The New York Yankees are 44-40. They are 12th in baseball in runs scored. That is bad. It is especially bad for a team with a $960 million payroll. What's wrong with the Yankees, and in particular, the Yankees' offense? If you're Buster Olney
, the answer is simple: the Yankees have no "edge." They lack "mystique and aura." You know, Baseball's Occam's Razor: when you're bad, the explanation is always magical. The past two nights, the Yankees have played the kind of games that, during the 1996-to-2001 dynasty, they would have expected to win.
This year, of course, instead of expecting to win, the whole Yankee team took a trip to Boot Barn, purchased boots, went back to the clubhouse, put those boots on, and immediately began shaking in said boots.
"Th-th-th-th-th-the Rangers!" said Joba Chamberlain, shakily.The Yankees opened a series against the Rangers in Yankee Stadium on Monday knowing they had to start making inroads in the playoff chase. In the dynasty years, they would have taken the field with an enormous mental advantage: They would have been convinced they would win, and even if they had lost,
-- it would have counted as a win?
they would have been convinced that the matter of success or failure was something firmly within their control.
Oh. Um, okay. They still would have lost, though, so that's not great.But they don't have that confidence anymore, which is not surprising.
You see what Buster's doing here? Because a team loses, they don't have confidence. Because a team wins, they have confidence. It's unassailable, it's un-dis-provable, and it may very well be backwards. The 2008 Yankees have a bad game in late June against Scott Freaking Feldman -- aura problems. The 1999 Yankees have a bad game in late June -- all part of the plan. It's easy to ascribe invincibility to past champions: YOU KNOW THAT THERE'S NO CHANCE THEY'LL EVER GO BACK AND LOSE THE 1999 WORLD SERIES.They don't have many players now who have won consistently at the big league level. Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano don't have that in their experience, and Joba Chamberlain is still learning about being a starting pitcher in the big leagues.
Yeah, these guys stink. A-Rod has a fucking shitty .990 OPS. Giambi's checking in at a crapuscular (made-up word) .945. Joba has a retardedly awful 2.22 ERA. In six starts, he's given up 1, 2, 1, 1, 0, and 1 runs. These guys don't know how to win
. Sure, Abreu's been sort of average (.805 OPS), but he's 34 and seems to be in a decline phase (too much experience, I guess). Cano has been absolutely terrible this year. You know who else has hurt the team? The shortstop. .728 OPS. On-basing .340, slugging .388. Defense is no great shakes, either. Guy needs more winning experience, I suppose.Beyond the stark reality of the standings, however, there is this: The Yankees of 2008 are really no different than the Rangers or the Athletics or the Brewers or many other teams in the majors; they're just another team of talent trying to find a way to win more games.
Here's my explanation of why the Yankees are 44-40. Jorge Posada has missed 45 games. A-Rod has missed 20. Matsui 15. Plus, these guys are old. Almost all of the good position players on the team are on the wrong side of 30, and PEDers aside, most baseball players don't improve at that age. Add on top of this the fact that Cano and Jeter have been giving you almost nothing at the plate, and you have an average to slightly above average hitting team.
With A-Rod and Posada back, though, those numbers are going to go up. If I had to guess, I would say that Jeter and Cano are going to bounce back some, too. The Yankees' hitting is going to be all right.
Buster, your take?There is no edge, no more mystique and aura, to borrow a phrase. All of that is history.
Ugh. I guess "Mystique and Aura" is a better name for a book than "Some Guys Got Hurt and Plus Most of Them Are Old Oh and Also They'll Probably Be Fine in the Second Half."
Extra note about this craziness: here Buster talks about the Celtics. See if you can spot where he attributes dominance to something metaphysical when the physical explanation is staring him right in the face:I grew up as a fan of the Dodgers and Lakers (and the Vikings, but there's no need to talk about that in this context), and remember Larry Bird somehow getting the ball in the last moment of Game 4 of the 1987 championship series, in the left corner, the Celtics down a point. And you knew, as a Lakers fan and as a fan of basketball, that the son of a gun was going to drill that shot, because you had seen him do it over and over and over, in big moments. He turned and fired, and it wasn't just fans who assumed he would make that shot; if you watch the videotape of that game, just consider the faces of James Worthy and Michael Cooper.
The ball bounced off the back of the rim, and somewhere in the years that followed, as Bird and Kevin McHale broke down, the Celtics lost that expectation -- that assumption -- that they would win. So, too, have the Yankees.
The Celtics lost their "expectation," so they couldn't win anymore. But wait: why did they lose their "expectation"?Because Larry Bird and Kevin McHale got old and injured as fuck.
Maybe that's related to why they stopped winning, I don't know. I'm just a guy who watches guys play sports and can't see their auras for shit. Embarrassing admission: I have never, ever, ever been able to see a guy's aura. That's right. I...am an aura-blind American.
Labels: aura, buster olney, magic, mystique, yankees