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Saturday, June 29, 2013
Updated: June 30, 5:54 PM ET
Yankees headed toward last place

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

BALTIMORE -- For years, Camden Yards transformed into a madhouse when the New York Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles. The Yanks and their fans would storm this city and beat up the Birds, making it feel like Bronx South.

This weekend, you again have barely been able to hear yourself at times -- but it is because of the fans in black and orange and the cracks off Chris Davis' bat.

The roles are totally reversed right now.

The Orioles are the beasts, fighting the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East, and everyone knows now that it is no fluke. Since the end of July of last season, the Orioles have been the best regular-season team in baseball.

Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro and the rest of the Yankees look befuddled right now.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are sinking towards the cellar, losers of four in a row and 20 of their past 32. They are just two games ahead of the last-place Toronto Blue Jays. There is a different feeling when you wander over from the road side to the home-side clubhouse.

"I remember my first year in 2011 when I made the team out of camp," Orioles winning pitcher Zach Britton said in an empty locker room after Saturday's 11-3 demolition of the Yankees, which was led by Davis' 29th and 30th homers of the season. "New York came here. It was that [uneasy] feeling that you got from everybody. It is tough to win when you have that mindset. Whether we are winning or losing, the attitude in this clubhouse [now] is that we are as good as anyone in baseball, and I think that is translating on the field."

The Yankees simply don't have the talent, and it is coming to the surface.

The Yankees can't hit. Their .240 team batting average ranks them 13th out of the 15 teams in the American League.

They can't hit for power. Their 80 home runs match the total hit by the Houston Astros, who have the worst record in the AL. Only three teams have fewer homers in the whole league.

They can't pitch well enough, either. The rotation and bullpen are generally doing a good job but must be even better to make this season special.

On Friday, CC Sabathia gave up the game late. On Saturday, David Phelps gave it up early. Phelps allowed nine runs overall, and the game was over after three innings.

The Yankees also can't stay healthy. Mark Teixeira is already done for the season. Curtis Granderson has barely played. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter might come back at some point, but it won't be until after the All-Star break.

Even the president of the team, Randy Levine, admits this is a desperate team that needs -- gasp, wait for it -- A-Rod.

"We need Alex back," Levine told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor on Saturday night. "How effective he'll be when he comes back, how good he'll be, we don't know. But we are desperate for his right-handed power, and he's better than any third baseman on this team right now."

Rookie David Adams has the right attitude but hasn't yet shown the ability to play regularly in the major leagues. At shortstop, with Eduardo Nunez also out, the backup to the backup, Jayson Nix, certainly is no Jeter.

At first base, Lyle Overbay can't hit lefties. In the outfield, Ichiro Suzuki is more of a part-time player at this point in his career than a legit starter, with a below .700 OPS.

In left, Zoilo Almonte has been a nice story, but his shelf life might be expiring.

At DH, Travis Hafner has hit .173 over the past two months, while Vernon Wells is at .186 over that same period.

Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are the only legit starters in the everyday lineup. But Cano is not exactly doing enough to earn the mega-contract he wants at the end of this season. He is no Davis these days, hitting .284 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs.

From Britton to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, everyone acknowledges that teams don't have to pitch to Cano like they used to because there are no big bats around him.

Still, Cano needs to step into Jeter's and Rodriguez's space as the leader of this team, and it hurts him that he looks lackadaisical running the bases at times.

The Yankees won't be able to survive unless Rodriguez, Jeter, Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Michael Pineda come back, and come back strong.

General manager Brian Cashman might add some pieces -- Michael Young was floated by the New York Post the other day. However, Cashman can't go all Danny Ainge and gut this roster because the Yankees are still in win-now mode. But he can't pull a Billy King and add even more age, either.

So the Yankees are sinking while the Orioles are on the rise. It's a new order in the AL East. The Yankees remain in third place at the moment, 5½ games behind the Red Sox, but soon they might be looking up from the bottom deck.