As we sit here wallowing in the latest disappointment with yesterday's brutal loss to the Angels, it seems many more fans are coming to the realization that the Yankees will likely miss the post season for the first time since 1993. I'm not giving up by any means, but it's not looking good at all. A lot of things have gone wrong this year. Some of it may be bad luck such as a ridiculous amount of injuries, but with the inconsistent play all season long you have to look at the complete structure of the roster and the personnel decisions made that has led to the results to date.
- The managerial change: We may as well start with a decision certain to generate a response of near-biblical proportions. Let me start by saying I like Joe Girardi. Of the 2 candidates the Yankees were considering, he was the right guy hands down IMO. Joe has done a very good job with the bullpen, no doubt about it. However, his overall inexperience has led to questionable decisions (including in-game decisions) that can be found throughout this forum. The most baffling IMO is the resting of hot batters and the continual every day play of slumping players. Girardi seems to out-think himself frequently. Joe Torre is such a volatile topic of conversation around here that we all pretty much land on one side of the fence with him. That said, IMO the Yankees forced a change with a 1-year offer for a guy who was at the helm for 12 straight post season appearances in favor of a guy who had 1 year of ML managerial experience. While Torre made his share of mistakes, he had a track record of overall success that was replaced with virtually no track record of sustained success. If you want to say "Torre turned the Yankees down", I say BS. They wanted him gone and I think it's disingenuous to say otherwise. If they had offered him 2 years, Torre would have been more likely to accept and if things didn't go as "expected" they still could have let him go after a year. They've wasted far more money than a year of a manager's salary. Torre faced quite a bit of adversity, especially in his last year and IMO would have been a better choice to guide the transition while still getting the team to where it should be. Yeah, I know..."that ship has sailed", "get over it", yadda yadda. I'm just saying the Yankees made a mistake, even though they wanted change and wanted to move on. Now Girardi did a fine job with managing a group of young and inexperienced overachievers in Florida before he told the owner to shut up. But this Yankee team was not a young inexperienced team with no expectations. IMO the Yankees went with the wrong Joe at this time. OK, flame away.
- The trade that didn't happen: I, like many fans did not want to give up Phil Hughes to get Santana and we don't know the answer (long term) as to whether or not it was the right call, so I'm not ready to call this a "mistake" yet. However, we all know the impact of that decision for 2008. What could have been a very solid rotation of Santana-Wang-Pettitte-Mussina and eventually Joba is something we would all love to have right now. Time will tell if this truly pans out for the future. But the Yankees did fail to have a backup plan for this year. See below.
- Lack of starting rotation depth: I am ready to call this a huge mistake. Since the decision was made to rely on 2 rookies with innings caps, the Yankees found themselves in a world of hurt when both failed miserably. For the first 4 games Rasner gave them, it appeared they lucked out in Small-Chacon fashion, but reality quickly set in thereafter. When Wang went down and Joba stepped in it appeared the Yanks lucked out again, until Joba went down, too. The bottom line is the Yankees went into this season without a contingency plan for their rotation, now having to rely on Dan Geise and Sidney Ponson to carry them through. They are very fortunate Mussina made the adjustments to be Maddux-like, otherwise they would be likely be in the basement of the AL East.
- Lack of a big proven RH bat: I swear if my old high school coach rubbed up his left arm and got out of his wheelchair to pitch against the Yankees he would get a quality start. The Yankees thought Shelly Duncan would repeat his Shane Spencer impersonation. It didn't work to say the least. Now that the X-Man has arrived that value really stands out. . Even Sexson has provided some punch against lefties. The problem is the Yankees waited too long to do something and now it may be too late to make a difference.
- Lack of positional MiL depth: The best the Yankees could do for help this year was Brett Gardner and Justin Christian. Their best catcher is in Class A. When Posada went down the Yankees had to live with Molina and Moeller's offense and until the decision for Po became surgery they had to carry 3 catchers, wasting a roster spot. Ultimately they give up a key part of the resurgent bullpen to get catching help, which may be a rental. I'm sure many will say good riddance to Farnsworth and he has had his problems with the Yankees. But they were finally getting something out of him and his departure meant 1 less quality arm in the one area of strength they had this year. IMO you never have enough arms. Since Farns has left, he obviously hasn't done well but neither has the Yankee bullpen. At least Girardi knew how to manage Farns in his role. Yeah, they "sold high" but the trade has disrupted the flow of what was going well. Has Pudge made up for it? Not yet. I just wish the Yankees could have brought up a decent offensive catcher and kept Farnsworth, but they couldn't and I do understand the move.
- The Girardi Boot Camp: I don't think this is a mistake as much as it was a false sense of comfort. There was a lot of assumption that since Girardi was whipping this team into condition that there would be less injuries and a better start to the season with more energy and urgency. The intentions were good, but it produced none of the intended results.
I'm sure there is plenty to add to this because this has been such an organizational effort there is plenty of blame to go around. I imagine someone will say that signing Posada to a 4-year deal was a huge mistake. The Yankees could avoid situations like his by changing their "no extension" policy. Unfortunately there is nothing they can do about any of this now. It's mid-August and they are limping into Minnesota with their tails kicked between their legs by the Angels and they have to grind out most of the remaining schedule on the road. Girardi looked like a beaten man in his interview yesterday. We'll see what he and his team is made of. It would be quite depressing to not have October baseball at YS in its final year, but that's exactly what is staring us all in the face right now.