Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Help arrives too little, too late

There haven't been many good stories in Yankee Land these past few weeks, so watching Mexican right-hander Alfredo Aceves' fine performance in his first big league start Tuesday was a welcome change of pace. Signed out of the Mexican League a year ago for $450,000, Aceves showed surprisingly good stuff over seven one-run innings in the Yankees' 7-1 victory in Anaheim. With 27 passes handed out to family and friends before the game, I'm guessing Mr. Aceves and his loved ones are enjoying their Dos Equis tonight.

I do have a complaint though, one that I couldn't shake as the big right-hander wearing No. 91 mowed down the AL West-leading Angels. What took the Yankees so long to give Aceves -- or anyone else thriving within the organization -- a chance?

Week after week Yankees fans were subject to the brutal stylings of Darrell Rasner, a nice enough dude I bet, but certainly not the first guy getting picked in kickball. And while Kennedy and Hughes had the opportunity and coughed it up, it stood to reason there had to be somebody -- anybody -- in the organization worth taking a flyer on as Rasner's poor starts piled up.

Aceves is a perfect example of this. The 25-year-old was 8-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 25 games (23 starts) at Class A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He was an effective pitcher on every level. And yet he remained in the farm system until Aug. 28. You have to wonder: At any point during Rasner's deadly eight-start winless streak from July 22-Sept.4 did the club think about sliding in another arm from the system?

It's not fair to blame the Yankees' second-half fade on poor Darrell Rasner; you can't put that much on someone never meant to carry the weight of 13 straight playoff appearances on his shoulders. This maddening season can only described as a team effort. But this Yankees team needed an unknown quantity to step up in the rotation the way Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon saved the day in 2005. For a short time it seemed Rasner would fit that description, the product of a 3-0 start in May. Rasner is now 5-10, simple math stating the right-hander had been very bad for a very long period of time before the Yankees finally pulled the plug for good last Thursday.

The damage had already been done by then, however. Too little, too late. Just like Aceves' performance. Injuries and age helped put the Yankees into decline this season, but as Aceves' start tonight prove, roster indecision has played its part as well.

No comments: