By Rex O’Rourke
New York, NY â€“ The consistently underwhelming Yankees have me concerned; not alarmed, not upset, just concerned. First of all, when he came back this year I didnâ€™t realize Mr. Wang was the Mr. Wang from Caddyshack, not the two time nineteen game winner. Someone must have switched them when Dave Eiland wasnâ€™t looking. If there has been a more putrid three starts in baseball history, I certainly havenâ€™t seen them, nor do I want to. There is a simple short term solution. Skip his start Friday in Fenway! Do not pass GO do not collect two hundred thousand dollars. Phil Hughes has pitched well and he certainly canâ€™t do any worse, so make the switch immediately, before he starts again on the farm, while there is time to work things out. Since Mr. Wang is out of options and canâ€™t be sent down without being exposed to waivers, let him mop up someone elseâ€™s mess a few times. See how that feels! The biggest concern with Hughes is that he may blow out a vertebrae sneezing, sprain an ankle making toast, or pull a hamstring answering the phone. By the time young Phil strains an oblique doing laundry, Mr. Wang could be straightened out and ready to come back to work as the number three. If Hughes somehow starts to fulfill his potential, bump Mr. Wang to number five andâ€¦ next paragraph please.
Consider sending Joba Chamberlain back to the pen. I thought he was mishandled last year by being asked to start in mid-season and I think the Yankees should give him two to three more starts this year (enough time for Mr. Wang to work on his sinker in the pen) and establish some sort of rhythm. If his pitch count and control issues donâ€™t improve, he should be moved back to the pen where he was â€œlights outâ€ three days a week. It seemed perfectly logical to me that he be groomed as Mariano Riveraâ€™s successor in the same way that Mariano was groomed to succeed John Wettleland. The Yankee endgame is not what it should be. Brian Bruney has been solid, but brittle, and I think a shut down eighth inning specialist is more important than a fifth starter anyway. Every team in baseball has trouble finding a number five, so join the club. As an added bonus, some pressure would be taken off of the rest of the bullpen.
The next ongoing Maalox moment, to which I donâ€™t see much of a solution, is the outfield defense. You Mutt fans can feel my pain on this one, right? Johnny Damon is a gamer. Love â€˜em, always have, always will; and I donâ€™t even mind the rag arm, but heâ€™s just not getting to balls he should anymore. Melkyâ€™s a fine outfielder with a great arm, but he doesnâ€™t hit enough to play regularly. Ex-Met Xavier Nady was a solid all-around player, and run producer, in the Bobby Abreu mold (whyâ€™d we let him get away?) but that bum elbow means the closest heâ€™ll ever get to the new Yankee Stadium outfield was Opening Day intros. Nick Swisher is a fun story, and a switch hitter with pop, but he plays the outfield like Jerry Lewis. Hideki Matsui is already having a knee drained regularly and Iâ€™m not sure he currently even owns a glove. That leaves Brett Gardner to patrol the entire outfield in a park that, at least so far, makes â€œThe Launching Padâ€ look like the Astrodome. If you invest the kind of jack in pitching that the Yanks did, you just canâ€™t put The Golden Girls in left, center, and right and expect to win. Speed and defense, in the Sixties and Seventies National League mode is what is going to win in the post-steroid, post-amphetamine era. Older players just arenâ€™t going to get it done on Red Bull and vitamins. Which segways intoâ€¦
One word; and that word is AGE! When Carl Crawford is a grizzled Tampa Bay veteran at 27, you have to look at your roster and become very concerned about player development. Iâ€™m certain Teixeira, Burnett, and Sabathia will have good, maybe even great years, but they cost draft choices. The last solid position player developed, in house, was Robinson Cano. Brett Gardner may be a solid player with great speed but he has one RBI and itâ€™s too early to tell if heâ€™s the real deal. Shelly Duncanâ€¦ are you kidding me? Where is the next Evan Longoria, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, or David Wright?
Real problems, real solutions; but what do I know?
Any suggestions? Cookie? Yankee Joe?