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Keefe To The City: The Bronx Is Burning

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Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees pops up to end the game losing 5-4 against the Boston Red Sox on May 13, 2011. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees pops up to end the game losing 5-4 against the Boston Red Sox on May 13, 2011. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Neil Keefe
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I hate going to bars to watch Yankees games. I just don’t like it. If I’m not at the game, I would rather be home watching it. It’s more comfortable at home. It’s easier to focus on what’s happening in the game, and you can hear what’s going on in the game. But if I had to pick a day or time to go to a bar to watch a Yankees game, a Saturday with it being a FOX broadcast would be the easy choice.

So, that’s what I did on Saturday. I went to a bar to watch the game figuring the only thing I would be missing would be the voices of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. In other words, I wouldn’t be missing anything at all. Or so I thought it.

Prior to the game I found out that Jorge Posada was dropped to ninth in the order, and read the comments that he put it on himself. Then, I found out he was a healthy scratch, so I figured he was either injured or just getting a day off. But when the game started and the FOX cameras spent more time on Posada than on the field, and when Twitter started spreading news that he would address the media after the game, I had no idea what was going on. It was like playing the lottery every day and then the one day you don’t play, you would have won … except the opposite. The one time I chose to go to a bar and sacrifice listening to the broadcast of the game happened to be on the one time I needed it.

Saturday was unusual and aggravating, but I’m not going to dwell on Jorge Posada and where he’s hitting in the lineup because there are more important issues at hand, like umm … A FIVE-GAME HOME LOSING STREAK! So, while I’m still unsure about how to feel about what Posada did and how he became the latest victim to be thrown under Brian Cashman’s bus, I need to forget about it and move on. Worrying about where the 39-year-old designated hitter who’s hitting .165 is in the lineup isn’t going to stop the Yankees from possibly falling from first to fifth in the span of a week.

I have pretty much accepted over the years that the Yankees just aren’t going to play well against the Red Sox at the beginning of the season. It happens every year. But in the second half? Well, that’s a different story. I can’t remember the Red Sox winning a big game against the Yankees in August or September, but I can remember all of the Yankees’ wins in the final two months of the season in recent years. The win to clinch the division in the final weekend of 2005. The five-game sweep in 2006. The comebacks at Fenway in September in 2007. The four-game sweep in 2009. The Yankees own the Red Sox in August and September. It just happens to be a different story in April and May.

On Friday morning, I was writing down some thoughts and ideas for future pieces and I actually wrote this:

No matter what happens this weekend, the season isn’t over. It’s not lost.

It might have been the most rational thought I have ever had regarding the Yankees, and I still can’t believe I wrote it. But I’m too devastated right now to look on the bright side of this weekend and getting swept at home. Am I at John Beckwith status? No, not yet. That’s usually a level only seen in the postseason, but we’re getting close, and if this “thing” gets to seven games, well, then we might have a problem.

It’s always amusing to me when Rex Ryan says things like, “Play like a Jet” or when he talks about “playing Jets football.” I understand that Rex is talking about the Rex Ryan Jets and not the Jets prior to him being head coach that coined the phrase “the same old Jets,” but it’s still hard to accept that “playing like a Jet” now actually means something.

Well, these past few weeks haven’t been what I’ve known to be “Yankees baseball.” It’s been anything but “Yankees baseball.” Maybe “Mets baseball” or “Orioles baseball” or “Roy—,” oh yeah the Royals took two out of three from the Yankees last week. Nevermind.

Errors, missed bunts, wild pitches, passed balls, caught stealings and missed opportunities with runners in scoring position have defined the Yankees of late. And on Sunday Night Baseball when Bobby Valentine said the 2011 Yankees “didn’t have an identity yet,” I wanted to take his headset from him and say, “This is their identity!” At least for now it is.

Like I said, I’m not going to dwell on Posada-Gate, but let’s talk some more about Posada. (If you haven’t realized what I’m doing by now, you didn’t watch the ESPN broadcast of the game on Sunday night.) I don’t know what to make of Posada-Gate. To steal Eddie Vedder’s line from the Pearl Jam’s 1996 Grammy acceptance speech, “I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything. That’s just how I feel.” But there are two ways to look at it:

1. Jorge Posada is hitting .165 and should be lucky that he’s in the lineup at all.

2. Jorge Posada is hitting .165, but should keep his spot in the order since Joe Girardi has been hesitant to move any other veterans down and has created a double standard and somewhat of “favorites.”

No. 1 should be the only way to look at it, but Girardi’s unique way of using his inconsistent instincts to make decisions has left the door open for No. 2 to also be an option. Girardi is a creature of habit. It’s either that or he’s a creature of illogical, mind-boggling and asinine decisions. For some reason, when you acquire a role on the Yankees you hold that role for your entire Yankees tenure like a Supreme Court Justice. (Well, unless your name is Brett Gardner or Jorge Posada.) It takes A LOT for Girardi to take someone out of their spot in the lineup or out of their set inning in the bullpen. And by “A LOT” I mean enough where it has to cost the Yankees significantly in several games.

Look at the opposing manager, Terry Francona, from over the weekend. His lineup has undergone more changes than Tara Reid, and judging by his team’s 18-10 record since their 2-10 start, I think he’s found something.

Joe Girardi? He will keep putting out the same lineup and leave relievers in their originally planned roles no matter the results are like trying to jam a square peg through a round hole. It takes a lot for Girardi to realize it isn’t working out, but somehow with the Yankees now 8-12 over their last 20 games, he still isn’t convinced that it’s time to shake things up.

I have news for you, Joe: You lost five home games in a row. You have gone from seven games over .500 to two. You saved the Tigers’ season and then the Red Sox’. There shouldn’t be anymore “set” roles.

While Girardi can’t make the Yankees field the ball better and can’t make the catchers actually catch pitches, he can make the lineup and decide who hits where. And since there aren’t any double standards here (well, except for a tiny one with No. 2, but let’s not worry about that), I have decided to make the lineup that I think Joe Girardi should use.

1. Derek Jeter
Very few people will like keeping Jeter as the leadoff hitter, but Granderson and Cano can’t hit in every spot in the lineup, so the options are limited here. And I would rather watch an “I Love You, Beth Cooper” marathon than reward Gardner for anything right now, so Jeter remains in the leadoff spot. Jeter has been back to his old tricks since that Sunday in Texas. And by old tricks, I mean grounding out to short or second in nearly every at-bat. The only difference is that when Jeter isn’t hitting, he doesn’t hurt the team in the field like A-Rod or Swisher and sometimes Cano.

I’m keeping Jeter in the leadoff spot because I like what he and Granderson provide hitting back-to-back in the lineup, and I think the Ballpark in Arlington Jeter still exists. I think we’ll see him this week.

2. Curtis Granderson
If I could bat Granderson in every spot in the order and use ghost runners for him like a 1-on-1 Wiffle ball game I would. I’m actually mad I can’t.

3. Robinson Cano
The day before Opening Day, I told Sweeny I wanted Cano to bat third and Teixeira to bat fifth. He talked me out of it, and then after Teixeira made hitting three-run home runs routine, I chalked it up as me being wrong. Well, I’m no longer wrong and this move is well overdue.

Aside from never seeing a changeup he didn’t like, Teixeira has become synonymous with pop-ups to the left side of the infield. Sure, he had a pair of hits on Sunday night, but he hasn’t looked like a No. 3 hitter for a while.

4. Alex Rodriguez
I thought about putting A-Rod eighth here, but that would be insane. No one would ever think about doing that.

In spring training and the first few weeks of April, I thought we were getting ready to see a magical season from A-Rod. Now it just seems like once the media is done with Jeter and Posada, they are going to go searching for A-Rod, and I can’t really blame them.  Especially after Sunday night on the postgame when A-Rod tipped his hat to Josh Beckett and Jon Lester for extending his slump. Aren’t you Alex Rodriguez? Shouldn’t pitchers be tipping their hat to you once in a while?

I thought about putting Cano third, Granderson fourth, A-Rod fifth and Teixeira sixth, but I thought about how important A-Rod is to the lineup and how the Yankees’ success is determined by how he performs. Right now he’s not going hitting at all, but he will turn it around. He has to turn around? He will turn it around, right?

5. Mark Teixeira
The next time Teixeira pops up the first pitch he sees to the left side of the infield, I’m going to lose it. (I know you’re thinking, “Hasn’t he lost it already?”) Teixeira has been good for stretches this season, but it’s time for a change. It’s time to show that Cano should have been hitting third all along.

6. Russell Martin
Martin has been the second MVP of this team after Granderson. He should have been batting sixth a while ago.

7. Designated Hitter
I wasn’t sure if I should pencil in Jorge Posada’s name here or just put Designated Hitter since you never know when Posada might need a day off.

Posada-Gate is being chalked up as “Jorge had a bad day.” Or, “George had a bad day” if you’re Joe Girardi. Most people don’t tell their boss they aren’t going to do their job when they have a bad day. They suck it up and do it. Most people also don’t do their job 16.5 percent of the time and get paid $80,864 per game to do it either.

I liked that Bald Vinny and the Bleacher Creatures included Posada in Roll Call, and it was good to see the Stadium get loud in the eighth inning when he pinch hit. At the time, the game at hand was more important and the Yankees needed a base runner and the situation called for an ovation and rhythmic cowbell. That’s not to say fans forgot what Jorge did the day before, it’s just that the moment called for a big play and a win, and not to dwell on what transpired a little over 24 hours before.

I’m well aware of all the good Jorge has done in his Yankees career, but he did put himself ahead of the team in the middle of what was a three-game losing streak at the time. That has to count for something.

8. Nick Swisher
I have about had it watching Nick Swisher at the plate. If I could put him 10th I would.

I love when Swisher swings and misses or takes a pitch right down the middle for a strike and he steps out of the box and starts smiling, does this sarcastic laugh and nods his head as if to say, “OK, OK, you’re lucky I messed up there.” FYI Nick: Don’t act like the pitcher got lucky. He didn’t.

When Daniel Bard decided to pitch to Cano with two outs and A-Rod on second as the tying run in the eighth inning and Swisher in the on-deck circle, I felt like a cashier just rang my purchase up at 50-percent off when it wasn’t on sale. I didn’t want to say anything and I was hoping that Terry Francona didn’t notice. But then after falling behind 3-1, the Red Sox threw intentional ball four to Cano to bring up Swisher. Five pitches later he struck out.

9. Brett Gardner
I thought about putting Gardner in the top of the order, but I’d be rewarding him after I had to watch him pop-up a bunt and get picked off first base right now, and right now I don’t even like typing his name, so he’s staying at the bottom of the order.

I’d like to think Gardner’s bunting and base stealing problems will end. Well, I’d actually like to think that the Yankees would stop bunting (especially in the second inning or on 3-1 counts), but we all know that’s not going to happen with Girardi obsession with giving away outs. So for now, I’m just going to have to hope that 2011 Brett Gardner will turn into 2010 Brett Gardner.

The Yankees have gone from seven games over .500 to second place where they are closer to last place than first place in the division. Now they head to Tampa Bay with A.J. Burnett getting a chance to put out the fire. And if he can’t, it will be Ivan Nova’s turn. The only problem is David Price and James Shields will have a chance to keep it going. If this thing gets to seven games, it’s going to get ugly around here. It already has.

Girardi provided some valuable insight after Sunday’s loss when he said, “It seems like when things are going bad, they’re going bad. It’s going to turn around.”

Right now things aren’t going bad, they’re going horrible. And the first step to turning it around is to shake it up.

Follow Neil on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NeilKeefe

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