By Sweeny Murti
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Yes, I understand getting pummeled by the Red Sox hurts. It’s not something Yankee fans are used to. Losing 13 of 19 games to the rivals (outscored 120-85) is something that doesn’t go down very easily when you root for the Yankees. But this hasn’t been a season you’re used to seeing in any way, shape, or form.
Doesn’t it say anything to you when the part of the game you look forward to the most is the pregame ceremony for Mariano Rivera?
The Red Sox have the best record in baseball and an offense that is ranked first or second in the league in about a dozen different categories. The only thing the Yankees lead the league in is players used. As hard as this is to swallow, Yankee fans, the Red Sox are the best team in the league and the Yankees are simply an (at times) above-average team fighting to stay in the playoff race, now four games out in the loss column with 12 to play.
“We stunk here,” Joe Girardi said after Sunday’s ugly loss completed the sweep. “We can either continue to stink or play better. And if we play better we have a shot.”
As the Yankees continue to surge then sputter, surge then sputter, I keep hearing from fans about how this team lacks heart and desire. Seriously? That’s about all this team has.
Here are players the Yankees have actually started at these positions this year, and none were because of September call-ups:
I left out catcher, because the all the usual suspects have started there. The problem is the Yankees have started Chris Stewart almost 100 games when he was considered a backup who would have probably caught no more than 60 or so games had Francisco Cervelli not gotten hurt and/or suspended. And it’s pretty clear that, while he has kept himself in good shape physically, Stewart still wasn’t able to keep up with the grind this year.
Joe Girardi and his staff have been given a lot of credit for keeping the Yankees in the race even this far. And Girardi still believes his team can get something done in the final two weeks.
“There’s a lot of baseball left,” Girardi said before Sunday’s game. “There are teams playing each other that are in front of us. But we need to win. We have (12) games left and we need to win a majority of them.
“We’ve had to get up a number of times off the carpet, and we’ve continued to do it time and time again, so I expect our guys will do it again.
“I’m extremely proud of this group because of what they’ve done and all that they’ve had to deal with and continued to (do so). You get one guy back, and he goes back on the DL, and it’s been strange with all the stuff that they’ve dealt with, but they’ve never stopped believing in themselves and never stopped giving 100 percent effort and doing everything they could to win a game. So for that I’m extremely proud.
“Everything here is judged whether you win the World Series or not, that’s just the nature of the business. But I can tell you that these guys have given everything that I could ask from them.”
Maybe the biggest disappointment is that the Yankees haven’t gotten a great pitching performance even once in September. I don’t mean good, I mean great. CC Sabathia has been the biggest disappointment. While you can argue that Hiroki Kuroda is out of gas, that Andy Pettitte has battled, that Ivan Nova went on a run in August that was better than any Yankee all year, not even Phil Hughes’ terrible summer was as disappointing as Sabathia’s. It seemed like every game he pitched was barely okay or just plain bad. Never a great one, and he knows it.
Sabathia gave a knowing nod of his head when asked after Saturday’s game if he felt he could have changed the team’s fortunes with only a couple of good games. The lineup has excuses—many of them were never supposed to be starting for the Yankees, or in some cases even in the big leagues. But Sabathia knows he has no excuses. He needed to pitch better this year and the Yankees have been stuck in mediocrity all year in part because he didn’t pitch better.
A good week ahead against Toronto and San Francisco and the Yankees could still play meaningful games into the final week of the season. There is definite scoreboard watching involved, but taking care of their own business is step one.
Go around the diamond and you’ll see players who were never supposed to be part of the Yankees big plans in 2013. But here they are. Still giving the Yankees a chance, even if you don’t think it’s a great one. If you still think there’s no heart or desire, think again. It’s just that heart and desire aren’t always enough.
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