By Jason Keidel
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Who would have thought the most moxie and muscle the Yankees would flash last night would be from the bench? The secret is out: Girardi/Showalter is on the undercard of the Mayweather/Alvarez megafight this weekend.
Perhaps G.I. Joe is finally falling apart. He was always seen as a tightly spun, corporeal coil, ready to spring up with little provocation. It was that very tense disposition that helped an otherwise marginal talent grind through a long MLB career as a catcher.
Before he did a metaphysical makeover, you may recall Girardi was fired by the Florida Marlins a week after winning Manager of the Year. Girardi quickly learned that you can't bark at your owner in public, even in the laconic, palm-tree padded oasis of South Florida.
He could very well win the award again this year for holding the battered and beleaguered, injury-addled Yankees together with duct tape and a potent bullpen. Now that said 'pen is in tatters, the Yankees really have nothing on which to place their most opulent dreams.
To reach the presumed 90 wins it would take to bag a Wild Card spot, the Yankees would have to finish 14-4, which is impossible with their current pitching. Andy Pettitte is the closest thing to a sure thing in the rotation. And while he certainly looks, acts, and pitches like a younger man, he is on the dark side of 40.
CC Sabathia never got his groove. Hiroki Kuroda has been heroic, but is now human. Phil Hughes has been putrid and is now packing his bags. Ivan Nova has been a nice late-season boost, but it's too late. The Yankees scored 25 runs in three games, at home, and lost all three. To Boston, no less, the most fitting or galling grim reaper, depending on your view.
And now we have Girardi's antagonist, Buck Showalter - the former Yankees manager, no less - wielding the axe over the Yankees' bumpy 2013 campaign. This season has been bulging with irony and agony since the spring, when Derek Jeter swore on a stack of World Series rings that he would be in adolescent form in April, ready to plow through 162 games, even at 39, with a mangled ankle. Then he snapped it again, and again, and then had his mail forwarded to the disabled list since.
Even the most jaded Yankees apologist is gripping a shovel, ready to toss the dirt on the 2013 Bronx Bombers.
Jeter is falling apart. A-Rod is living on borrowed time. Kevin Youkilis, purchased for that very reason, has spent his season on the trainer's table. Robinson Cano is the only certified stud in his prime still in the lineup. The Yanks got the yips at catcher, and let Russell Martin go for no good reason. Now Martin is prospering in Pittsburgh, and the Yankees have had a turnstile behind home plate ever since.
And the formerly formidable relief corps is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. David Robertson has a cranky arm, and the immortal Mariano finally has a creaky arm. Joba is incompetent. And Boone Logan, the lone lefty marksman, is no longer a sure thing. Sans the salvation of the final two innings, the Yankees are assured an eerily quiet fall, and a loud fall from grace.
While the Yankees have always been a zero-sum, World Series or Sayonara endeavor, true blue fans really should be proud of this pinstriped iteration. Between age, wage, and injury, the Yankees never resembled their template, titanic silhouette. Yet they are at least on the party's periphery, saving face in the face of surreal adversity.
Some say they are paying a karmic tax for their voracious spending, gobbling up free agents like Pac Man. In the past, the Yanks would simply double-down on a free agent gaffe. For every Kei Igawa and Jaret Wright, they would just make it rain on Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.
But a funny thing happened during their annual march to the vault. Hal and Hank were hit with a newfound frugality, which now renders them inert as they approach the $189 million salary cap. The monetary line in the sand used to be a simple speed-bump on their way to another nine-digit contract offer, with luxury tax mere corporate debris. Now they see that number as a financial firewall, precluding them from tossing a dime over it. Without that historically elastic wallet, the Yankees are not only doomed this year, but in peril the next.
Before the season started I said the Yankees would not make the playoffs, and was called an idiot. I repeated said stance about a week ago and was called an idiot. No doubt I'm still an idiot, despite their plunge down the standings, now nestled in fourth place in the AL East, 10.5 games behind Boston, and now behind Tampa, Baltimore, and Cleveland in the wild card sprint.
If you need more proof of their porous pitching and woeful hitting, the Yankees are the only team in the AL pennant race with a negative run differential. That is new ground for the Yankees, who have gone from important to impotent in a New York minute.
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