Wednesday, September 5, 2012
First Pitch: The Bronx Bunters?
By Wallace Matthews
On a night in which the Yankees manager decided to turn his thoughts inward and direct his anger outward, at the people who cover his team, it was the hitting coach who offered the only rational analysis of what is going on with the team, and a possible way to fix it.
"We've got to get back to the basics," Kevin Long said after most of the players had cleared out of the clubhouse following the 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay that erased what remained of the 10-game lead the Yankees had built over the AL East. "We've got start doing some things. We might start having some guys bunt that you don't normally see bunt. That might have to be the case right now, until we get it going."
The Yankees, bunting? The erstwhile Bronx Bombers, who lead the AL with 202 home runs, nearly 30 more than their runner-up?
"Maybe we take a guy like (Nick) Swisher in the third inning today, when it's first and second with nobody out, maybe he bunts," Long said. "We're going to talk about that and we're going to address some of those things, and we'll see if we can't turn it around."
If it sounds like desperation, maybe it is. Long preferred to present it as a viable way of winning playoff-type baseball games, which is how the Yankees are going to have to approach their final 27 games of the season.
"In playoff baseball, you got Justin Verlander out there and its first and second. What are you gonna do?" Long asked. "At this point, when you're not scoring runs, you gotta try something. There are some things we can do besides sit around and wait for a big home run."
That, of course, has been the crux of the issue for much of the season, the feeling that the Yankees have been too reliant on the home run to the detriment of their ability to create runs without the long ball. We have written and spoken so many times about the Yankees' poor performance this season with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded that most of you can probably recite the tragic numbers from memory.
And for the first time, a prominent member of the Yankees' coaching staff acknowledged that this team, which for so long lived by the home run, might now be dying by it, too.
"We were so good for so long at banging the ball out of the park," Long said. "But that isn't going to be the case all the time. And when that starts to go the other way, you see what happens. That's when you start to maybe think a little bit differently and maybe have a different approach. You guys might see some of that come here sooner than later and we'll see if that can't get us going."
Which brings us to our Question of the Day: What do you think of Kevin Long's idea? Should the Yankees get away from their nature -- they have a lot more bombers than bunters on the roster -- in an effort to build runs and get the offense going again? Or should they keep doing what they do and try to blast their way out of this mess? Let us know below.
Up Now: My column off last night's game, a night in which reality came crashing down on a team in denial.
Coming soon: Another fine W2W4 by ESPN Stats and Info's Mark Simon, examining tonight's matchup. ... I'll have a Yankees live chat at noon and will post the link sometime around 10:30 a.m. Please join in on what is likely to be a rollicking session. ... The clubhouse will open at 3:40 for the 7:10 p.m. finale between the Yankees and Rays, with the Yankees' most dependable starter, Hiroki Kuroda (12-10, 3.04), trying to stave off the sweep against LHP Matt Moore (10-8, 3.58). Check in often and as always, thanks for reading.