Yankees fighting Murphy's Law
Woes mount as impossible luck meets uncharacteristic play
NEW YORK -- It is one thing to have bad luck. It is another to have bad performances. But when you have both bad luck and bad performances, you're going to be at 10 least games out of first place by the middle of May.
Welcome to the New York Yankees' 2007 season. The Yankees have certainly had more than their share of misfortune in the young season, particularly with injuries to pitchers.
Another one occurred on Saturday, when starting pitcher Darrell Rasner took a one-hop smash from Endy Chavez off his right hand and had to leave the game, just two batters into his start, with a fractured index finger. Just 20 days earlier, the Yankees had lost another young starter in strikingly similar circumstances, when Jeff Karstens had his right fibia fractured by a batted ball.
This is misfortune, and so is the larger pitching picture, with a total of six Yankees starters on the disabled list at one time or another. There is no need to understate or overstate; most of this is bad luck of the pure and simple variety.
But the rest of it, the 18-23 record, the double-digit deficit to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, is the product of inadequate baseball. It is the product of the Yankees playing in such a way that they no longer resemble themselves.
And Saturday, Game 2 of the Subway Series, was a microcosm of the Yankees' season. The injury to Rasner was bad luck. The rest of the afternoon was bad baseball for the Bronx Bombers in a 10-7 loss to the Mets. This game was painful, in more areas than Darrell Rasner's right hand.
Somebody send out a search party for the real Robinson Cano. The second baseman appeared on his way to stardom last season. He appears to be on his way to a lesser destination now.
OK, he hit a home run on Saturday. Forget that he is hitting .242 now as opposed to .342 last season. In the field, his play did not appear to be the work of someone fully engaged in the task at hand. He had three errors -- two throwing, one fielding -- and dropped a relay on what should have been a lock double play. (He could not be charged with an error on that play, because the double play cannot be assumed. But you could also assume that a Major League second baseman shouldn't have the equivalent of four errors in one game.)
Even the most reliable gamers on the roster are not immune from embarrassment. The Mets' David Wright hit two home runs on Saturday. He didn't need help on the first one, a monumental 460-foot blast off Mike Myers. But the second one, in the third inning, was in and out of the glove of Johnny Damon and over the center-field wall.
Damon is a consummate professional, and he's playing banged up. But when this sort of thing happens to Johnny Damon, maybe nothing is sacred around here anymore.
"We didn't play as well defensively as we need to," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, showing a commendable level of restraint.
The Yankees have had the kind of season in which a portion of their game has usually been lacking, but it hasn't been the same portion. When they hit early, they did not pitch adequately. When the pitching improved, the hitting slumped. This sort of thing -- talent on hand, but inconsistent performance in all categories -- is generally a recipe for something like a .500 season. At this point, the Yankees would have to pick it up a bit to get to even that modest level.
And while we grant that the Yankees have been hit with a giant-sized portion of bad breaks this season, one of those pitching problems is more in the category of a serious lapse in judgment. When Carl Pavano goes on the disabled list, this is not bad luck. This is what happens to Carl Pavano.
The Yankees blissfully handed him a $39.95 million deal. In his two-plus years of that four-year contract, Pavano has made 19 starts for the Yankees, only two since mid-2005. Apart from Pavano's 18-victory campaign in 2004, the story of his career suggests that he is a trip to the disabled list waiting to occur. His record with the Yankees, primarily a record of not being willing or able to take the ball, cannot be characterized as misfortune when it is primarily miscalculation.
The search for victory continues. But so does the search for consolation. On Saturday, the Yankees were left to find encouragement in the fact that they had cut an 8-2 deficit to 8-6. And then, when the deficit had grown again to 10-6, they had brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning.
"As far as their spirit, they're not going to lose that," Torre said of his players. "They're going to fight."
"There's a lot of quality in that room," the manager added, referring to his clubhouse. "We're not playing up to our expectations; the wins and losses show that. But we'll show up. We'll turn it around. I just wish I could give you a date on it."
There is plenty of time, just as there is plenty of talent around which that turnaround might be built. But the striking fact, the un-Yankees circumstance, is that a turnaround is desperately required, the sooner the better. Yes, the Yankees have been unlucky. But they also have played far beneath even reasonable expectations. Maybe it is better to be lucky than good, but even the New York Yankees go nowhere when they are neither.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.