Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to fix the Yankees

These are trying times, my friends. Another soggy night in the Bronx, another brutal defeat that magnified every shortcoming this $200 million Goliath. Failures with runners in scoring position, a gasoline-spewing bullpen, a bottom of the lineup that doubles as the black hole of death. Someone in Long Island should probably check on Francesa's well-being after Teixeira's pop-out in the 10th. Seriously.

But that's just the start of it. From the A-Rod Goofball Variety Hour, to the corporate greed and subsequent karmic fallout of the "moat seats", to Boston 5, N.Y. 0, 2009 has been about as pleasurable as a colonoscopy for Yankees fans. That they're only one game under .500 at this point is something of a Virgin-Mary-in-a-dish-towel miracle.

Luckily, River & Sunset is here to help. This Yankees team as constructed by Teflon Cashman certainly has its holes, but it also retains enough talent to evolve into a winner. As for the modern day Titanic known as the new Yankee Stadium, we have suggestions on that front as well.

So what can the 2009 Yankees do to keep from being remembered as an overpaid, weak-bellied, 162-game long AARP meeting? Read on.

Shake up the bullpen

I have no idea if Brian Cashman is on the hot seat, I can only assume he isn't since he never seems to be ... sadly it may be his greatest skill as a general manager. But shame on Teflon Cash for assembling a bullpen thinner than Lindsay Lohan. Cashman entered '09 assuming that the likes of Jose Veras, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and Edwar Ramirez would successfully build the bridge to Mo. Bruney appeared to be a breakout contributor until his elbow said otherwise, meanwhile, the other three amigos have become the Yankees' Generation Slay. They are killing us. The Yanks have the second-worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball. With their resources, it is an absolute disgrace.

This firestarting 'pen is dying for a shakeup, and it should happen sooner rather than later. Veras and Ramirez are completely expendable, and while I'm not exactly on board with the public outcry for the immortal highly mortal Brett Tomko, his numbers at Scranton certainly warrant a flyer. Middle relievers are like playing black jack in the sense that it's all about riding the hot streak and knowing when to get out. Not to get all Bill Simmons here, but right now Girardi is kind of like the dude that's getting absolutely destroyed by the middle-aged Asian dealer that won't smile, but he refuses to walk away out of sad mix of defiance and desperation. "My luck has to turn soon." Hey Joe, you just blew threw the kids' college fund. Come back to us.

Get healthy

One of the biggest concerns heading into the season was how many key players on this roster were on the wrong side of 30. Understanding the correlation between age and injuries, Cashman made a concerted effort to build a strong core of bench players. Actually, that's completely untrue. He bought a bunch of hugely expensive free agents, and left the bench essentially barren. Now some dude named Ramiro Pena is your starting third baseman while Brett Gardner is getting the call in key pinch-hitting situations. Sweet.

A-Rod (hip), Nady (elbow), Wang (entire lower body), Bruney (elbow), Marte (shoulder) and now Posada (hamstring) are all huge pieces of this team, and how they return from their respective injuries will likely determine the Yankees' fate. It's important to note that it's too early to write off the Yanks until these players have a chance to return. A-Rod, for instance, will provide an instant bump to the lineup in skill and length. Posada's eventual return will only reinforce that. Wang could be a huge X-factor if he can shake his doldrums.

Send an old-fashioned Steinbrenner Missive

One of my favorite parts of being a Yankees fan has always been the random and insane press releases sent to the local media by George Steinbrenner. They typically read like military marching orders, and nearly always included not-so-subtle digs at Joe Torre. Joe is gone now, and in a sense so too is poor old George. I have to admit I really could use one right about now. You know Hank hammers out these things from his play office every day, with his receptionist on strict orders by club officials to destroy them as soon as he orders their release. Here's to hoping that Hal can channel some of his old man's bluster in the near future.

Fix the Stadium, ASAP

Wow, did they ever botch this one. A brand new $1.5 billion ballpark and the Yankees somehow managed to make the best seats in the house also the least desirable. It's truly amazing. Whether the Yankees are playing the Red Sox or the Royals, there are entire sections of box seats completely deserted to the point it's the first thing that catches your eye when you turn the game on your TV.

This is what happens when overt greed and stunning arrogance combine to cloud proper judgement. It's the only way it could've seemed like a good idea to construct a moat -- literally, a freaking moat -- to seperate the wealthy corporate spectators from actual fans. Now, with the rich folk either unwilling to pay thousands of dollars for a baseball game or unwilling to be seen paying thousands of dollars for a baseball game, you get the complete oddity of an entire stadium filled except for the seats closest to the action. The organization deserves every bit of ridicule it gets.

The solutions are simple, though likely unpleasant for the "braintrust". The Yankees already slashed the price of these box seats in half, down to a steal at $1,200. They have to slash it in half again to fill those seats. That's how badly they misread both the market. Then in the offseason, break out the jackhammers and get rid of the moat. Idiots.

Get rid of Cotton Eye Joey

This won't help the team in any way, but it would make my life much, much better.

Take the shackles off Mo

Mariano Rivera was in the zone Wednesday. After allowing a leadoff single, he struck out the next three Rays batters, even showing uncharacteristic emotion after finishing off AL RBI-leader Evan Longoria for the final out. When Mo returned to the dugout, he was on the top step imploring the offense to finish it. He wanted that game, bad. But the Yanks failed in the clutch (of course) and so it was that Rivera's night was over after one inning and 18 pitches. Phil Coke entered and the rest, as they say, was history.

My question is this: at what point does Rivera become elgible for two innings again? It was a cold, wet night in the Bronx, understood, but it's now almost mid-May and his exit signalled doom in a game the Yankees needed. I'm of the impression it's time to cut Mo loose a bit. With the bullpen in tatters, they need the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) more than ever.

Fire Girardi, hire Mattingly

They should have done it two years ago, they'll be better for it now. My blind devotion to the Hitman is clearly exposed here, but it just feels right. You bring in Donnie, you get your precious title.

No comments: