By Jon Lane
I know it’s April 27. I’ve said and written many times that last I checked, seasons do not end in late April. The Yankees are .500, but plenty of would-be contenders are in worse predicaments. Alas, because we’re in New York and it’s the Yankees, hell is breaking loose. Cries of “this team is aging, old, tired, and has no heart …” have caused sleepless nights, yet all it takes is one big game to re-write perception. That’s the baseball season. That’s how it works over 162 games and eight-nine months. How many times in recent history were the Yankees declared dead, only to find it within them to win 90-100 games?
That said, right here and right now, the Yankees have big problems. Being swept by the Red Sox is never good. Blowing two wholly winnable games and allowing a steal of home in the third is inexcusable. Look, Mariano Rivera is going to blow saves, so if that’s feeding your ulcers, get over it and get off his back. But neither Rivera’s gopher ball nor Damaso Marte and his 15.19 ERA had anything to do with a problem that simply will not go away: The Yankees were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base Friday night. On Saturday, they scored 11 runs and still lost. Enough said there.
When was the last time the Yankees had a feared, unequivocal, no-fuss, no-worries stopper? Mike Mussina won 20 games last season and he was great, but I’m talking about a bona fide big guy in the prime of his career who has carried his team on broad shoulders before. That’s you, CC Sabathia. Tonight in Detroit, you have to stop this. You have to get the Yankees re-aligned with their universe, a place in which their contending against their history and the justification of a palatial new home. You were handed $161 million to win a hell of a lot more than you lose.
Tonight, CC, play stopper. Go long, go hard and if not all the way, get the ball to Rivera with a lead. You cannot hand over the responsibility of halting a four-game losing streak to Phil Hughes.
This Tigers team, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, etc., can rake, even if all the pistons aren’t firing at once. Still, you’ve been decent against them throughout your career (13-9, 4.70), especially at Comerica Park (7-2, 3.80). It’s the ideal time to improve those April numbers of 11-10 with a 4.47 ERA over your first eight seasons.
Everyone is expecting it: your fans, your manager. You’ve shown you can handle the media. You haven’t snapped, snarled or played hide-and-seek. You’re a guy who in crisis situations says, “It’s okay guys. It’s all good. We’ll be alright, just follow my lead.”
Do it, CC. It’s April 27, but fair or not, tonight is already a must-win.
The suggestion box
- The AP this morning called Alex Rodriguez a “conquering rescuer.”How many of you right now are wishing A-Rod would go away? It’s either A-Rod and his shenanigans or the awesome Angel Berroa/Ramiro Pena duet at third base. Berroa has played all of three games at third. It showed Sunday night and he’s has done nothing since winning ROY in 2003. Suggestion: start Pena and tighten your defense until Rodriguez returns, which may be well before the target date of May 15.
- Nice first impression by Mark Melancon, eh? Yes, two innings do not make a career, but he worked out of his own bases-loaded, no-out jam without allowing a run. Once Brian Bruney returns, wouldn’t a Rivera-Bruney-Melancon back end work nicely? David Robertson (yes, he allowed Mike Lowell’s crushing double on Saturday) also deserves a longer look and Phil Coke more rope. The alternative is more of Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Marte and Jonathan Albaladejo.