By Jason Keidel
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Brian Cashman can talk for hours and not say a word, which likely makes him like other general managers. They speak in cliches and corporate platitudes and are often so soporific that you feel you aged 10 years in 10 minutes.
And Cashman has the physical signatures to play it perfectly. Brooding over the latest Yankee conundrum, his big eyes, sad face and fading hairline were like watermarks from 15 years of running a George Steinbrenner business.
But there was a slit in his semantic armor on Wednesday. While speaking with Mike Francesa, Cashman stated the obvious: The Yanks will go as far as their pitching will lead them. But then he conceded that he was worried about CC Sabathia.
And he should be.
Beyond the miles per hour melting off his fastball, Sabathia is 0-2 in May with a 4.85 ERA. After elbow surgery, endless innings over his career and a dubious diet that will no doubt haunt him at some point in his career, Sabathia just might be melting into a cagey veteran rather than staff stud.
Indeed, if the Yankees started a playoff series tomorrow, would you pitch Sabathia in Game 1? Clearly, Hiroki Kuroda (6-3, 2.39 ERA) is the ace of this year’s staff, and his mettle was in full view when he matched Matt Harvey dart-for-dart this week.
The revival tour of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, etc., has been lovely, but age is more than hitch in your swing. Maybe they’ve just flamed out.
This happened way later than anyone expected. But the smoke, mirrors or both are fading from the Yankees’ otherwise fairytale season, one in which they swapped their elitist boots for Cinderella slippers.
But we keep hearing that we needn’t worry, that the troops are galloping to the rescue.
Even if the Yankees get their wounded graybeards back, what can they expect? Derek Jeter will be 39 whenever he returns. Kevin Youkilis is 34 and on his third team in the last nine months. Alex Rodriguez is old and perhaps shot. Mark Teixeira is neither, but his glacial starts to every season will now occur in June rather than April. Curtis Granderson is a strikeout machine who needs to wear an armor suit to stay on the field.
Michael Pineda is the only Yankee with the oft-regurgitated “upside” needed to give the team a spark. Andy Pettitte will never pitch a full season again. Six years in, we’re still waiting for Phil Hughes to fulfill his potential. David Phelps showed us all we needed to see on Wednesday night. Ivan Nova can’t even crack the rotation after once asserting that he was the best pitcher in baseball.
There’s no doubt that this recent, wretched drought is exacerbated by losing to the crosstown Mets. But someone was soon to show the Yanks that magic tricks eventually end, no matter how cleverly Joe Girardi has waved his wand.
Obviously the Mets aren’t this good and the Yankees aren’t this bad. But the Yankees weren’t as good as they let on, and are now playing more like many of us thought they would a month ago.
And only in the inverted world of the Bronx Zoo is getting older automatically better. Don’t buy your playoff bundle just yet.
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