Saturday, May 29, 2010

Complacency

There are a lot of words I could use to describe the Yankees' effort today in a 13-11 loss to the Indians. I'll use that one, because it is broad enough to sum up a lot of the things that go with it. To blow a 5 run lead to the Indians with 9 outs to go, you basically have to lack the drive and focus of a team with that real winning instinct (like the 2009 Yankees, for example). Right now, this team simply doesn't have just that. They are talented and are getting some incredible individual performances. But the real reason they are 9 games over .500 (which seems amazing given their play the last month) is because they had that winning instinct for the first month. That's what makes this all so confusing. It isn't the brand of baseball being played (although it is different) as much as it is the attention to detail and focus. I've said all of this before. I noted at the time how tightened up this team looked out of the gate. Now they look just the opposite. Their talent has allowed them to continue to win at an above average pace, but they should be winning even more. At no point this season was that more evident than today.

They had leads of 3-0, 9-3, and 10-4 with their ace, C.C. Sabathia on the mound. He gave them 6 innings and surrendered 5 runs. This is now his third awful start in his last four outings. This is going to happen. As I say all the time I have no problem with bad performance. That is going to happen in any sport, let alone one with a season as long as baseball's. What you can't accept is bad performance at anything less than full effort and focus. I have praised C.C. Sabathia on numerous occasions in this space for his drive and effort, doing whatever it took to win. That was on display again early in the season. Recently it just hasn't, and the fact that he usually is not this way is not an excuse. He fielded a ground ball today with a runner on first, didn't even look to second base to check out if he had a chance, and then lobbed the ball to first with the runner almost beating it out. What is that? What's more, all five of the runs he gave up today were with two outs, after giving up four two out runs in one inning against the Mets in his last start. This is admittedly more performance related than the last example discussed, but a pitcher of his caliber should not be giving up this many two out runs. It's a small sample, but when you're one out, one batter, one pitch from getting out of an inning, you need to do it. Two out runs happen but they shouldn't be happening at this frequency, not to someone with the ability of Sabathia.

Of course he was not alone. More mental/focus mistakes were abound. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who are supposed to be the Yankees' two best RBI guys, not getting a runner each in from third with less than two outs. Brett Gardner getting picked off first taking the Yankees out of a potential big inning. All of these things cost the Yankees runs. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, because the Yankees had a big lead. But that really is what being complacent is all about. You get comfortable so you don't do the things you should be doing. That's been the Yankees for a month now.

Of course you have the effort of the relievers, and I'm just not sure how much of this goes on them, how much goes on Girardi, and how much goes on David Robertson - who has been fantastic for a while after a rough start - having to leave the 7th early with a strained back. However much blame goes on each, two things I know for sure: the relievers need to pitch better and Joe Girardi needs to do a better job of managing them. Pitching better is self-explanatory. On managing better, how about trying something different just for the sake of trying something different? Clearly this pattern, the one where he mixes and matches relievers until their is a major threat, and then he just hopes Joba and Mariano get out of it, is not working. I understand that he was not put in an easy spot when Robertson has to leave the game. But then he brings in Mitre, who throws gets all the time he needs to warm up after the injury, to only throw 3 pitches (he walked the batter Robertson started off 1-0 before leaving the game) with a 10-6 lead and one out in the 7th. If he's not going to pitch then, when is he going to pitch? Ditto Marte, who comes in and gets his lefty. If he can't pitch to a righty with a 4 run lead in the 7th and two outs in one of the biggest left fields in baseball, when can he pitch to a righty? You can't always just go to Joba and Mariano when there is the first sign of trouble, because that is how relievers wear down. He also has to stop with this hyperactivity. It creates an unnecessary sense of uneasiness. The team has a 4 run lead. There are 8 outs to go. People besides Joba and Mariano can get some of those outs. It's not a 1 run game in October. I understand this contradicts my whole bit here about complacency, but there is such a thing as going too far in the other direction. That is about where Joe Girardi is with his bullpen management.

This might seem like an overreaction to one game. But this game is not the issue. It just happens that this is the most egregious example of the general attitude this team has had for nearly a month. That is one of not winning games they should win. Maybe I'm incorrect in saying it's because they are complacent. No doubt about that, it's only my opinion. What is indisputable is that they are not winning games that they should, injuries or not. Today is another one of those games, and was by far the biggest lay up yet. It should have been a win probably more than 9 out of 10 times. In a division as tough as this one, every single win counts. This is one the Yankees are not going to have at the end that would have been nice to have. Even though this is the most obvious one, unfortunately it is not the only one recently. They need to put a stop to this, even if their overall record is still very good. There is no reason to play complacent baseball, or at least baseball at a level less than what they are capable, which is what the Yankees are doing right now.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

I checked the score of the Yankees/Indians game yesterday afternoon and saw New York leading 9-3. I heard from someone last night that the Yankees lost. It shocked me, especially knowing that Sabathia was pitching.

About two out runs--I think that's all Josh Beckett allows. It's so frustrating. Now, I know that CC and Beckett are not the same caliber pitcher (they were for one year, though!) but I can relate to how annoying it is giving up a 2 out, nobody on, four run rally. It's absurd.

At the end of the day, the Yankees are playing about as poorly as they can and they are nine games over .500. In the past, they've been bad, then turned it around, only they were turning it around when they were 11-19 or 43-45. It wouldn't surprise many people if the Yankees won 100 games this year.

Lastly--my distaste for the Yankees is absolutely tame compared to that of the Lakers. There is nothing I'd like to see better than for them to get that dazed looked on their faces after the proverbial first punch in the mouth from Boston. That said, I would be surprised if the Lakers didn't win in six games. And it really hurt to write that last sentence.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

The one thing the Celtics have going for them in this series is that they have already proven multiple times in this postseason that they have no issues going on the road and winning tough games. There will be a lot of pressure on them to split the opening pair of games because there is no way they will win all three of their home games. I think they can do that. If they go 1-1 in LA and 2-1 in Boston, I think they are capable of winning the title in LA.

That said, the Lakers are gonna win this one in 4. If there is one certainty about this matchup, it is that Fisher will shut Rondo down.

Ross Kaplan said...

I attended this game with our good friend Jon Bandi and I have to say that I have never been more disgusted at a ball game, and Bandi can tell you just how livid I was during that disgusting act of a 7th inning. I usually give Girardi a break, but when you go through 4, yes 4 pitchers in one inning you're asking for trouble. Using Robertson-Mitre-Marte-Joba in one inning is absolutely inexcusable especially for a game in May in which you have a 6 run lead. It was just a horrendous example of managing and I can only hope that Girardi has learned his lesson.