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By Steve Kallas
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If you don’t think baseball is the hardest game to play, and if you don’t think that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, then watch a few New York Yankees playoff games. While many were screaming (correctly) that the Yankees had to play A-Rod, that they shouldn’t have put defensively-challenged Eduardo Nunez at short, that Brett Gardner hadn’t started a game since April 17, that 0-for-11 (now 0-for-14) Eric Chavez shouldn’t play third, the reality is that it didn’t matter what Joe Girardi did in terms of lineup changes.
The Yankees simply have virtually nobody who can hit. Down three games to none after a 2-1 defeat to Detroit, the Yankees are down and out.
If you’ve watched these games (and especially if you are a Yankees fan), you are actually hoping that the Yankee can just put the ball in play and just make contact, as opposed to getting a hit or hitting a home run.
WHAT COULD JOE GIRARDI DO?
Well, nothing, really, as it turns out.
Should A-Rod have played? He should have, but right now he’s less than a shell of what he used to be. Throw in the lack of confidence that goes with a tremendous slump, the humiliation of having your manager pinch-hit for you three times and bench you against a right-hander, and you can’t expect much of anything from A-Rod.
You can’t really play a guy who is 0-for-11 (Chavez) over A-Rod. Can you really play Gardner (0-for-4), who hasn’t started since April 17? Nunez, who wound up making an excellent play at shortstop and hitting a ninth-inning homer, was the biggest gamble — and the only one who came through.
WHAT ABOUT A-ROD’S NUMBERS AGAINST VERLANDER?
They were really irrelevant in this series. A-Rod went 5-for-8 against JustinVerlander this year with two home runs, but he’s nowhere near the A-Rod that he was earlier in the season, never mind the A-Rod of five years ago. Home runs on April 27 and June 3 couldn’t be more meaningless for a hitter in October who is 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against righties in the playoffs.
April and June are ancient history in October given A-Rod’s collapse.
Having said that, it says here that A-Rod still should have played (because the Chavez option was terrible). But it also says here that it wouldn’t have made a difference.
JOHN SMOLTZ GOT IT RIGHT
The TBS coverage hasn’t been very good. When you hear all of the announcers going nuts when the “Yankee fans are on their feet” either with “only” one out or early in the game, it’s clear that you have a bunch of announcers parachuting in for the playoffs. Nobody told Ernie Johnson and the rest that Yankees fans virtually always stand up when a Yankees pitcher has two strikes on a hitter?
That’s pretty pathetic.
But give Smoltz a lot of credit. He was the guy who said early in the playoffs that you don’t even have to throw most Yankees hitters a strike. Throw them curveballs in the dirt and Yankees hitters will be waiving at them.
And that’s the truth. It’s looked like virtually every Yankees hitter this postseason has been trying to hit home runs. And, instead, they have virtually all have fallen on their faces.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, DEREK JETER?
The Yankees turn their lonely eyes to you. But Jeter, the best Yankees hitter in the postseason (or second to Raul Ibanez), finally became human and is gone with a broken ankle.
Would it have been different with him in the lineup? We’ll never know, but this was a huge blow on two levels: taking your captain out and taking the one guy out who was actually hitting consistently
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, ROBINSON CANO?
Cano’s fall is much more puzzling. But, again, the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. After going 24-for-39 (a staggering .615) in his final nine regular-season games, Cano was quoted as saying, essentially, that his hot streak came along at the right time.
Little did he know. Now 3-for-36 (.083) and at an all-time postseason futility streak of 0-for-29 (stopped by a ninth-inning single in Game 3), Cano’s slump, off one of the hottest ends to a regular season you will ever see, is inexplicable.
NOW THE YANKEES AND THEIR FANS WILL RESPECT ICHIRO MORE?
An all-time superstar, Ichiro came over here and was told he will bat where told to bat and will not play right field. All he’s done is become the best all-around Yankee. He kept his mouth shut, played all three outfield positions batted eighth (seriously), ninth (seriously), first and second.
One of the dumbest things to do with a superstar like Ichiro is to bat him second against righties and eighth or ninth against lefties. All Ichiro has done is show that he’s the best Yankees outfielder. (I think he gets that Miguel Cabrera double last night that Granderson, to be kind, had trouble with.) He’s a guy who should bat second all of the time. (Verlander was perfect through eight except for two Ichiro singles).
The Yankees should bring him back next year, bat him second and play him every day.
If he wants to come back.
Well, the Yankees can certainly win tonight with CC Sabathia pitching. But for this team to win four in a row is a million-to-one shot the way they are hitting. Lost in the shuffle is the excellent Yankees pitching. But that’s not enough.
The Yankees are batting .182 as a team against the Tigers and .200 as a team in the postseason.
If you’ve watched all of their games, those averages actually seem too high. Live by the home run, die by the (lack of) home run.
That will probably sum up the Yankees’ season.
Over/Under: The Yankees will score two runs tonight. Give us your prediction in the comments section below…