Friday, August 1, 2008

Bad times in the Bronx

Mariano Rivera has officially hit his first slump at a time when the Yankees can least afford it. The offense, meanwhile, provided just the latest example of its stunning fall from grace in 2008.

Rivera faltered for the second time in as many appearances on Friday night, opening the ninth inning against the Angels with walk, single, single to break a scoreless tie. The limp Yankees offense provided no cover for their closer in the bottom half of the inning, going down like lambs in a 1-0 loss.

The Yankees have now lost five of six games since winning eight straight out of the All-Star break. They are five games out in the American League East and two games back in the Wild Card race.

While Rivera's struggles have been few and far between in what has been an otherwise brilliant season, the Yankees offense continues to be baseball's biggest bust this side of Andruw Jones. How pathetic are these guys? I mean, Ervin Santana's good, but he's not that good. Did you have any faith they were beating Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth? And is it weird to anybody else that every knowledgeable Yankees fan knew A-Rod had no chance against K-Rod leading off the inning? How could anyone ever call Rodriguez the best player ever when too often he comes off as the bully who beats up on the weaklings and gets dominated by people his own size?

New York was extremely fortunate to be in the position it was entering the ninth inning. Sidney Ponson miraculously managed seven shutout innings despite roughly half the balls put in play being absolute rockets. He walked four and struck out one, throwing 96 pitches. It was possibly the worst great start I've ever seen.

And yet, it was all there for the Yankees, and they blew it. It's August now -- time is starting to be of the essence. I'd say this offense needs to start playing up to its capabilities, but I can't escape the fear that we're watching an over-the-hill gang being exposed on a near nightly basis. Regardless of how this season turns out, an overhaul is necessary. Brian Cashman had a similar task on his hands following the 2001 season, and with age up and down the roster, the time to reboot the lineup has come again.

With the majority of their remaining games on the road, the Yankees are quietly putting their season in serious jeopardy by botching one of their final homestands. Mike Mussina -- fresh off a clunker of his own in his last start -- will be asked to stop the bleeding on Saturday.

How quickly things turn in Yankee Land this season. A week ago, after their second straight win at Fenway, they looked like a vibrant and multi-dimensional World Series contender. Six days later, they look old, bloated and tired. It's like watching Fat Elvis.

Nobody liked Fat Elvis. A loss like this makes it hard to like the chances of these Yankees.

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