably isn’t the New York Yankees.

Entering the twelve-game stretch that began when they were swept by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway on June 9-11, the Yankees were 34-24, ten games over .500 and  tied with the Sox for first place in the AL East. They had a game-and-a-half lead over Toronto, and a six game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Today they are 38-31, seven games over .500, four games behind the first place Red Sox, hold a one game lead for second place over the Toronto Blue Jays, and are only two games ahead of the fourth place Tampa Bay Rays.

They have lost three out of the last four series, and would have lost all of them if it hadn’t been for Mets second baseman Luis Castillo dropping a pop flyball that would have closed out Game One of the Subway Series for his team had it landed in his glove. Two of those series losses have been against National League East teams with losing records, one of them the worst in baseball. They also come as the Red Sox and Tampa Bay are busy beating up on their NL counterparts.

Despite an elite roster bolstered in the offseason by the costly acquisitions of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett,  Mark Teixeira and currently dormant reliever Damaso Marte, they are doing just slightly better than the 40-35 record they held last season at this time, remain only one game closer to the Red Sox in the standings, and are exactly the same number of games behind them in the loss column.

As of right now, this makes the 2009 New York Yankees a tremendous, expensive disappointment.

If you are a Yankee fan this morning, and you watched our team lose the rubber game of last weekend’s set against the Florida Marlins on Sunday, you might recall hearing former Yankee, and current YES broadcaster, Paul O’Neill, comment that this was an extremely important series for the Florida franchise. As young team, he said, they needed to prove they could play against the Yankees.

But it was arguably a far more important game for the Yankees, who suffered yet another series loss to a team that had no business beating them, and have gone south in more ways than one heading into Atlanta for an interleague series with the Braves.

If you are a Yankee fan this morning, it leaves you wondering a few things.

After stalwart long reliever Alfredo Aceves had thrown almost three innings in scoreless relief of CC Sabathia, who left the game in the second inning with a sore left bicep, manager Joe Girardi pulled him from the game at the bottom of the fifth, replacing him with the unreliable Brett Tomko. At the time, the Yanks held a 3-1 lead.

Aceves currently boasts a sparkling 2.32 ERA and had thrown 43 pitches before leaving the mound. His final, hitless inning of work was his most economical; he’d needed only 9 pitches to get through it. Prior to Sunday’s game, he had last seen action on June 18th in a scoreless nine-pitch outing against the Washington Nationals. The day before, June 17th,  he had pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning against the Nats, dispatching them with only five pitches.

Tomko’s ERA for the season stands at 7.20. With the Yanks leading the Nationals 5-1 in the series opener, he threw a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the victory, while Mariano Rivera tossed in the bullpen, ready to close out the game if he ran into trouble. His previous appearance–on June 12 against the Mets–didn’t go as smoothly, as he surrendered 4 runs on three hits and two walks in a horrific 2/3 of an inning. Before that, he’d given up a run  to the Red Sox on two hits and a couple of walks on June 9th, when he threw a total of 47 pitches in 2 1/3 innings of relief.

The Marlins scored 3 runs against him in 2 innings to tie the game. Two of their hits were homeruns.  Tomko would leave it to fellow relievers Phil Coke and David Robertson to give up the lead, with the assistance of a throwing error from Melky Cabrera.

But let’s get back to Aceves a moment. A converted starter, he threw a season-high 70 pitches against the Red Sox on May 4, 50 pitches against Baltimore on May 21, and has since had several outings when he threw over 30 pitches.

On Sunday, with the Yanks needing a series victory before an off day on which Aceves would be guaranteed rest, his manager’s decision to pull him is at the very least problematic. It appears that instead of considering how fluidly Aceves was throwing the ball, Girardi opted to be cautious with his pitch count. The result was a Yankee loss.

Recently, a reader of this column asked my assessment of Joe Girardi’s performance as the Yankees’ manager. I told him that I thought it would take a full 2009 season before I could fairly evaluate it.

I still believe that. But if Girardi has shown one serious and noticeably recurring managerial flaw, it is a seeming tendency to have his eyes in his notebook when keeping his head in the flow of the game would better serve the team’s cause. It is a negative that has proven costly on more than a single occasion.

The bad little things I detailed in a previous entry–errors, base running gaffes, and walks to opposing batters–have continued to hurt the Yanks since they lost their winning ways in Boston.  Their bats have been sluggish,  their pitching  spotty, and their overall play lackluster at best.

How much of this falls on Joe Girardi is still an open question, and will remain so for a while.

But on a grey Monday day in 2009 in which the Yankee record and position in the standings is uncomfortably similar to where they were last year–Girardi’s first season as manager, and the first in 13 years that did not see the team make the playoffs–there is no doubt that question has begun to take a very large, unsettling shape.


  1. foxpj25

    Sir, as usual, you are right-on with your comments. I am soo
    tired of:
    1. Unknown pitchers throwing the “best game of their career” against us
    2. Joe G wanting the pitcher to “feel good about himself”
    after a couple of scoreless innings or pitch count, instead
    of winning the game. Lets worry about first things first..
    3. Outfield defense or defense-less…….look at MT at first
    base and what a huge improvement that has been,……for
    all the good that J Damon does with the bat, how many times will he loose the ball in the sun/lights/bugs/shooting stars or whatever+ all opposing teams know how pitiful
    his arm is (is he really right-handed??)
    4. A high-priced, super-star Team which, too often,
    has it fate in the hands of some bullpen character.

    Frustrating, isnt it?

  2. wdstro@gmail.com

    I think the Yankees are looking old. Jeter’s days are numbered. He should be moved down in the batting order and his coverage moving to his left playing shortstop isn’t that good. I would put the fastest player on the team to lead off.
    This feeling obligated to play Jeter is getting old and he doesn’t get on base enough to lead off.
    I know it’s early in the season but I don’t see the Yankees in the playoffs this year. I thought Girardi was going to be good for this team, it sure isn’t looking that way.

  3. pedrohd98@yahoo.com

    This is very good article, but with all due respect, I think the big issue with this team stays in the coaches.
    Too much talent can’t perform this way. When the Yankees just to win championships they had a couple maybe more of superstars (Jeter, Clemens…) But Bernie Wiliams, Paul O’Neal, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez etc didn’t earn this monstrous salaries. Nevertheless they put the ball in play when needed.
    David Wells, David Cone, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, even Clemens had a different approach to the game. Mel….we miss you!!!!
    They should invest more in coaches that in superstars. I think Leo Mazzone is still unemployed.
    Ridiculous right???
    Can’t delete history. Twenty six WS is something to meditate on.
    Go Yankees!!!!

  4. mbrandes@rochester.rr.com

    Well Jerome…it is nice to see the written truth. You have laid out the facts quite nicely, and I agree with them all.

    But I’d like to add one more thing to the mix, and it has become increasingly more evident over the years. The players that come to NY, come here EXPECTING to win championships. It seems like when they sign that contract, or get here in a trade, they feel that they are ‘entitled’. Seems as though they lose their drive and grit…that they feel management will put all the pieces in place for them to get that ring. (And just to clarify….I don’t mean Mark Teixiera. That guy is Mr. Intense..we just need more players like HIM)

    Let’s face it….from the day the Yankees put on the pinstripes, they are pampered. They have the best of everything. The best clubhouse…best training room…best and most luxurious travel accomodations. They are treated like SUPERSTARS, even though they don’t play like it.

    And I have to say….it might be time for Joe to go. He doesn’t seem to make the right moves. You’re right…Aceves should have stayed in the game. Tomko has proven to be unreliable and should have been sent down long ago. He had no business being in that game at that time. How many times does Joe need to be kicked in the crotch before he lears to NOT bring Tomko into a close game??

    I think the Yanks need a tough manager. Someone who is going to tell them when they stink…when they aren’t trying hard enough…someone to kick Cano in the a** when he doesn’t RUN as hard as he can to first base REGARDLESS of which infielder he’s just grounded to. Look at Tiexiera!! Against the Mets…if he isn’t running full out from first on ARod’s pop up, then the Yanks don’t get the walk off win!! Yet Cano still looligags it to first on a ground out or popup, and Girardi says NOTHING. That is a contagious attitude…a defeatist attitude, and if Piniella or Leyland was the manager, I can guarantee you Cano would be riding the pine or sent to the minors until he LEARNED the game.

    Thanks for the tell it like it is article!!

  5. drocco

    Jerome – you’re right on with everything. The Yankees are like an expensive restaurant You know, where you eat because it’s the most expensive restaurant in town and you think it’s nice, and the critics say it’s nice, but when you get there, the service is horrible and the food tastes like cr@p.

    Now the service is pretty darn nice at Yankee Stadium, as I can attest from my one visit a couple of weeks ago (this time, as a visiting midwesterner), but the food most certainly does taste like cr@p right now.

    The problem lies in the whole team, actually.

    Hitting is sparse, 10+ run games are a rarity and a luxury.

    RISP of .260 is just not going to cut it. The average means nothing, really. It’s when the hits are needed that is important. And none (NONE) of the Yankees are getting them. I really can’t even believe that the Yankees are as far over .500 as they are.

    The bullpen has often been the worst part of the team, and that continues this year. This has been one of the most baffling things, as the Red Sox have a bullpen that could probably shut the Yankees out if they DIDN’T EVEN USE THEIR STARTERS! Then, throw in Beckett and company, and the Yanks as they stand right now, shouldn’t even be in the same building as the Red Sox (hence 0-8).

    Coaching is pitiful, as outlined in your article. Joe Girardi, I thought you’d be a good manager, but you are seriously pitiful. The Rodriguez “benching” for “fatigue” WAS probably A-Rod’s choice, as Girardi does not have the cajones to bench A-Rod or any other Yankee because of poor performance.

    Scouting is pitiful, as there has not been one “never pitching against the Yankees before” pitcher who the Yankees have handled well. I wrote elsewhere that you could probably start the ace of the University of Arkansas (or maybe even Little Rock Community College?) and he would shut the Yanks out on 2 hits.

    Every year, things seem so promising. Seems we have more in common with Cubs fans than we think.

  6. piloto1

    I agree completely, JG has a very fast HOOK for his relievers but a very slow one for his starters. Joba should have been pulled out on several ocasions but with the wrong idea of making him a starter, they leave him on to see if their plan works. Also, there is no question that the Yankees have, in the back of their minds, the 8 straight loses to the Red Soxs.

    Carlos Ferro

  7. jyaman100@verizon.net

    For a long time I have felt the team does not seem to play for Girardi. If the BOSS was still boss Girardi would be gone by now. Second I am tired of hearing about A_Roid and how he’s so tired and needs days off. The line up is all wrong with Jetter leading off and A-rod in the clean-up spot. He’s not fit for that spot. Then the matter of Chamberlan as starter….ugh get him back in th bull-pen where he will be more useful.
    one last comment about A-rod; A-Rod only plays for personal stats and the Yankess will never win anything with him on the team. We just have to live with him for the next hundred years.

  8. rp10950

    why don’t Yankees fans feel too good now?

  9. ladytoni

    Wow! What more can I say… It’s all been said in your right on column and from your commenters. It’s nice to see fans giving straight forward comments and not smart aleck kid like comments. Thank you again Jerome for your intelligent blog. I’m starting to think this will be a very quiet October again with nothing to watch of my favorite sport.

  10. bacinbiz24@yahoo.com

    To pedrohd98@yahoo.com I enjoyed reading your blog you are right on the money with girardi being to soft on these guys. I also agree that the yankees needed a more seasoned veteran manager like pinella, pinella was my first choice to replace torri, even though I think they should have never let torri go, just look at the dodgers record case and point. The yankees defianantly have the talent to spank every one in their path, I think it becomes mental with them, the red sox as much as I hate that team have found a way to get to the yankees mentally, before the last visit to Boston the yankees were on hot streak, then all of a sudden they drop 3 more games to boston and they are back to barely winning games. There is defianantly some type of mental fear or discouragement about facing the redsoxs.

  11. wdstro@gmail.com

    Great comments, seems we all feel the same about the Yankees. Gardner should be leading off and bunting more with his speed. Damon should be gone or make him the DH.
    We want this team to win but the way this team is playing it’s sad. 😦

  12. urbanshawk

    Great blog, you said it all.
    There are alot of issues with this team that seem to combine to make everything seem highly suspect.
    The only thing I would add is that about two weeks ago we were all gleeful at the 09 Yankees ability to pull off come from behind win after come from behind win.
    Maybe what we should’ve been asking is why is this team having to come back to win in the first place?

  13. yomomma139

    You hit the Yankee nail right on the head except for waiting a whole year to evaluate Clueless Joe. You really should not need this whole season b/c if you do, that would be 2 full seasons. Yanks have played 1.4 seasons under the Clueless ‘leadership’ and if you need any further evidence, you are not looking at all which is currently available. I am tired of uninspired, listless, going thru the motions games -these guys do not want to play for Clueless. I am sick of bad bullpen decisions, bad starting “competitions, ” weak strategy and bad defense pissing away winnable games. All of this points directly to Girardi and only on the bad defense does he get a partial pass b/c he has to put out into the field what he is given. Even then, his decisions could be better – why is Swish getting so much PT in NL parks with Gardner on the bench?

  14. yankeesgoat@yahoo.com

    I agree 100% with everything said and I will reiterate…where is Austin Jackson? Its time people our outfield is by far the worst in baseball. when could we ever say that in the championshipo years? Gerardi gone …Showalter back that’s it!! Let him get us back to where he WAS going. Cashman gone…time for change…I’m out.

  15. apbperezburgos@yahoo.com

    The thing the author is saying, it’s almost the same I had in my mind after Girardi (G) brought Tomko(T), relieving Aceves (A) yesterday. I flew on Friday from my homentown in PR to Miami FL, to see the Friday and Saturday games in Dolphin Stadium for the first time in my my life to see my Yankees Team. I don’t have problem neither none of those games. I believe that Damon is one of the best players in this team. I flew back to my hometown on Sunday. As always I do I start to see the game at 5:10pm. After G took A off the game in the 5th I ask my self why?. When Henley gave (T) the Home Run I start looking in the yankees site to see his background. Wow… he has been in 7 teams since 1997 with a carreer 4.70 and a season 5.11 in 12.1 innings, and I ask my self… there is nobody else on that bulpen team?. I thought that G was going to get him off on the 6th but he didn’t. My feelings told me, we won’t be winning this game. Yow know what Cody did in that inning. Only Girardi and his assistants know what’s going on our team specially in the bulpen. I trust him, the only thing he need to be more carefull.

  16. loucreates@optonline.net

    I think Girardi is trying to hard not to make mistakes. Going by the book hurts him. He has to have a better insight to what is happening on the field. The team itself is not trying. When they beat the Marlins on Friday they scored 5 runs in one inning, after that they sat down. They should have scored a lot more. Maybe A Rod is not in good enough condition after his surgery to play or Mariano or Matsui but the real problem is the pitching, especially the relief staff. Here is where Girardi is faltering. He can’t be mister nice guy. He has to eliminate the ones that aren’t effective and use the one that are. And use them right.

  17. jimdempsey10@hotmail.com

    The Yankees need a hitting coach more than anything. People talk about how good Kevin Long is. Really. I don’t see it.

  18. kjnewk

    So much to say and not enough time. As i sit here watching the 96 world series on YES I am reminded of EVERYTHING right about those great years. A deep bench, inexpensive line-up and pitching staff, good play, hungry team. Not that this team is not hungry it is nothing like back in 96-2000, Nothing!

    I was a big fan of Joe Girardi, but man is he getting lost in his notes, as mentioned above.

    You have heard enough of me in the past, I love what Gardner brings to the team and should be playing every day. i believe Joba should be in the pen and hughes should be starting, i have been yacking about AJax for months and have actually noted he is hitting well in AAA. It is time. Put Swisher on the bench already,m where he was supposed to be anyway. Early in spring training I was commenting on how Jeter was aging and it shows, ARod is not himself right now and needed to be pulled from the lineup. I can;t point to one post before me becuae every last one has valid points it is amazing that all of us can see this yet nothing is changing on the team we support. It is past freaking annoying.

    Jerome, I read a lot of blogs and by far this one you have was so long overdue. We all thank you for this forum. I really have been slowly dropping the rest to come right to yours.

  19. kjnewk

    PS: Sweet Lou was always my first choice as manager. I love the fire he brings to the team and game…if only….he would have been the smart choice.


  20. oldschoolyank

    Real good piece here. I want to point out that it seems like the Yankees don’t have the same approach @ the plate that they used to have under Torre/Mattingly and others. It seems like Jeter is in the hole 0-1, 0-2 all the time, and he’s leading off. Not what you want in the #1 spot. Swisher and Tex have decent eyes, but I remember the championship Yanks as guys, who even when they weren’t swinging the bats well, would work a pitcher, take their walks and build and inning somehow. We are not doing a lot of things well right now; we also really need to get runners home from 3rd with less than 2 outs by just hitting a fly ball for an easy SAC and score a run. It’s also sad to see these soft ground balls, into DPs, killing innings when we do get someone on. We’re going to need to pick it up real soon. No panic yet, but we need a sense of urgency. Where are the pies in the face?

  21. condobill

    I left a meesage on another bolg….But they said it was too harmful & was not aloudI have watched ever Yankee game as I always do……
    Joe G seem s like some one else is telling him to do…his dissions are so bad plus he doesnt up his player……..
    CC was so mad last week when Joe G took him out of the game you saw it on TV…….This is not a team because of Joe G
    This is a great team if put together

  22. norm07

    I agree with your comments, except I do not believe the rest of the season is needed to evaluate Girardi’s performance. I saw enough last season to tell me he was a mistake. Last season, the players never seemed to learn their roles. He tinkered with the line up needlessly. He relied too heavily on the book. He has no feel for the flow of the game. We do not need to wait the rest of this season to see his faults.

    I have heard so much praise for this coaching staff. However, that praise seems unearned. The results do not support the praise.

    I certainly wish we had Torre, Mattingly, Bowa, Kerrigan, and Mel back. They were a lot better than their replacements.

    Thanks for opening the discussion of Girardi’s performance.

  23. Jerome Preisler

    Wow . . . I pull my head out of a CSI novel I’m writing and find find a ton of comments! Jyaman100 . . . I was recently looking at two books I read a while back, BALLS by Graig Nettles/Golenback and WILD HIGH and TIGHT Golenback’s bio of Billy Martin. Longtime readers know I’m a Billy Martin guy. There’s a story I almost quoted for the article about the time the Yanks played, and lost, a doubleheader in Minnesota. This was the first time Martin had returned there after he’d left as manager, after ’69, I believe, and he dearly wanted to win. He was so furious at the Yanks, he went into the clubhouse, threw a screaming and cursing fit, flung chairs around, and overturned their food buffet. Now, I’m not saying Girardi should’ve gone quite that far . . . but I’d like to see a little of that . . . Carlos, I also wonder if those losses to the Sox had a lingering effect . . . drocco, in my darker moments last season, I also started thinking about that Cubs comparison, but will not go there. It is TOO scary . . . yankeesgoat, I think Buck would always have a problem getting along with players and the front office under the heat of day to day managing. However, I’ve always wondered how he’d do as a member of the front office a la Nolan Ryan in Texas . . . his strongest suit to me is player development and imparting a certain winning attitude . . . mbrandes, I honestly thought Joe would be Leyland-esque when he first got the job. I agree with you completely that Teixeira is old school tough. My hope is that as he settles in, guys like Cano will be afraid to look at him in the dugout when they give away at-bats, just as they’d fear Tino. He was well known for giving them a glare and policing things . . . Awright, gotta get some work in. Later, all.

  24. alightningrodfan

    Three points Jerome. First, I generally like Girardi and have not wanted to say negative things about him. However, even I have to agree that some of his decisions have really made me wonder. There are several games that we can say the Yankees could have won if not for a decision he has made. I still want to give him a chance, but his decisions about how to handle the bullpen have cost us. Second, as for the comment about A-Rod and the team not winning with him (the same old statement made again and again), I think that this season so far has made one thing clear, which is that this team really needs his bat and his hitting well. When he got back, the team was winning and Tex was hitting. Now he is slumping and Tex is not doing as well as he did before. The team is in a slump. There are many reasons the team is not doing well right now, and Joe and the pitching is certainly two of them. But the huge impact A-Rod’s bat has on this team really can no longer be ignored, even by those who dislike A-Rod. And third Jerome, I say once again, we need Posada batting fifth, not Cano. Nothing against Cano, but we have discussed this before.

  25. judymartonepeluso@sbcglobal.net

    As usual, great article Jerome. I totally agree with all you said. As I’ve mentioned before, I, too, am totally frustrated with Giradi. Everyone makes mistakes, but the key is to learn from them. It doesn’t seem that Giradi learns since he keeps making the same mistakes over & over again. It makes me want to scream! His going by the books has been discussed ad nauseum on sports talk radio &, STILL, he continues to do the same things. Joe Torre had a “calm” about him; I think Giradi “tries” to be calm but exudes uptightness & tension. He is far too rigid for my taste & I think it’s hurting the team.
    Hey, good luck with your new book!

  26. bxwalt@aol.com

    Giradi really stinks as a manager. His pitching moves bewilder me. He better issue neckbraces to the fielders when Tomko pitches, so they don’t get whiplash. Does Giradi get a bonus for the number of ridiculous pitching moves he makes. Melky is hitting under .230 for the last month, why is he starting every day? Why is Berroa on the team? Can we get at least one corner outfielder that can field?

  27. kjnewk

    One more thing since this seems to be going toward the manager and coaching staff. First, we all know the players need to perform, but on the same token the players in the game are only able to perform with how they are somewhat directed. For instance, CC did not want to come out of the game – I think the man on the moon could have seen that. He was not able to do his job becasue he was taken out of the game by Girardi. Now I like Girardi and one of the reasons why I liked him was he seemed to be tough. I loved Billy Martin and have seemd to always been looking for the right type of replacement for our manager in my mind. Lou Piniella came right to mind, but that did not happen. I am really shocked at how poorly Girardi is doing of late, really.

  28. payankee

    A great article that is spot on. What a waste when the team has the talent but doesn’t know how to utilize it. Girardi, Eiland, and Long are more worried about keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. Girardi has his head in a stat book rather than seeing what is in front of him. His mis-management has cost the yankees at least 6 games this season. Losing 3 in Boston in early June took away all the swagger and confidence this team had and now they are losing to the Nationals and Marlins. Boston and Tampa are moving in one direction while we go the opposite way. It is hard for yankee fans staring at another 3rd place finish and no post season again. The yankees have the pieces to be successful but are not putting them together correclty.

  29. kjnewk


    I agree. It is sad to see all this good talent going down the tube. It is not quite the mid season point but looking down the line I do not see much promise for the team to do an about face and string together some descent wins to re-catch the lead.

  30. jdkjjk@yahoo.com

    It’s entirely possible that after the Yankees finish interleague play they can very well be at 40 and 35; the same record as last year after 75 games. This after signing Texiera, Sabathia, and Burnett.
    I think the biggest mistake the Yankees made in the off season was not signing Abreu. Abreu is a consistent .300 hitter and always hustled. I know there were criticisms of his fielding but does anyone really believe Swisher is an improvement and Nady who was actually supposed to be Abreu’s replacement , overall numbers do not match Abreu’s.
    The failure to resign Abreu clearly demonstrates that Yankee management does not recognize reality. Two of their existing run producers, Posada and Matsui have been injured and their best days are clearly behind them and their hope for Cano is misplaced, he will never be a front of the lineup hitter.
    As far as Girardi’s managerial skills; I used to think that Torre was one of the worst in-game managers around and that Girardi would be an improvement but this has not been the case. He makes some of the same pitching mistakes as Torre in that he will either wait too long or take out a pitcher after a predetermined number of pitches. A case in point for the first example was Sabathia’s game against the Red Sox; the Yankees had the lead in the 8th and Girardi stayed with Sabathia until he allowed the go ahead run to reach base. In Sunday’s game against the Marlins, he pulled Aceves after 43 pitches. The difference between Torre and Girardi in Sunday’s game, at least, is there is no way Torre goes to Tomko; Torre stayed with his hot pitcher of the moment often to their detriment.

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