by Matt Severance - 08/29/2008
One of the most amazing streaks in baseball history appears likely to end this year. The New York Yankees enter the weekend 10.5 games out of first place in the AL East, closer to last than first, and six games out of a wild-card spot as they attempt to reach the postseason for a 14th-consecutive season.
Not what was expected for a team with a $200 million-plus payroll and 14 current or former All-Stars on the roster.
Injuries have decimated New York's pitching staff this season, with ace Chien Ming-Wang having missed much of the season and youngsters Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain all having stints on the disabled list.
GM Brian Cashman has taken the blame for the Bombers' slide this year, as it was his decision to not go out and get a Johan Santana-type starter but instead count on those young pitchers who all have disappointed except for Chamberlain.
Asked how much of this is on his shoulders, Cashman accepted full blame and pointed none toward first-year manager Joe Girardi: "All of it. I'm the general manager. So if you want, we can clear this out of the way. This is not a Joe Girardi issue."
The Yankees led the American League in runs last year with 968, 81 more than the next-highest-scoring team, and brought back basically the same team in terms of position players. But the 2008 drop-off has been severe. The Yankees are on pace to score 783 runs and currently rank No. 8 in the league.
Second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielder Melky Cabrera have regressed at the plate this year, catcher Jorge Posada was ineffective when healthy (he's done for the year), outfielder Hideki Matsui missed much of the summer, shortstop Derek Jeter is finally beginning to show his age, and reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez can't get a hit when it matters (.242 with runners in scoring position).
According to coolstandings.com, which simulates the remainder of the regular season one million times every day to determine the playoff chances for every MLB team, the Yankees have a three percent chance of making the playoffs. New York basically needs a collapse by Boston and either Minnesota or the White Sox to win the AL wild card. Even if the Yankees finish the season 20-9, that gives them 91 wins. That means the Red Sox would have to go 14-25 and the Twins 16-22 just to have identical records.
The problem for New York is the schedule: Among the final series are three games against the AL West-leading Angels, three games against the East-leading Rays, four against the Central-leading White Sox and then a season-ending six-game road trip at Toronto and Boston.
With that schedule, even a three percent chance of reaching the playoffs seems high. So you might want to make a trek to Yankee Stadium by Sunday, Sept. 21, if you've never been there. Because that matchup against the Orioles will be the final baseball game in the House That Ruth Built.