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There's that theory that people who insist they're not panicking, say they aren't going to panic and refuse to panic really might be panicking. Then there's the New York Yankees.
Derek Jeter basically laughed at a reporter a couple of days ago prior to a game in Tampa Bay who asked about that issue as the Yankees were blowing the last of their 10-game lead in the American League East. But then after another punchless offensive performance, hitting coach Kevin Long said he might need some of his players, mentioning Nick Swisher by name, to start bunting more.
Yes, bunting. The Yankees. Sure sounds like panic.
"We're not going to be the Bronx Bunters," manager Joe Girardi snorted prior to Wednesday's game, a 6-4 win over the Rays that released some pressure until the Bombers imploded in the eighth inning Thursday night in the opener of their key four-game series in Baltimore.
Long was clearly looking for answers for a team that went into a shocking funk at the plate. Until Wednesday night's game, the Yankees had been held to six hits or less in five straight games - something that had not happened since late in 1990 when the likes of Kevin Maas, Mel Hall and Alvaro Espinoza were outscored, 42-6, in five straight losses.
Safe to say the payroll and expectations of this club are a little higher than they were during the dark times of the early '90s. How bad is this lineup underperforming?
The Yankees entered Thursday 10th in the American League with a .249 batting average with runners in scoring position. By comparison, they hit .273 last year and .272 in 2009, their last World Series year. Worse yet, they're 12th in the AL in RISP situations with two outs at a paltry .227. Only the Mariners and Indians were worse, but the Yankees' five-run eighth Thursday stands as a sign of hope.
I've said all season the Yankees are living far too much on the home run ball. Skeptics quickly point out that there's nothing wrong with having 204 home runs, or 29 more than any other team. I would agree normally.
But what team can realistically expect to last long into October if a full 49.2 percent of its runs are delivered via the long ball? That's simply too much.
In the franchise's long history, the Yankees have never failed to win a division they led at any point by more than six games. You'd hear the howling all the way to Boston if they choked this one away; the Yankees and Red Sox, in fact, have not both missed the postseason in the same season since 1993.
Age is clearly a factor when you're dealing with the Yankees. And injuries are obviously a big problem as well. While Rafael Soriano has filled in admirably for Mariano Rivera, it's been a lot tougher to fill holes in the lineup.
When I think of the Yankees, I don't think of Casey McGehee, Chris Dickerson, Jayson Nix or Steve Pearce. But they're all out on the field at times recently. You can't be expected to replace the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson but you also didn't expect Russell Martin to struggle to hit the Mendoza Line for a full season either. Swisher and Robinson Cano have had assorted funks as well.
Things aren't much better on the mound. CC Sabathia has now been on the disabled list twice this season. Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova are there now.
Through all this, the Orioles have been stunning competitors and the Rays have continued to ride their pitching back into contention after nearly becoming sellers at the trade deadline. The Orioles look to be around for good and then we'll see next year if they've finally arrived or their spot is simply a mirage formed by an incredible 24-7 record in one-run games.
The Yankees still have a huge edge in the schedule the rest of the month. The Yankees have 16 games left against the Red Sox, Twins and Blue Jays. The Rays play series against the Yankees and Orioles, as well as the Rangers and White Sox. The Orioles still have a six-game roadie left to Oakland and Seattle and finish the year in Tampa.
Assuming they survive this weekend in Camden Yards - Thursday was an ominous sign - the Yankees could have a big leg up on surviving the division race. But this is one rocky road.
"We intend to win the American League East," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said while the team was in Florida. "That's what we expect to do and that's what we intend to do. Buckle up - it's going to be a hell of a ride this last month."
email: mharrington@buffnews.com