Friday, October 7, 2011

Yankees' Failures Smear America's Dream


The Steinbrenners built the world's largest palace, a $1.5 billion venue with $2,625 ticket prices, a place that has computers in the clubhouse, a building with a gigantic high-def screen above centerfield. But now is the moment that new Yankees Stadium is shut down until next season.

The body language of the pinstripe faithful was telling and fans had watery-eyes, distraught expression and sat in the stands in disbelief, shedding tears after the Yankees were ousted in the playoffs. The home crowd stood, worried and deeply cheered for the Yankees, but the highest paid baseball team in the world couldn't advance past the first round of the postseason for the fifth time in the last 10 years.

It was nothing but silence in Yankee Stadium, and instead fans' jaws dropped and eyes shut, wondering what had happened to the Yankees, smearing America's Dream by not reaching the World Series in late October. The timing couldn't be worse for the Yankees, a franchise that frown on postseason losses, considering that anything less than a World Series championship is considered a failure.

As baseball's most storied franchise, the Yankees are seemly qualified to have a colossal palace because of the mystique of championships and legends, but it's not enough to be described as America's team. It isn't often, particularly in baseball, when the Yankees possess the greatest talent in the sport and fall short in the first round of the postseason.

It's not common for the world's most high-market franchise, an undaunted ballclub with the gusty Steinbrenner family paying for the player's fragile egos or names, paying for overpaid bums to lead the Yankees to another World Series title, to backslide earlier than usual. It's not a trait the franchise embrace so well. The perpetual spending each winter, a moment when the Yankees are buying on the market and shopping to hire the big-name free agents in pursuit of capturing triumph by winning a world championship, is evidence that winning never turns old for the Yankees.

It's a relationship of mortals, but Alex Rodriguez is perfectly fitted in a town where he has become the pretty boy of Broadway, where the Yankees were foolish enough to pay the unworthy bum $275 million. He was supposed to be the next home run king, but he is not a postseason performer. And no one wants to admit it, let alone hear it in a town that keeps endorsing a fraud.

He might have had his chance to win the division series with one swing, but now he'll have to live with the misery, taunted for his postseason failures. If there's a theme to this season, it's A-Rod's postseason struggles again when he blew his chance in a bases-loaded situation in the seventh. It's simply understandable that he can never come through for the Yankees.

It was a Yankees nightmare with what materialized in the Bronx on Thursday night. It was a gorgeous October night for baseball, but by the end of the night the Bronx was burning. It's very seldom you see failure on the biggest stage by the pinstriped stars in the Bronx, but Derek Jeter finished 1-for-5 and Texieira batted a mere .167 while he went 3-for-18 in the series with no RBIs.

It seems that Rodriguez is almost on decline when he was 2-for-18 overall, 0-for-4 in Game 5 and he even struck out to end the Yankees' season, which wasn't a surprise given his debacles in the past. The spotlight is strictly on Rodriguez and he'll take much criticism if the Yankees have a dismal postseason, simply because he's the highest-paid player on the Yankees roster.

The crowd had booed him intensely for much of the night, stunned by the lack of success that will haunt Rodriguez and has somewhat doomed the Yanks in reestablishing as America's team again. While the Detroit Tigers finally were relieved, and celebrated by racing from the visitors' dugout to the mound emotionally thrilled at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees watched from the dugout hysterical over what had happened as the Tigers had advanced to the ALCS after capping an impressive 3-2 win in Game 5 over the Yanks.

It began as an interesting but nerve-racking start as eyes rolled and jaws dropped, when manager Joe Girardi wasn't hesitant changing pitchers as if he was changing his underwear. It took several pitchers before the Yankees finally had no batting power to rally against the Tigers. He probably felt comfortable, but was almost leery, depending on his bullpen which is all the more reason he summoned for Phil Hughes and Boon Logan.

It seems sensible to believe, if true, that he yanked rookie Ivan Nova from the game for medical issues, a lefty who departed early after feeling tightness in his right forearm, which Girardi had no other choice but to call on his bullpen. It's hard to imagine a team with a $200 million payroll losing in the first round, and it's just hard to fathom that the culture in New York is not good enough to produce championships and triumph for a baseball town. It was telling that the Yankees have all the money in the world, but in the ALDS they couldn't prevail even though the franchise has prodigy, talent and situational hitters.

“Our guys played hard. I can’t ask for any more from them during the course of the season. And obviously this is a terrible day for us. But we got beat,” said Joe Girardi, whose managerial strategy of his bizarre moves in the bullpen drew attention.

There should be plenty of attention focused on the high-price hitters in the lineup who failed ever so miserably to come through. The irony was in fact that the pitching was more powerful than the bats in October. The baseball world, particularly the Yankee haters, are delighted that New York is out of the postseason picture, unwilling to marvel the disdained franchise.

But the other half of the country, such as in New York, is painfully distraught about the Yankees sudden demise it seems. The American Dream is dented, and for weeks in Time Square and other parts of the urban cities in New York, people will talk about the dreadful loss for a ballclub more compelling and hated than any other club in the majors.

"It's devastating. This is going to hurt for a long time," Rodriguez said. “I’ve got a lot of work for me to do, personally. I've got to get my health back in order and I know exactly what I have to do to get back to help this team get back to the top."

At Yankee Stadium, one fan sat in the stands after the game ended with his head down and hood over his head. Another fan sat in the stands with a dazed stare on his face, still in shock over the painful ending. It wasn't the right moment, with all its sheer dominance from the offense in the season, for the batting power to deteriorate.

The ultimate infirmity of the offense hurt and blemished the Yankees in the seventh inning of a game Detroit's Joaquin Benoit came in to pitch with one out and one on base, giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, and then Robinson Cano bounced a groundball to Benoit's right just as he stumbled and fell off the mound. And because Benoit couldn't retrieve the ball, Cano was on first with an infield single.

That loaded the bases and Benoit rubbed his face, and the Yankees faithful stood and cheered when A-Rod stepped at the plate. After it happened, Benoit was intimidated, slowly throwing his pitches, and feared throwing it to Rodriguez. From time to time, he fearfully stepped off the mound.

It wasn't long after, nevertheless that he struck out Rodriguez on an 86-mph changeup, but then he mistakenly walked Teixeira on five pitches and eventually the Yankees scored to close in on a 3-2 deficit. As the sellout crowd stood feverishly and nervously, screaming from the top of their lungs and pushing for the Yankees to tie it at 3-3, Benoit struck out Nick Swisher on a 96-mph fastball to end the bottom half of the inning.

We all dreamed for a Yankees vs. Phillies match up, but as of now, it isn't the greatest time for traditional brand names in sports and it's definitely not time for the Yankees to take a joyride to the World Series. What we wanted was, of course, a revival in baseball with a pair of large-market franchises. We wished for the Yankees vs. Phillies in a business that has diminished with all the steroid allegations, with the 162-game season and with the apathetic, soft-minded commissioner Bud Selig.

It's baseball at its worse, and the pinstripe ritual never faded so quickly after Thursday night. It happened suddenly and quickly in the first inning, an unexpected scene no one ever imagined, that Don Kelly belted his first postseason career homer on a pitch delivered from Nova. The insurance run gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead that Delmon Young drilled off Nova in the first, and shortly after Girardi called on his bullpen to relieve for the injured rookie.

For much of the night, he had used nearly all arms from his bullpen. This night wasn't over without CC Sabathia relieving in his first appearance as a reliever ever. With 355 regular season and 15 postseason starts, it was peculiar but not surprising to see Sabathia on the mound for the fifth and some of the sixth. It figured that he'd be asked to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera, and indeed he walked him only to face Victor Martinez afterwards.

If there ever were a proper moment for the Yankees to pay for intentional walks, it was then with Martinez hitting an RBI single to turn down the volume at Yankee Stadium. For Sabathia, though, he's quite an overpaid left-hander and could opt out of his contract, which he probably will and test the free agency market.

But it's hard to envision Sabathia signing elsewhere if the Yankees have the highest player's payroll in baseball to offer him the largest deal that no other team can give him. This offseason, however, Cliff Lee won't be available, but bringing aboard a top pitcher is the Steinbrenners' and GM Brian Cashman's intent, and it is significantly vital for the Yankees to address the pitching weaknesses.

The notion is, after the pitching struggled roughly just as much as the offense, Cashman will be aggressive in his attempt to trade for a pitcher. Though the Yankees clinched the AL East, it's not good enough as New York is aiming for another title and have already suggested trades.

There is speculation of the Yankees already engaging in a trade to send Jesus Montero to the Giants for Matt Cain or pursue in Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson or free agent Mark Buehrle during free agency who are the best pitchers in a fragile free-agent class. As you all probably know, the Yankees often respond to failure by spending money on the best available player.

But even if Rodriguez is on decline, even if Teixeira has not hit the ball efficiently, even if Sabathia has been shaky in the postseason and even if Burnett finally pitched effectively without looking confused, the Yankees have to pay them nearly $700 million. Whatever the Yankees do, although Sabathia had knee surgery and has not been able to lose weight, they can't allow him to test the market if he could earn more than the four years and $92 million left on his current deal.

If not for Sabathia, the Yankees pitching wouldn't probably be average, despite that Nova had a sensational rookie season before his nightmarish Game 5 loss. There is Joba Chamberlain, but he's recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. Better, Phil Hughes had an 18-game win season by finishing 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA, and Ian Kennedy needed a change of scenery to reach 21 wins this season with the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks.

It's good to know the Yankees won 99 games and clinched a postseason berth, but as we all know, the Yankees will try anything to win. It's just unfortunate for America's Dream after it was never really a hallucination, but a Yankees nightmare.