The Break Room

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Stuck On An Eiland

Two weeks is not enough of a sample space to make a snap judgment on a season that lasts 162 games. But in New York City, that's how they sell newspapers. Everybody who saw CC Sabathia's atrocious pinstriped debut against the Baltimore Orioles could tell you how bad it looked. However, the next day, the New York tabloids all but suggested Sabathia should refund his $161 million contract after his lone Yankee loss. Then, after two starts, those same papers dubbed A.J. Burnett the stopper the Yankees have longed for since the late 1990's. Just two years ago, he was compared to Carl Pavano. All this after two games, not 13. But wait, there was more. Joba Chamberlain has drawn comparisons to Kenny Powers, the fictional pitcher from the HBO original series "East Bound and Down" - a hard-throwing, relief-pitching phenom who burst on the scene only to succumb to injuries and burnout, thanks in part to excess. Chamberlain's speed and control haven't been what it was a year ago before getting ping-ponged from the bullpen, to the rotation, to the disabled list, back to the bullpen and now back to the rotation. Throw in a DUI as well. Then there's Chien-Ming Wang. The man who won more games than any pitcher in baseball with back-to-back 19-win seasons in 2006 and 2007 has now surrendered 23 runs - all earned (34.50 ERA) - in only six (official) innings of work. Somehow, however, only two of his famed sinkers have become souvenirs for outfield patrons. Of course, the Yankee bullpen continues to follow suit during each of Wang's three nightmarish starts, tiring from combining for 18-innings pitched, which doesn't include Nick Swisher's first-career relief appearance. The pen tires during Wang's games, then collectively impersonates the starter on his off days, thanks to the inherited workload. Then there's the new stadium, which now has already earned several nicknames of its own. According to Yankee lore and pinstripe-blinded beliefs of imminent domain, the Yankees were supposed to win that game. Apparently the ghosts got lost admiring their own Fathead banners along the concourse area on their way to the diamond. Then again, after 20 home runs were hit in four games, perhaps The Babe himself invaded the bodies of both the Yankees and Cleveland Indians alike and took some extended batting practice. Either that, or he was too busy sampling the new restaurants, rather than spooking the competition. "The House that You Built" is a nod to taxpayers. "The House that Mute Built" is a dig at corporate fans who'd prefer wearing sweaters tied over the shoulders of their monogrammed button-downs, offering golf claps over high-fives. "The New Launching Pad" is the name dubbed for the vapor trails left behind each of the 20 roman candles that left the yard over the extended weekend. Much of this - fair or unfair - could be corrected with one move. Every sports car owner takes pride in his vehicle. He washes it. Waxes it. Details it. Houses it in a nice garage during the winter months. Never lets it see snow or rain. It's an expensive hobby. It's much like owning the New York Yankees. The only difference here is, with the Yankees, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman for that matter, have decided to equip their Porsche 911 with tires found at a junk yard. The Yankees may finally have a rotation rivaling the great ones of yesteryear, but their pitching coach is a guy whose two "can't miss" kids from his days in Triple A, won as many games in the Yankee rotation as The Break Room. In only his second year, pitching coach Dave Eiland needs time, but these are the Yankees. Even their deep pockets can't stop the world's rotation so they can fix their own. Legendary pitching guru Leo Mazzone is available while manager Joe Girardi can't be thrilled with his pitching staff. Even Joe Torre had an all-star team of coaches to complement his roster. Eiland's only claim to fame (or shame) is from the dark days of pre-Steinbrenner exile. Not to say Mazzone wants to return to baseball, but money, along with rectifying his two-year blip with the Baltimore Orioles, could be tempting. This isn't to blame Eiland for the troubles of all-star caliber pitchers, or shoddy stadium design. Simply put, it's the Bronx, where sacrificial lambs are easier to find than Monument Park. If things don't change, Girardi may have to make a move before somebody moves him. Payroll aside, the Yankees have over one billion reasons to fix their pitching problems. Some of them may be yours, taxpayer. The Yankees have a new home, oddly with the same 161st St. and River Avenue address. They also have some new Steinbrenners running the show. But like the address, their father's win-or-nothing mentality has been passed down to the next generation. Forget about the ghosts of The Babe and The Mick making appearances at the new park. If the Yankees pitching continues to struggle, the ghosts of Billy Martin and countless other former managers will be the only ghosts that count during those late nights in Girardi's office.

04/22/2009 9:44AM
Stuck On An Eiland
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