Monday, September 30, 2013

Baseball Drives You Nuts

From September 30:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.

The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again. And it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings. And then, as soon as the chill rains come, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall all alone.

You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive. And then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

Man, that's sadder words than "Game called on account of rain." At least then, they make it up to you. But when a season is over, well, even Yogi Berra can't deny that it's over.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, then President of Yale University and a classical scholar, but not yet President of the National League or Commissioner of Baseball, wrote those words on October 2, 1977, after the Yankees once again edged the Boston Red Sox for first place. And that was a year before the Bucky Dent Game, the Boston Tie Party, thus making Bart less a philosopher and more a prophet.

*

Baseball hasn't broken my heart for a while. It has, however, continuously since 1977, the 1st season I can remember with any reliability, driven me nuts. And if you think the game of baseball isn't designed to drive you nuts, I refer to yesterday's regular season finale between the Yankees and the Houston Astros.

First of all, the Yankees were playing the Astros. You grew up with certain truths, and among them were "The Houston Astros are in the National League," and "The Yankees do not play National League teams except in spring training and, hopefully, the World Series."

The Astros lost their last 15 games this season, the longest season-ending losing streak in over 100 years. They lost 111 games, 324 over the last 3 years. That's insane. If they were an English soccer team, they'd have dropped from the Premier League to League One by now.

Meanwhile, the Yankees won 85 games. They finished in a tie for 3rd place in the American League Eastern Division, 12 games out of 1st, 6 games out of the 2nd AL Wild Card berth.

This would be a reasonable result for most teams, perhaps a reasonable result for a team with the kind of players the Yankees used to replace their stars.

But we are the New York Yankees. We expect more.

And, to make matters worse, this season of emotion, little of it good, would not end. The game went 14 innings before the Yankees scored 4 runs in top of the 14th, including a home run by Mark Reynolds, to win, 5-1.

During the game, Yankee Fans experienced something Met fans usually experience in June: "For God's sake, get this game, get this season, over with already!"

*

Now:

* We will never see either Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte in a Yankee uniform again, except on Old-Timers' Day.

* The end of Derek Jeter's career can be seen without binoculars.

* The future of Alex Rodriguez is a big fat question mark.

* Robinson Cano's contract has run out, and we don't know if the Yankees will re-sign him.

* Mark Teixeira may never be the same, due to injury.

* CC Sabathia didn't look much like an ace this year.

* Phil Hughes looks like he should be on his way out, because he pitched as if he should be.

* Same for Joba Chamberlain.

* We don't even know for sure if Joe Girardi is returning as manager -- and many of us are undecided as to whether he should.

* A lot of us, perhaps a majority, are convinced Brian Cashman should go.

* The titles of 1977-78, the near-misses of 1985 and 1993, the dynasty of 1996-2003… Bump that, even the title of 2009 is now drifting securely into that foreign country that we baseball fans so often like to visit, known as The Past.

* Indeed, of the usual starting lineup of Title 27, and the 5-man rotation we had, and the top 2 relievers, only the following are likely to be factors for us in 2014: Jeter and Brett Gardner. And that was only 4 years ago. (David Robertson was not yet one of the top two relievers, and Ivan Nova hadn't yet reached the majors.)

The future? The Yankees begin play again, also in Houston, on April 1, 2014. The 1st home game of the next season will be 6 days later, against the Baltimore Orioles.

To put up another Yogi quote, "In baseball, you don't know nothin'." How true, how true.

Baseball drives you nuts. If it wasn't designed to drive you nuts, it sure has worked out that way.

Oh well, there's always football, right?

As the late, great George Carlin taught us, "Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything is dying!"

Baseball's Division Champions, 1969-2013

For this list, I am counting, even if Major League Baseball does not do so officially:

* The split-season Divisional Champions of 1981.

* The teams that had the best overall record in each Division in 1981, even if they didn't make the Playoffs under the format in place that year.

* The teams that were in first place when the Strike of 1994 hit.

* The Montreal Expos' 1981 achievement as that of the Washington Nationals.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't include separate-city achievements, but, this time, I do.

* The teams that won Pennants as Wild Cards.  They may not have finished first in the regular season, but they were the last team standing in their League when it was all over.

All ties in this ranking are broken by most recent finish.

1. New York Yankees, 19: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '94 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '09, '11, '12.  All in AL East.

2. Atlanta Braves, 17: 1969, '82, '91, '92, '93 (in NL West, afterward in NL East), '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '13.

3. Oakland Athletics, 16: 1971, '72, '73, '74, '75, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '88, '89, '90, '92, 2000, '02, '03, '06, '12, '13.  All in AL West.

4. St. Louis Cardinals, 13: 1981 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '82, '85, '87 (in NL East, afterward in NL Central), '96, 2000, '02, '04, '05, '06, '09, '22 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '13.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers, 13: 1974, '77, '78, '81 (1st-half and overall winners), '83, '85, '88, '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2004, '08, '09, '13.  All in NL West.

6. Cincinnati Reds, 12: 1970, '72, '73, '75, '76, '79, '81 (aggregate winners but didn't lead in either half), '90 (in NL West, afterward in NL Central), '94 (led when strike hit), '95, 2010, '12.

7. Philadelphia Phillies, 12: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (1st-half), '83, '93, 2007, '08, '09, '10, '11.  All in NL East.

8. Minnesota Twins, 10: 1969, '70, '87, '91 (in AL West, afterward in AL Central), 2002, '03, '04, '06, '09, '10.

9. San Francisco Giants, 9: 1971, '87, '89, '97, 2000, '02 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '03, '10, '12.  All in NL West.

10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 9: 1979, '82, '86, 2002 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '04, '05, '07, '08, '09.  All in AL West.

11. Pittsburgh Pirates, 9: 1970, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79, '90, '91, '92.  All in NL East, have not won since moving to NL Central.

12. Boston Red Sox, 8: 1975, '86, '88, '90, '95, 2004 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '07, '13.  All in AL East.

13. Houston Astros, 8: 1980, '81 (2nd-half winners), '86 (in NL West, afterward in NL Central), '97, '98, '99, 2001, '05 (won Pennant as Wild Card).  Have now moved to AL West.

14. Baltimore Orioles, 8: 1969, '70, '71, '73, '74, '79, '83, '97.  All in AL East.

15. Detroit Tigers, 7: 1972, '84, '87 (in AL East, afterward in AL Central), 2006 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '11, '12, '13.

16. Cleveland Indians, 7: 1995, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2001, '07.  All in AL Central, never won while in AL East.

17. Kansas City Royals, 7: 1976, '77, '78, '80, '81 (2nd-half winners), '84, '85.  All in AL West, have not won since moving to AL Central.

18. Texas Rangers, 6: 1994 (led when strike hit), '96, '98, '99, 2010, '11.

19. Chicago White Sox, 6: 1983, '93 (in AL West, afterward in AL Central), '94 (led when strike hit), 2000, '05, '08.

20. New York Mets, 6: 1969, '73, '86, '88, 2000 (won Pennant as Wild Card), '06.  All in NL East.

21. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5: 1999, 2001, '02, '07, '11.  All in NL West.

22. Chicago Cubs, 5: 1984, '89 (in NL East, afterward in NL Central), 2003, '07, '08.

23. San Diego Padres, 5: 1984, '96, '98, 2005, '06.  All in NL West.

24. Toronto Blue Jays, 5: 1985, '89, '91, '92, '93.  All in AL East.

25. Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, 3: 1981 (2nd-half and overall winners), '94 (led when strike hit), 2012.  All in NL East.

26. Milwaukee Brewers, 3: 1981 (2nd-half winners), '82 (in AL East, thereafter in  NL Central), 2011.

27. Seattle Mariners, 3: 1995, '97, 2001.  All in NL West.

28. Tampa Bay Rays, 2: 2008, '10.  Both in AL East.

29. Colorado Rockies, 2: 2007, '09.  Both in NL West.

30. Miami Marlins, 2: 1997, 2003 (both times, won Pennant as Wild Card).  Both in NL East.

Leading their respective Divisions are: In the American League, the Yankees, Minnesota and Oakland; in the National League, Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

However, if we count only titles won within those Divisions -- both before and after realignment -- then we get a different picture:

The AL leaders remain the same, but Philadelphia surpasses Atlanta for the NL East lead (the Braves were in the NL West until 1993), St. Louis now leads the NL Central (Cincinnati was in the NL West until 1993), and Cincinnati and the Dodgers share the NL West lead.

In any case, the Yankees are Number 1 on this list, as they are on so many others.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Playoff Droughts As of Fall 2013


The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a Playoff berth last night. So did the Cincinnati Reds.

When I was a kid, neither of these occurrences would have been considered a big deal — outside their markets, anyway.

The Pirates won the National League East in 1970, ’71, ’72, ’74, ’75 and ’79, and almost did it in ’73, ’77 and ’78.

The Reds won the NL West in 1970, ’72, ’73, ’75, ’76 and ’79, and almost did it in ’74 and ’78.

They faced each other in the NL Championship Series in 1970, ’72, ’75 and ’79 (with the Reds winning all but the last).

Even now, the Reds making the Playoffs isn’t a big deal, as they’ve now done it in 3 of the last 4 seasons.

But the Pirates hadn’t made the Playoffs since George Bush was President.  The father, not the son.  September 1992.

How long has it been? Well, since I just did a “How Long Has It Been” piece for September 1992, on the last time the Yankees were this weak (or worse), you can check that out.

The Pirates’ management finally figured out that 20 years of being cheap wasn’t working.

And, yes,  Yankee Fans, I am well aware that  the Bucs’ roster includes former Yankees A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin and — ugh — Kyle Farnsworth.

*

The Pirates had the 2nd-longest Playoff drought of any current team in North American major league sports.  When it came to how recently they’d made the Playoffs, they were 121st out of 122.
(That counts MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL — but not the WNBA, MLS, or the Canadian Football League.)

Major League Sports Playoff Droughts

Last made their League’s Playoffs in 2013:

MLB, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indian, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds.

NBA, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks.

NHL, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Last made Playoffs in 2012:

NFL (calendar-wise, after MLB, thus more recently), Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons,  Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins.

MLB, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals.

NBA, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz.

NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils,  Arizona Coyotes (formerly “Phoenix Coyotes”), Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators.

Last made Playoffs in 2011: Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers; Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks; New Orleans Pelicans (formerly Hornets), Portland Trail Blazers; Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning.

2010: Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles; Minnesota Twins; Charlotte Hornets (formerly Bobcats), Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns; Colorado Avalanche.
2009: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers; Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Colorado Rockies; Detroit Pistons; Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets.

2008: Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans; Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs; Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards; Dallas Stars.

2007: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

2006: New York Mets, San Diego Padres; Sacramento Kings; Edmonton Oilers.  This means the Mets have the longest Playoff drought of the New York Tri-State Area’s 9 teams.

2005: Houston Astros.

2004: St. Louis Rams; Minnesota Timberwolves.

2003: Miami Marlins (then Florida Marlins).

2002: Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders.

2001: Seattle Mariners.

1999: Buffalo Bills.  They haven’t made the Playoffs in this current century.

1996: Winnipeg Jets.  (The current team with the name made it as the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007.  The former team with the name made it in their last season in Winnipeg, before moving to become the Phoenix and now Arizona Coyotes.)

1993: Toronto Blue Jays.

1985: Kansas City Royals.  They got close this time, and haven’t officially been eliminated yet, but they’re 3 games out of the 2nd AL Wild Card slot with 6 games to go.  They haven’t made the Playoffs since the Reagan years, since portable phones were the size of a tape dispenser, since a desktop computer took up the entire top of your desk, since people were actually devoid enough of taste to listen to Duran Duran.

*

By City -- this time, I include all 4 major North American sports where I can:

Boston: 2013 Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins; 2012 Patriots.

Detroit: 2013 Tigers and Red Wings; 2011 Lions, 2010 Pistons -- that's right, the Lions (who haven't won a title since 1957 or even reached an NFC Title Game since 1991) have made the Playoffs more recently than the Pistons (who've won 3 titles and been to 2 other Finals since 1988).

San Francisco (inc. Oakland & San Jose): 2013 Athletics, Warriors and Sharks, 2012 Giants and 49ers, 2002 Raiders.

Tampa Bay: 2013 Rays, 2011 Lightning, 2007 Buccaneers.  Never had an NBA or ABA team.

Cleveland: 2013 Indians, 2010 Cavaliers, 2002 Browns.  Never made the NHL Playoffs with the 1977-78 Barons, but made the WHA Playoffs with the 1976 Crusaders.

Atlanta: 2013 Braves and Hawks, 2012 Falcons, 2007 Thrashers (now defunct).

St. Louis: 2013 Cardinals and Blues, 2004 Rams.  Made the ABA Playoffs with the 1975 Spirits, and the NBA Playoffs with the Hawks in 1968, their last season before moving to Atlanta.

Los Angeles (inc. Anaheim): 2013 Dodgers, Clippers, Lakers, Kings and Ducks; 2009 Angels; last made the NFL Playoffs with the 1993 Raiders, the Rams last making it in 1989.

Pittsburgh: 2013 Pirates and Penguins, 2011 Steelers.  The city has only once made the Playoffs in basketball in anything resembling "major league": The 1968 ABA Champion Pittsburgh Pipers.  The Pittsburgh Ironmen (whose best player was Press Maravich, future LSU coach and father of Pistol Pete) were charter members of the NBA in 1946-47, but that's Pittsburgh's only season in the NBA.

Cincinnati: 2013 Reds, 2012 Bengals.  Last made the NBA Playoffs with the 1967 Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).  Never had an NHL team, made the WHA Playoffs with the 1979 Stingers.

Miami: 2013 Heat, 2012 Panthers, 2008 Dolphins, 2003 Marlins.

San Antonio: 2013 Spurs.  Aside from the Saints' temporary stay at the Alamodome due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, San Antonio has never had a team in any of the other major league sports.

Indianapolis: 2013 Pacers, 2012 Colts, 1914 Hoosiers -- their only MLB team won the first Federal League Pennant, lost money, and moved to Newark (actually Harrison, their stadium was catty-corner from the current site of Red Bull Arena).  Never had an NHL team, made the WHA Playoffs with the 1977 Racers -- oddly, naming a team in one sport after another sport. 

Memphis: 2013 Grizzlies.  Didn't make the NFL Playoffs when the Titans played there in 1997-98, but made the USFL Playoffs with the 1985 Showboats.

Chicago: 2013 Blackhawks and Bulls, 2010 Bears, 2008 White Sox and Cubs.

New York (inc. New Jersey & Long Island): 2013 Knicks, Nets, Rangers and Islanders; 2012 Yankees and Devils; 2011 Giants; 2010 Jets; 2006 Mets.

Oklahoma City: 2013 Thunder.  Unless you count the USFL's Oklahoma Outlaws, who played the 1984 season in Tulsa, the Thunder are Oklahoma's only major league team ever.

Denver: 2013 Nuggets, 2012 Broncos, 2010 Avalanche, 2009 Rockies.

Houston: 2013 Rockets, 2012 Texans, 2005 Astros.  They've never had an NHL team, but the Aeros won the WHA title in 1974 and '75, and last made the Playoffs in 1978.

Milwaukee (inc. Green Bay): 2013 Bucks, 2012 Packers, 2011 Brewers.  They've never had an NHL or WHA team.

Ottawa: 2013 Senators.  In 2014, the Ottawa Redblacks will join the Canadian Football League, taking the place of the Rough Riders, who went out of business in 1996 and last made the CFL Playoffs in 1994.

Vancouver: 2013 Canucks, 2012 Lions (CFL).  The Grizzlies did not make the NBA Playoffs between their 1995 debut and their 2001 move to Memphis.

Washington: 2013 Capitals, 2012 Redskins and Nationals, 2008 Wizards.

Montreal: 2013 Canadiens, 2012 Alouettes.  Only in 1981 did the Expos actually play in the Playoffs.

Minnesota: 2013 Wild, 2012 Vikings, 2010 Twins, 2004 Timberwolves.

Toronto: 2013 Maple Leafs, 2012 Argonauts (won the Grey Cup), 2008 Raptors, 1993 Blue Jays.

Dallas: 2012 Rangers and Mavericks, 2009 Cowboys, 2008 Stars.

Baltimore: 2012 Ravens and Orioles.  The Bullets made the Playoffs in their last season in Baltimore, 1973.  Baltimore has never had an NHL team, and their sole WHA season, 1974-75, the Claws did not make the Playoffs.

Seattle: 2012 Seahawks, 2001 Mariners.  The SuperSonics last made the Playoffs in 2005 before moving in 2008, and the Metropolitans, Champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1917, were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, last reaching the postseason in 1924.

Calgary: 2012 Stampeders (lost last year's Grey Cup Final), 2009 Flames.

Edmonton: 2012 Eskimos, 2006 Oilers.

Regina: 2012 Roughriders.  (The "Saskatchewan" club has always spelled "Roughriders" as one word, the defunct Ottawa "Rough Riders" as two.)

Orlando: 2012 Magic.  The Florida Blazers, playing all their home games in Orlando, reached the World Football League title game (the World Bowl) in 1974.  That's Orlando's only team besides the Magic that could be called "major league."

Philadelphia: 2012 76ers and Flyers, 2011 Phillies, 2010 Eagles.

Utah: 2012 Jazz.  Salt Lake City has never had a major league team in any other sport.

Phoenix: 2012 Coyotes, 2011 Diamondbacks, 2010 Suns, 2009 Cardinals.

Nashville: 2012 Predators, 2008 Titans.  The city has never had an MLB or NBA team.

New Orleans: 2011 Saints and Pelicans.  The city has never had an MLB or NHL team.

Winnipeg: 2011 Blue Bombers, 1996 Jets.

Hamilton: 2011 Tiger-Cats.  The last major hockey team the city had was the 1925 Tigers, who finished first in the NHL, but refused to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs unless they were paid, and had their franchise revoked.

Portland: 2011 Trail Blazers.  Aside from the WFL's Storm and the USFL's Breakers, the city has never had any other teams.

Buffalo: 2011 Sabres, 1999 Bills.  The Braves last made the NBA Playoffs in 1976, before moving to become the Clippers.  The last Buffalo team in MLB was either the 1914-15 Bisons of the Federal League, or the National League Bisons of 1885.

Kansas City: 2010 Chiefs, 1985 Royals.  The Kings made the NBA Playoffs in 1984, before moving to Sacramento a year later.  The 1975 and '76 Scouts, now the Devils, did not make the Playoffs.

Carolina (counting Charlotte and Raleigh) 2010 Hornets, 2009 Hurricanes, 2008 Panthers.  Neither North nor South Carolina has ever had an MLB team.

San Diego: 2009 Chargers, 2006 Padres.  The Clippers never made the Playoffs in San Diego.  While the city has never had an NHL team, the Mariners made the Playoffs all 3 years they were in the WHA, lastly in 1977.

Columbus: 2009 Blue Jackets.  The Columbus Bullies won the title in the 1940-41 version of the American Football League, but that's as close as Ohio's capital has come to even winning a postseason round at the major league level.

Jacksonville: 2007 Jaguars.

Sacramento: 2006 Kings.

Birmingham: They've never had a team in MLB, the NBA or the NHL, but the 1984 and 1985 Stallions made the USFL Playoffs, and the Americans won the one and only World Bowl in 1974.

Honolulu: Only team ever that could possibly be called "major league" was the WFL's Hawaiians, who made that league's Playoffs in 1974.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yankees Honor Mariano, Then Dishonor His Generation of Yankees

I'm still trying to catch up. From September 23:

On occasions like Old-Timers' Day or the retirement of a uniform number, the current players owe it to the former players to put up a good fight. Not necessarily to win, but to at least look like they're trying to win.

Yesterday was Mariano Rivera Day, the 1st "day" for a player at the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees honored Mariano with the retirement of his uniform number 42, and the presentation of a few gifts. (Implicit in this is the eventual dedication of a Plaque in his honor at Monument Park, but they can't cast the Plaque until his career truly is over, and they have final statistics that they can put on it.)

On hand were many representatives of the 1996-2003 Yankee Dynasty: Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, David Cone, John Wetteland, Jeff Nelson, Hideki Matsui. And, of course, the still-active Derek Jeter and yesterday's starting pitcher, the also-retiring Andy Pettitte.

Also on hand were members of the family of Jackie Robinson, for whom Number 42 was retired throughout baseball, with the provision that players then wearing it could continue to do so for the rest of their careers. And, 16 years later, Mariano is the last one. A Plaque was unveiled in Monument Park honoring Jackie, making him the 1st player who never played for the Yankees to be honored there.

(Jackie is, of course, a part of the history of the old Yankee Stadium, having played World Series games there for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, '49, '52, '53, '55 and '56 -- most notably stealing home plate in Game 1 in '55.)

The opposing San Francisco Giants also presented Mo with a gift. Their pitching coach is Dave Righetti, who had been the Yankees' all-time saves leader until Mo surpassed him. "Rags" never won a Series with the Yankees (though he was a part of the 1981 Pennant as a rookie starter), but he's helped the Giants win 2 of the last 3 World Series. (They won't make the Playoffs this time.)
With all that talent on hand, you'd think the Yankees would have at least put up an effort.

*

Certainly, Pettitte did. He had a perfect game going until the 5th inning, before walking a batter, who was subsequently erased in a double play.

And then, on WCBS -- the Yankees have announced they'll be on WFAN next season -- John Sterling said the N-word.

No, not that N-word. Not the one that Jackie Robinson faced time and time again in his struggle first to integrate baseball, then to make it fully integrated, and later to make it more fair for those who integrated it. Sterling said, "Andy Pettitte has pitched a no-hitter through 5 innings."

It's one of "the unwritten rules of baseball" that you do not say the word "no-hitter" while one is in progress, because it will jinx the pitcher.  You can say, "He hasn't allowed any hits." Or, "He is pitching hitless baseball." Or, "No (member of the opposing team) has gotten a hit yet." Anything, so long as the word "no-hitter" is not used.

Author John Thorn, who's written a bunch of books about baseball and is now MLB's Official Historian, once wrote, "Strangely, the words 'perfect game' can be spoken without similar effect."

But Sterling said, "no-hitter."

I've heard broadcasters use the word plenty of times. When Andy Hawkins had one going for the Yankees against the Chicago White Sox in 1990, Phil Rizzuto used the word on WPIX-Channel 11 many times. Hawkins kept the no-hitter, but he walked a few batters, and errors by Mike Blowers at 3rd base, Jim Leyritz in left field (he was a rookie and had never played the position before) and Jesse Barfield (normally a great fielder but he lost the ball in the Comiskey Park sun) led to 4 ChiSox runs.

Hawkins pitched 8 innings -- with the home team winning, a bottom of the 9th was not necessary -- and allowed no hits, but lost, 4-0. A candidate for the title of "the strangest game I've ever seen," right up there with that 4th of July marathon the Mets played in Atlanta in 1985.

At least 5 times, on YES, Michael Kay has used the word "no-hitter" and jinxed a game. Usually, when something like that happens, it doesn't matter: The pitcher gives up a hit, and still wins. Sometimes, with help from the bullpen. But it usually only costs the pitcher's team the no-hitter, not the game.

This time, Sterling said, "Andy Pettitte has pitched a no-hitter through 5 innings." Naturally, in the 6th, Andy allowed a hit, and then a run.

That wouldn't have been a big deal, except it was only 1-0 Yankees at that point. Mark Reynolds, who drove the Yankees so crazy last year for the Baltimore Orioles and has been a good pickup this year, hit a home run.

Andy pitched into the 8th, but allowed the runner that would decide the game. Joe Girardi pulled him, and, to a standing ovation, left the mound at Yankee Stadium (either one) as an active pitcher for the last time. (Assuming he doesn't get injured, he has one more start this season, it's on the road, and he will not be pitching in the Playoffs. No current Yankee will.)

David Robertson couldn't prevent the run from scoring, and Girardi had to bring Mo in for a 5-out save. Bringing him in for more than a 3-out save is always a risk, as he has been damn near unhittable for 3 outs since 1997, but for more than that, he's had his troubles.

(It's why, when people call him "the greatest relief pitcher ever," you have to consider the guys in the pre-Dennis Eckersley days who pitched the last 2, 3, even 4 innings of games, including Yankee stars Joe Page, Luis Arroyo, Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage.)

Mo got the 5 outs without making it any worse. But the Yankees didn't get the job done with the bats. Until Reynolds led off the 3rd with his homer, the Yankees had no baserunners. Ichiro Suzuki drew a 2-out walk that inning, but got caught stealing. Robinson Cano singled with 1 out in the 4th, but was stranded. Brendan Ryan doubled with 2 out in the 5th, but was stranded. With 2 out in the 6th, Cano singled and Alfonso Soriano walked, but Curtis Granderson struck out.

Eduardo Nunez led off the 7th with a single. Reynolds struck out. Ryan singled, but a reliever came in and struck out Vernon Wells and Ichiro.

Alex Rodriguez led off the 8th with a single, and Cano doubled pinch-runner Zoilo Almonte to 3rd. But Soriano grounded to 3rd, and Almonte was thrown out at home, leaving runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Granderson struck out again. Nunez singled, but Cano tried to score and was thrown out at home. And the Yankees went out meekly, 1-2-3, in the bottom of the 9th.

Giants 2, Yankees 1. This is not the right way to honor Mariano. Indeed, it was as if an entire generation of Yankees had seen everything they worked for planted firmly in the past, with the present a mess and the future a mist.

*

So here is where Major League Baseball stands, with 1 week remaining in the regular season:

* The Boston Red Sox have clinched the American League East. The Oakland Athletics have clinched the AL West. The Detroit Tigers have a Magic Number of 2 to clinch the AL Central.

* If the current Wild Card standings hold, the Tampa Bay Rays will get the 1st AL berth, and the Cleveland Indians the 2nd. The Texas Rangers are a game and a half back, the Kansas City Royals 3 1/2, the Yankees 4, and the Baltimore Orioles 4 1/2.

* The Yankees' elimination number is 3: Any combination of Yankee losses and Cleveland wins adding up to 3, and the Yankees don't make the Playoffs, for only the 2nd time in the last 19 seasons. And since the Indians have 3 home games against the Chicago White Sox followed by 3 road games against the Minnesota Twins, who have already lost 94 and 90 games, respectively, and the Yankees still have to play 3 home games against the Rays before closing with 3 games at the Houston Astros (whose 105 losses are easily the most in the majors), it seems incredibly unlikely that the Yankees can make it. Even if the Indians do take a nosedive, the Rangers would also have to lose a good chunk of their last 7 games to give the Yankees a shot, and they're playing the hopeless Astros. So Yogi Berra can safely call Girardi and say, "It's over."

* The Atlanta Braves have clinched the National League East. The Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched the NL West. The St. Louis Cardinals have a Magic Number of 5 to clinch the NL Central, but the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates are both only 2 games back, so that race is hardly decided.

* The Reds and Pirates, in addition to still having a shot to overtake the Cardinals for the NL Central, currently hold the 2 NL Wild Card slots. The Washington Nationals are 5 games behind them, and are almost certainly out of it.

Oh well, my fellow Yankee Fans. We didn’t give it a good shot, and we lose Mariano and Andy, and we have the unresolved A-Rod situation, and rumors are running rampant that Jeter will only play one more year, due to his contract situation. And CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda really tailed off. And we don't know if Ivan Nova can keep up his comeback. And we don't really have a 5th starter. And Robertson hasn't exactly looked like a worthy successor to Mariano the last couple of years. And, at least for the moment, we still have Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan stinking up the bullpen.

And Joe Girardi refuses to throw out his binder, and with George Steinbrenner dead, it doesn’t look like he's about to be fired. And Kevin Long is still the hitting instructor. And Brian Cashman is still the general manager. And the hated Red Sox won the Division.

Not good.

Oh well, you've still got the New York Football Giants to root for, right?

Not really: As legendary WCBS-Channel 2 sportscaster Warner Wolf would say, "If you had the Giants and 37 points, you lost! Come on, give me a break!"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Top 10 Andy Pettitte Moments

From September 20:

Andy Pettitte announced his retirement today. For the second time. Effective at the end of this season.
I’m gonna miss this guy. Two years ago, the first time the Hooded Hawk retired, I wrote this for the previous version of my blog.  It does not need to be updated.
*
There is no pitcher who has thrown more pitches with me actually in the ballpark than Andrew Eugene Pettitte of Deer Park, Texas. Except for Mariano Rivera, there is no pitcher who has appeared in more games with me on hand. And no pitcher has more postseason wins.
Time to salute this important figure in Yankee History – recent and overall.
Top 10 Andy Pettitte Moments
10. August 2, 1999. This one is personal, so I put it at Number 10. It was the 20th Anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson, and I felt that I had to be at Yankee Stadium (the original) on the night.
The Yanks played the Toronto Blue Jays. Diana Munson threw out the first ball. Andy was making his 1st start since the trading deadline, when Joe Torre convinced George Steinbrenner not to trade him, and George said we'd "find out what kind of man he is."
Pitching for the Jays was David Wells, a tough opponent no matter what uniform he was bursting out of.
Andy proved his point, and Joe's, and mine and that of anyone else who wanted to keep him. Yanks 3, Jays 1. Andy goes 8, and so does Boomer, but a Derek Jeter homer in the bottom of the 8th settled it.
9. October 9, 2003, ALCS Game 2. The Boston Red Sox had won Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, so, as had so often happened, the Yankees needed Andy to turn things around. He did, holding the Sox off long enough for the bats to kick in. Yankees 6, Red Sox 2. The series was tied, and the Yanks went on to win the Pennant on Aaron Boone’s home run.
8. September 18, 1996. Beats the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium, for his 20th win of the season. He wins a 21st on September 28, 4-2 over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. This made him the youngest Yankee pitcher to win 20 (or 21) games in a season since Jim Bouton in 1963. In other words, the youngest in my lifetime.
Andy would win 21 again in 2003. In the 10 years since then, how many pitchers have won 21 games in a season? 12. Only 5 of those are lefthanded. And only one of those 12 (or one of those 5) has pitched for a New York team, the Yankees' CC Sabathia in 2010. The last Met pitcher to win at least 21 games in a season? Dwight Gooden in 1985. The last Met lefty to do it? Only 1 Met lefty has ever done it, Jerry Koosman in 1976.
7. September 21, 2008. There was only one man – well, only one man left, anyway – who could start the last game at the old Yankee Stadium. Andy held off the Orioles long enough for the bullpen to take over, and the Yankees won, 7-3.
6. October 21, 1998, World Series Game 4. The Yanks already led the San Diego Padres 3 games to 0, and baseball teams don't blow such leads in the postseason. (Unless the other team cheats.) Andy went 7 innings at Jack Murphy Stadium (or whatever it was being called then), and Jeff Nelson and Rivera finished up. Yanks 3, Padres 0, and the 24th World Championship was won.
5. October 17, 1999, ALCS Game 4. The day before, the Yanks had gotten clobbered by the Red Sox at Fenway Park, 13-1, and they needed to stop The Scum's momentum.
Andy did the job, bending but not breaking. The score was 3-2 Yankees when Mariano relieved Andy in the 8th. A Boston pitching and fielding meltdown in the 9th led to 6 runs and a final score of 9-2, as the Red Sox fans – as usual, blaming the umpires for their team's failures – threw loads of garbage onto the field.
The Yanks won the Pennant the next day, and the Game 3 loss turned out to be the only game they lost in that postseason, going 11-1 and taking their 25th World Championship.
4. October 26, 2000, World Series Game 5. In Game 1 of the only real Subway Series since 1956, Andy had been outpitched by the Mets' Al Leiter, but the Yanks won anyway.
This time, the same 2 pitchers went at it, and when Leiter finally tired in the 9th, the Yanks won, 4-2, to clinch their 26th World Championship. Andy pitched well for 7 innings, although he was not the winning pitcher – that was Mike Stanton. But Andy kept the Mets at bay long enough for the Yankee bats to win it, giving them a World Series triumph they absolutely had to have.
If we had lost a World Series to the Mets, nothing in the Yankees' past would have meant anything. But since we DID beat the Mets in a World Series, there's nothing any Met fan can say anymore that has any meaning. Andy was a big part of making that happen.
3. October 13, 1996, ALCS Game 5. Pitches 8 innings as the Yankees beat the Orioles, 6-4 at Camden Yards, to clinch their 1st Pennant in 15 years.
2. November 4, 2009, World Series Game 6. Outpitches Pedro Martinez and shuts down the potent lineup of the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees win, 7-3 – interestingly enough, the same score as the last game at Yankee Stadium I – and win their 27th World Championship, their first at Yankee Stadium II.
In so doing, Andy became the first pitcher ever to start and win the clinching games of all 3 postseason series in one season. (Derek Lowe had won all 3 clinchers for the 2004* Red Sox, but didn’t start all 3.)
1. October 24, 1996, World Series, Game 5. He already got rocked by the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 at The Stadium, but the Yanks managed to tie the Series anyway. In the last game that would ever be played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (win or lose), if he hadn't gotten this right, most of the other events on this list wouldn't have happened.
He gets it right, getting out of a big jam in the 5th but fielding 2 grounders: One, he throws to 3rd base to get the lead runner; the other, he throws to 2nd base to start an inning-ending double play. He pitches 8 innings of 5-hit shutout ball, and the Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0. Two days later, the Yankees win their 23rd World Championship, their 1st in 18 years.
Andy was only 24 years old, but had won a bigger game than most pitchers will ever get into.
There would be more big games for Andy Pettitte. Now, there will still be big games, but he will not be a part of them, save as a spectator.
Andy, you’re one of us now. I wish I could say that was a good thing.

Stick a Fork In the Yankees, They're Done

From September 20:

Stick a fork in the Yankees. They're done. At least, for this season.
Once again, Hiroki Kuroda did not have good stuff, allowing 8 hits and 4 walks over 6 innings (although he struck out 7), and was lucky to leave losing only 3-1.
Justin Louis Chamberlain threw 14 pitches in the 7th, and didn't get an out, and it was 6-1 when he was removed. This could well be the nail in his coffin, as far as the Yankees are concerned. For the season, his ERA is 4.97, and his WHIP is 1.68. Only 2 of his last 6 appearances have resulted in him not allowing any runs.

Joba, thank you for the thrills of late 2007 and for helping us win the World Series in 2009, but it’s time for you to go.
The Yankees loaded the bases with 1 out in the 9th, but only got 1 run across, and it was a weak 6-2 loss to those pesky Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees are now 3 1/2 games, 4 in the loss column, behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers, who are tied for each of the American League's Wild Card berths. There are 9 games to go. The elimination number (or "Tragic Number," if you prefer) is 7. Any combination of Yankee losses and Rays wins, or Yankee losses and Rangers wins, adding up to 7, and the Yankees do not play a Game 163 this season.
As Woody Paige of the Denver Post and ESPN's Pardon the Interruption would say, "Look at the schedule":
* The Yankees come home to play a 3-game Interleague series against the San Francisco Giants. (This includes Saturday's Mariano Rivera Day.) The Giants have won 2 of the last 3 World Series, but were never in the Playoff race this season. They are 11 games under .500. The Yankees should be able to win at least 2 out of 3.
* After a day off on Monday, the Rays come to town for the last 3 Yankee home games. It's at the point where the Yankees will have to sweep, but it's also at the point where if they get the runs, they don't get the pitching, and vice versa. I don't see any more than 2 out of 3 here.
* The Yankees close the season with 3 games in Houston against the Astros -- who, of course, are now in the American League. The Astros have lost 315 games over the last 3 seasons, and are likely to post their 3rd straight season of losing at least 106. For a team that is not an expansion team in one of its first 5 seasons, that is historical ineptitude. * So the Yankees have a shot at a sweep.
* If the Yankees do what I'm suggesting here, that's a Borg winning streak, 7 of 9. That would give them 87 wins.
* Presuming the Yankees do take 2 of 3 from the Rays, that would give the Rays at least 84 wins. They have 10 games left. So they would have to win 4 of their last 7 to get one of the Wild Card berths. They have 4 home games against the Baltimore Orioles, who are also fighting for the Wild Card. They might get only 2 out of those 4. That would give them 86. But they close with 3 in Toronto, and I don't see the Jays giving them much of a fight. Winning 2 out of 3 would give the Rays the 87 wins they need to finish ahead of a Yankee team winning 7 out of 9.
* The Rangers also have 10 games remaining, and also have 83 wins. The 1st 3 are away to the Kansas City Royals, who are also fighting for the Wild Cards. I can see the Rangers dropping 2 out of 3, giving them 84 wins. But their next 3 are home to the Astros, and that's 87 wins right there, even before they close the season with 4 at home against the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. So even though they've blown the AL West title to the Oakland Athletics for the 2nd year in a row, the Rangers are in the driver's seat for the 1st Al Wild Card.  he Rays will almost certainly get the 2nd,
* And that's before I get into discussing  the chances of the Orioles, the Royals, and the Cleveland Indians, all of whom currently have higher elimination numbers than the Yankees.
So the only thing left to play for is pride. The Yankees haven't shown enough of that this season.
Oh well. It could be worse. The Mets are now 68-84, and 18 1/2 games behind the 2nd National League Wild Card.
"Well, tonight, thank God it's them, instead of you!"
*
* I looked it up: aside from the expansion Mets, who lost 340 in their first 3 seasons, 1962-64, the record for most losses in a 3-year period is 321, by the 2001-03 Detroit Tigers.  They lost "only" 96 in 2001, but an AL record 119 in 2003 puts them at the top of this list.  Prior to those Tigers, the worst 3-year stretch for a non-expansion team was the 1952-54 Pittsburgh Pirates, with 317.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not “Another One of Those Games”

From September 19:


Last night's game against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays looked like it would be another one of those games.  
Phil Hughes started, and, as is the case now when Hughes starts, gave way to David Huff. Between them, they pitched 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits and (I love to see these words in connection with Yankee pitching) no walks. Plus 5 strikeouts, though I don't particularly care how the outs come, as long as they come.
But in those 1st 7 innings, the Yankees had no runs and just 3 hits. They wasted men on 1st & 3rd with 1 out in the 1st, a man on 2nd in the 3rd, 1st & 2nd with nobody out in the 4th, and a man on 1st with 2 out in the 7th.
If the Yankees do somehow make the Playoffs, which is still not likely, last night's top of the 8th will be a major reason why.
Brendan Ryan, a rookie playing shortstop for the injured Derek Jeter, hit a line drive that bounced into the left field stands for a ground rule double. Curtis Granderson singled him over to 3rd.
Alex Rodriguez came to the plate as the tying run. Clutch time. He struck out.
I’m just sayin'.
But Robinson Cano singled Ryan home. Alfonso Soriano doubled home Grandy. Vernon Wells doubled home Robbie and Sori. 4-3 Yankees. The Jays ended up using 4 pitchers in the inning.
Joe Girardi sent David Robertson out to pitch the 8th, and then needed Mariano Rivera to get a 4-out save. He got it.
So last night's game was not "another one of those games," because the Yankees were in come from behind mode.
*
So here's how the AL Wild Card standings currently stand:
Tampa Bay Rays 83-68 (would get the 1st Wild Card)
Texas Rangers 82-69 (would get the 2nd Wild Card and travel to Tampa for the play-in game)
Cleveland Indians 82-70, 1/2 game back
Baltimore Orioles 81-70, 1 back
New York Yankees 80-72, 2 1/2 back
Kansas City Royals 80-72, 2 1/2 back
The Yankees' Elimination Number for the 2nd Wild Card is 9: Over the last 10 games of the regular season, any number of Yankee losses and Ranger wins adding up to 9 means the Yankees don't make the Playoffs at all, for the 1st time in 5 years, and only the 2nd time in 19 years.
*
In other races, the Boston Red Sox are down to a Magic Number of 3 to clinch the AL East. The Detroit Tigers are down to 5 to clinch the AL Central. The Oakland Athletics, benefiting even more this year than last from a Rangers collapse, are down to 5 to clinch the AL West.
The Atlanta Braves are down to 2 to clinch the NL East. The Arizona Diamondbacks are down to 2 to clinch the AL West.  The only Division race that really remains in much doubt in the NL Central, where the St. Louis Cardinals lead the Pittsburgh Pirates by 2 (Magic Number to eliminate them is 9) and the Cincinnati Reds by 2 1/2 (Magic Number is 8).
The Pirates and Reds probably have the NL's 2 Wild Card slots wrapped up, although who will host the play-in game remains in doubt. The Washington Nationals are 5 1/2 games behind the Reds for the 2nd slot.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Long It’s Been: The Yankees Were This Weak (Or Worse)

The Yankees lost again last night. They began a 3-game series in Toronto against those pesky Blue Jays, and sent Andy Pettitte out to the mound. He gave up a home run to Colby Rasmus in the bottom of the 4th, but that was the only run of the game until the bottom of the 7th.


What happened in the bottom of the 7th? Josh Thole led off, and he hit a line drive to center field, where Curtis Granderson caught it. Jose Reyes, the former Met who was "a better shortstop than Derek Jeter," was up next, and he hit a line drive to right field, where Ichiro Suzuki caught it.
Two hard-hit balls, but both outs. At this point, Pettitte had thrown 110 pitches, 76 of them for strikes, had allowed 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks. Had the Yankees gotten 2 runs by this point, it would have been considered a very good performance, in spite of his age, 41.
But manager Joe Girardi took Pettitte out of the game, and brought Shawn Kelley in to face Rajai Davis. Davis hit a line drive to left field, but Alfonso Soriano, playing the position in the absence of the injured Brett Gardner, was not going to catch it. Only Superman, who can fly, would have caught it. Home run, and that made the score 2-0, which held up.
Why would Girardi do something so stupid? Yes, Pettitte had thrown 110 pitches. Did I mention that he'd thrown 76 of them for strikes? He was not tiring. He was pitching very well. You see your pitcherg cruising, and not tiring, you throw away the damn binder and let him pitch. You be a man, and let him be one, too.
In the end, though, it's not all Girardi's fault.  Kevin Long, the hitting instructor, isn't getting through to the Yankees:
* They loaded the bases in the 1st, and didn't score.
* They had men on 1st and 2nd in the 2nd, and didn't score.
* R.A. Dickey, the former Met Cy Young Award winner who started for the Jays last night, struck out the side in the 3rd.
* They got a leadoff single in the 4th, and didn't score.
* They didn't get another baserunner until 1 out in the 8th, and that was on an error.
* They didn't get another hit until 1 out in the 9th, and he didn't score.
* Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki both went 0-for-4. Brendan Ryan, a 31-year-old utility infielder who's never had 500 plate appearances in a major league season, playing shortstop for the injured Derek Jeter, went 0-for-3.
* The Yankees didn't show much plate discipline, either. Not that long ago, we were known for working counts, wearing pitchers out, forcing them into mistakes that led to hits, walks and runs. Last night, we drew only 2 walks, while striking out 12 times, 3 times by Strikeout Soriano alone.
* We left 10 men on base, 4 by Mark Reynolds and 3 by A-Rod.
The Yankees are 79-72, in 4th place in the American League East.  We've lost 4 straight.  We're 44-31 at home, but just 35-41 on the road. With just 11 games to go, we are 3 1/2 games out of the 2nd Wild Card berth.
At our current pace, we will win 85 games, only 2 less than we won in 2000, when we won the World Series, but not good enough to make the Playoffs this time.
With all the injuries and incompetencies, on the field and in the front office, our team batting average is .245. Only the Houston Astros, headed for their 3rd straight season of at least 106 losses, are worse. Our team OPS is .689, and only the Astros and the Chicago White Sox, on a pace to lose 98, are worse. We're scoring 4.1 runs per game, and that's not enough.
A fully-healthy Yankee team should have had an infield of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez; an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki; Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, and a DH tandem of Travis Hafner and (yes, him) Kevin Youkilis.
Instead, looking at the players who have played the most games at those positions, we have an infield of Lyle Oerbay (batting .247), Cano (nonetheless having another great year), Eduardo Nunez (.252 and can't field a lick) and Jayson Nix (.236); an outfield of Vernon Wells (.241), Gardner and Ichiro (down to .262); Chris Stewart catching (.211), and Hafner (.205) and Alfonso Soriano as DHs.

So even with Soriano having 15 homers and 47 RBIs in only 204 plate appearances, Overbay having 14 homers and 58 RBIs, and Hafner having 12 homers and 37 RBIs in essentially half a season, we're not getting Yankeelike production. The Bronx Bombers aren't bombing anyone.
Which wouldn't be a problem if the pitching was holding up.  ndy Pettitte has pitched decently (3.93 ERA), but the Yankees aren't hitting for him (as a result, he's only 10-10).  CC Sabathia (13-13, 4.90) has struggled all year. Hiroki Kuroda pitched superbly most of the year (3.13), but has tailed off (11-11). Ivan Nova has come back strong (8-5, 3.36), but Phil Hughes has imploded (4-13, 5.07). David Phelps and Vidal Nuno, who both looked like they might be good starters, got hurt. Nuno hasn't pitched since May 30, Phelps only once since July 4.
In the bullpen, Preston Claiborne, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley started out very well, but have tailed off. Joba Chamberlain has been awful, Boone Logan has been criminally bad, David Robertson has been very good but has had enough shaky outing to suggest that he is not yet a worthy successor to Mariano Rivera… and Mariano, as great as he's been this season, has had enough difficulty to suggest that maybe he's retiring at the right time after all.
*
In 2009, 2000, 1999, 1998 and 1996, the Yankees were baseball's last team standing. In 2003 and 2001, they were one of the last 2. In 2012, 2010 and 2004, they were one of the last 4. In 2011, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002, 1997 and 1995, they were one of the last 8.

In 1994, they had the best record in the AL when the strike hit. In 1993, the last year before the 3-Divisions-and-Wild-Card setup took hold, they had the 8th-best record in the major leagues. In 2008, the only year so far that they haven't made the Playoffs under the current format, they had the 7th-best record in the majors, better than 2 teams that actually won their Divisions.
This year, the Yankees are tied for 14th among the 30 MLB teams.
How long has it been since the Yankees were that weak? Or even weaker?
*
It was 1992. That was 21 years ago. An entire generation has been born, and grown to drink-buying adulthood, with the Yankees at least being in contention for the Playoffs for their entire lives.
In 1992, the Yankees finished 76-86. Their manager was William Nathaniel Showalter III. At 36, Buck was the youngest manager in the major leagues. (He's now 57, looks a bit older, and manages the Baltimore Orioles.) The team was on the way up, after bottoming out in 1990, but they still had a lineup that looked like this:
Infield: Don Mattingly (good year, but a down one by his standards), Pat Kelly (typical good-field-no-hit middle infielder), Andy Stankiewicz (ditto, although he did bat .268 that year) and Charlie Hayes (had some power).
Outfield: Mel Hall (good power, but had to go, for chemistry reasons), Roberto Kelly (very good player, but an offer of Paul O'Neill for Kelly in the following off-season was too good to pass up) and Danny Tartabull (good power).
DH: Kevin Maas (great power-hitting start to his career, but now exposed, batting .248).
Catcher: A platoon of the lefthanded-hitting Matt Nokes and the righthanded-hitting Mike Stanley. Neither hit well for average: Nokes batted .224, Stanley .249. But both had good power.
Bench: Mike Gallego (good-field-occasionally hit, had starred for the 1988-90 Oakland Athletics quasi-dynasty), Randy Velarde (decent hitter but nearly as bad a fielder as Nunez), Jesse Barfield (once great player, now injured and not of much use, retired after the season at age 33), Dion James (decent player), Bernie Williams (only 23 and not yet reaching his potential), Gerald Williams (at that point, regarded as a better prospect than Bernie — ha ha.)
Starting rotation: Melido Perez (Pascual's brother was 13-16, but had a nice 2.87 ERA), Scott Sanderson (12-11 but 4.93), Scott Kamieniecki (6-14, 4.36), and Tim Leary (5-6, 5.57 , but that was better than his 4-10 in '91 and 9-19 in '90).
This was in the era when baseball was transitioning from the 4-man rotation era to the 5-man rotation era, but the Yankees got starts out of Greg Cadaret, Sam Militello, Bob Wickman, Curt Young, a 21-year-old rookie lefty named Shawn Hillegas, and Jeff Johnson.

Cadaret always seemed to have a bad 1st inning out of the bullpen but settled down thereafter, making him a relief liability but worth a chance as a starter. As the Yankees Magazine shown above suggested, Militello looked like a good one for the future, but turned out not to be. Wickman went on to a good career as a reliever. Young had been a good starter for Oakland, but was battling injury, and only pitched 1 more season. Hitchcock would get good, but turned out to be worth more to the Yankees as trade bait. The less said about Hillegas and Johnson, the better.
Bullpen: Cadaret (as I said, better suited to starting), Steve Farr (30 saves and a sizzling 1.56 ERA), Rich Monteleone (nice job that season, went on to become a Yankee pitching coach), John Habyan (did not have a good year) and Tim Burke (once an All-Star closer for the Montreal Expos, now washed up and about to retire at 33).
In 1992, the Blue Jays, after a few years of chokes that got them nicknamed the Blow Jays, beat the A's in the ALCS (there was no ALDS in those days), and beat the Atlanta Braves to win their 1st World Series. It was the 1st time a team from outside the U.S. had ever appeared in one. The hit that drove in the Series-winning run? A Game 6, 10th-inning double by Dave Winfield, who finally got his ring in his 20th major league season.  
The Jays made it back-to-back titles the next season -- and haven't returned to the postseason in the 20 years since. The Braves, of course, would, many times. In 1992, as in 1991, they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the National League Championship Series. The Pirates haven't been back to the postseason since, although they have a very good shot at winning the NL Central Division this time.
At the close of the 1992 baseball season, there was a team in Montreal, the Astros were in the NL, and the Milwaukee Brewers were in the AL. There was, at least for another year, no team in the Mountain Time Zone or in Florida. Nor was there one in the Nation's Capital.
There are no longer any players who were playing that season who are still active. Omar Vizquel and Jamie Moyer were the last 2.
Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, Kirby Puckett, Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Dennis Eckersley, Andre Dawson, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, Gary Carter, Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, George Brett, Goose Gossage, Carlton Fisk and Nolan Ryan were all still active. All are now in the Hall of Fame. To put that in perspective: Yount, Winfield, Brett, Gossage and Fisk made their major league debuts when Richard Nixon was President; and Ryan did so when Lyndon Johnson was still considered a popular incumbent President.
The Jays, and the team then known as the California Angels, had not yet won their 1st World Series. The Boston Red Sox had not won the World Series in 74 years, the Chicago White Sox in 76 years. The Braves hadn't won one since moving to Atlanta, their drought reaching 35 years, since they were in Milwaukee. The Giants hadn't won one since moving to San Francisco, their drought reaching 38 yaers, since they were in New York.

The Jays, the Astros, the Angels and the Texas Rangers had not yet won their 1st Pennant.  The White Sox had not won the Pennant in 33 years. The Jays and the Seattle Mariners had not yet reached their 1st postseason. The Colorado Rockies, Florida (now Miami) Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just Rays) had not yet begun major league play. All of these things have since been achieved.
(The Marlins and Diamondbacks have since won the World Series, the Rockies and Rays have each won a Pennant, and the Montreal Expos moved to become the Washington Nationals, and have reached the postseason. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series in 44 and 84 years, respectively; nor a Pennant in 28 and 47 years. The Indians have since won 2 Pennants, but those other droughts remain. The Astros, Brewers, Rangers and San Diego Padres have still not won a Series, the Mariners and the Expos/Nationals franchise still haven't won even a Pennant.)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards had just been opened. Every team except the Orioles, White Sox, Jays and Minnesota Twins was playing in a stadium built in 1976 or earlier. The Red Sox, Cubs and Detroit Tigers were still playing in ballparks built before World War I; the Yankees and Indians in stadiums built before World War II; the Brewers in one built in the 1950s.

Today, the only teams still playing in the same stadiums in which they began the 1989 season (when the Jays were about to move into the SkyDome/Rogers Centre) are the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, A's and Kansas City Royals.
Tom Coughlin of the Giants was the head coach at Boston College. John Tortorella of the Rangers was the head coach of the minor-league Rochester Americans. Terry Collins of the Mets was a coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rex Ryan of the Jets was the defensive coordinator at Murray State University in Kentucky. Joe Girardi was the starting catcher of the Chicago Cubs. Mike Woodson of the Knicks had recently retired as a player. Jack Capuano of the Islanders and Peter DeBoer of the Devils had both just washed out as minor-league players, and were about to go into coaching. Jason Kidd of the Nets was playing basketball at the University of California.


As the Yankees were wrapping up their last losing season to date, the defending World Champions in the various sports were the Washington Redskins in the NFL (who haven't reached an NFC Championships Game since), the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. Evander Holyfield was Heavyweight Champion of the World.

FC Barcelona had just won the 1st of their now 4 UEFA Champions League titles. England's Football League Division One had just morphed into the Premier League; Leeds United, defending champions, haven't won the League since (and have been in the 2nd division or lower since 2004 anyway). Liverpool had beaten Sunderland for the 1992 FA Cup; while Liverpool have been back to the FA Cup Final 4 times since, Sunderland have not.
The Olympics had just been held in Barcelona, Spain. They have since been held in Norway, Atlanta, Japan, Australia, Salt Lake City, Greece, Italy, China, Canada and Britain. The World Cup has since been held in America, France, Japan, Korea, Germany and South Africa.
The President of the United States was George Bush -- the father. He was about to lose his bid for re-election to Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas. George Bush the son was 46 years old (the same age as Clinton), had failed in business, had failed in politics (he'd lost his only run for public office thus far, for Congress in 1978), was failing in sports (he was the owner of the Texas Rangers), and was essentially wondering what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, their wives, Ronald Reagan, and the widows of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were still alive. (All have since died. Nancy Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, George and Barbara Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and George and Laura Bush are all still alive.)
Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and directing a voter registration drive in that city that registered 150,000 previously unregistered people. In other words, he was a great success as a "community organizer." He was about to marry Michelle Robinson, who was working at a law firm in the city.

Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas were the only Justices then on the U.S. Supreme Court who are still on it today.
The Governor of New York was Mario Cuomo, father of current Governor Andrew, then serving as Chairman of the New York City Homeless Commission, where he served under then-Mayor David Dinkins. Michael Bloomberg was already a big businessman, while Bill de Blasio was also an aide to Dinkins. Rudy Giuliani was in private legal practice, waiting for next year's electoral rematch with Dinkins. Former Mayors John Lindsay, Abe Beame and Ed Koch, and former Governors Malcolm Wilson and Hugh Carey were still alive; all are now dead.
The Governor of New Jersey was Jim Florio. Chris Christie was a young lawyer, and Barbara Buono, his opponent for re-election in 2013, was running for public office for the 1st time, for Borough Council in Metuchen.

There were still living veterans of World War I, the Mexican Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Easter Rising, the Spanish-American War, and the Boer War. The last living veteran of the Philippine Campaign and the Boxer Rebellion, Nathan Cook, died that very month at the age of 106. The last living veteran of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 had also just died. There were also still living survivors of the Johnstown Flood of 1889, the General Slocum fire of 1904, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The Pope was John Paul II. The current Pope, Francis, then, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had recently been named Titular Bishop of Auca in Spain.
Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne of Britain -- that hasn't changed -- but the Prime Minister was John Major, recently elected to a full term. The Prime Minister of Canada was Brian Mulroney, in what turned out to be his last full year in office. He was a lousy Prime Minister, and remains very unpopular -- so unpopular that he no longer lives in Canada, having his full-time residence in Florida -- but for the rest of his life, he can truthfully claim that he was the Prime Minister when a Canadian team won the World Series for the 1st time. As long as he lives and Gary Bettman, recently appointed, remains NHL Commissioner, it is likely that Mulroney will also be able to say he was the Prime Minister when a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup for the last time. (The Montreal Canadiens would win in it 1993, but Canadian teams are 0-for-5 in Finals since.)


There have since been 4 Presidents of the United States, 4 Prime Ministers of Britain and 3 Popes. 
Major books of 1992 included The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, The Children of Men by P.D. James, Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. All of these -- all novels except the last, a memoir of the author’s fandom for London soccer team Arsenal -- were made into major films over the course of the 1990s. Another major novel of that year, not yet made into a movie, was Jazz by Toni Morrison. The biggest-selling nonfiction book of the year was John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.


George R.R. Martin had just begun writing A Game of Thrones, the 1st book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. J.K. Rowling was about to marry Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes, and had begun writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneNo one had yet heard of Alex Cross, Bridget Jones, Robert Langdon, Bella Swan, Lisbeth Salander or Katniss Everdeen.

Films in theaters in September 1992 included Sneakers, Where the Day Takes You, Wind, Captain Ron, School Ties, Mr. Saturday Night, Innocent Blood, and the Daniel Day-Lewis version of Last of the Mohicans. The Star Wars saga was between the original and prequel series. The Star Trek saga was preparing to transfer the films from the original to the Next Generation crew. The James Bond films were stuck in legal limbo, not yet ready to hand the Walther PPK from Timothy Dalton over to Pierce Brosnan. Christopher Reeve was still the last guy to play Superman. Michael Keaton had just done Batman Returns. Sylvester McCoy was still the last bloke to play The Doctor.

The CBS drama Picket Fences, the ABC sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, and the NBC sitcom Mad About You all premiered in September 1992. On October 1, the Cartoon Network began broadcasting. Kourtney Kardashian was 13, Kim was about to turn 12, Khloe was 8, Rob was 5, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner weren't born yet.
"End of the Road" by Boyz II Men was in the process of becoming the longest-running Number 1 single in U.S. chart history. Frank Zappa, ill with cancer, made his last concert appearance. Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live. A tribute concert for Bob Dylan was held at Madison Square Garden, and it might have been, up to that point, the greatest amount of musical talent ever gathered for one day of music. Blind Melon released their self-titled debut album, Garth Brooks released The Chase, and R.E.M. released Automatic for the People.


Frank Sinatra was preparing to record his Duets album. The U.S. Postal Service was preparing the Elvis Presley stamp for release the following January 8, the anniversary of his birth. Paul McCartney had recently tried his hand at classic music, but his Liverpool Oratorio underwhelmed the critics. Michael Jackson was touring to support his album Dangerous.

Shakira was 13 years old; Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys and Beyonce were 11; Britney Spears was 10, Katy Perry was about to turn 8, Lady Gaga was 6, Rihanna was 4, Taylor Swift was about to turn 3, Selena Gomez was 2 months old, and Louis Tomlinson was the only member of One Direction that had yet been born. Justin Bieber hadn't been.

Inflation has meant that what $1.00 bought then, $1.66 will buy now. A U.S. postage stamp (with or without Elvis' picture) was 29 cents, and a Subway ride in New York was $1.25. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.19, a cup of coffee $1.60, a McDonald's meal (Big Mac, fries, shake) $4.00, a movie ticket $4.15, a new car $16,950, and a new house $144,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was around 3,300 in September 1992.


There were mobile telephones, but they were still bigger than most human hands. The birth control pill was long-established, but there was, as yet, no Viagra. The leading home video game system was the Sega Genesis. The Internet existed, but most people hadn't heard of it yet. There were, however, rumblings in the public consciousness about something called "the information superhighway." High-definition television was also a big rumor, but it would be years before it would begin serious implementation. Apple and Microsoft were known names, but they weren't the titans they would become. There was no Yahoo, no Facebook, no Twitter; indeed, they weren't even possible at this point.
In September and October of 1992, the Pope, not fazed by Sinead's action, traveled to the Caribbean to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World (and, more important from his perspective, the anniversary of bringing Catholicism to it). He also pardoned Galileo Galilei and officially apologized for his persecution.

Scientist Mae Jemison became the 1st African-American woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Endeavour; she would later become the 1st real-life astronaut to appear on a Star Trek series. Brazil saw the impeachment of its 1st democratically-elected President, Fernando Collor de Mello (he resigned rather than face trial and removal) and the Carandiru Prison riot and massacre. A 16-year civil war ended in Mozambique. An earthquake killed over 500 people in Cairo, Egypt. Emperor Akihito became the 1st Japanese monarch to travel to China, and apologized for the harm done by his country to theirs in the 1930s and '40s.
Psycho actor Anthony Perkins, and Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks, and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Billy Herman died. Demi Lovato, and Nick Jonas, and Bryce Harper were born.
The close of the 1992 season, the last time the New York Yankees were worse than they are now.
There was hope, though. In the off-season, Roberto Kelly would be traded for Paul O'Neill. Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key would be signed as free agents. Mariano Rivera went 5-3 with a 2.28 ERA at Class A Fort Lauderdale -- although he was entirely a starter at that point. Andy Pettitte went 10-4 with a 2.20 ERA for Class A Greensboro (one step below Fort Lauderdale). And Derek Jeter was wrapping up his 1st professional season.

The rest is history.