It was a rough week for the Yankees, who skidded into last place coming in off the road from Detroit and Tampa Bay before suffering a two-game sweep in the abbreviated Subway Series at Yankee Stadium. They will have a much-needed day off on Monday to clear their heads, and getting Alex Rodriguez back on Tuesday can only help. Yankees fans have plenty to say about it, so without delay, let's dive into the latest edition of the Yankees Mailbag:
Has this team conceded the season? I know that it's still early and anything can happen, but this team just doesn't look like it has any kind of sense of urgency. I thought this was supposed to be a new era with Joe Girardi. Bad way to leave the Stadium. -- Billy B., Lewisville, Texas
After 44 games, and given what they did last season? I doubt it. This brings to mind the whole argument people had last week with the "energy" during the series at Tampa Bay, spurred on from Hank Steinbrenner's comments. Derek Jeter's stance was telling, when he said teams always look energetic when they're winning. When they're losing, the perception is that they sleep-walk through games. You see it every year with at least one team.
"People here are working hard and people here care about results," Jeter said then. "We've just hit a rough stretch, that's the bottom line. If we play good for two weeks, then everyone says how great we are. It seems like we have the same conversation at some point every season."
Girardi wants the blame of the 20-24 start to be put on him, and certainly I'm not trying to dissuade any criticism of his team. They haven't looked good and they were expected to be better. But the last time we saw Girardi swing a bat, he wasn't a threat to dig in and lead a lineup. That's really what the Yankees need right now, to be able to give their starting pitchers more than a smattering of runs to work with.
When you hear players talking about how they're "embarrassed," as Johnny Damon did again on Sunday, and the team captain invokes names of long-gone legends, it shows the frustration level.
"You can bring back Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio," Jeter said Sunday. "We need to swing the bats better as a group. When you've got guys out of the lineup, other guys have to pick it up. Every team deals with injuries over the course of the year."
I have heard the Yankees are exploring options among free agent pitchers such as David Wells. What is the status of Freddy Garcia? I know his shoulder was injured last year, but is he close to pitching? More importantly, is he still a free agent? And, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, could the Yankees try to bring him on to fill the holes in the rotation? - Justin M., Redding, Conn.
First off, everything seems to be quiet on the Wells front, though I have no doubt he'd love to try and rev it up one more time for the Yankees. That was an entertaining story, but from all indications, it hasn't come up as a serious idea in the front office. As far as Garcia goes, teams continue to monitor his progress as he comes back from surgery. He could be a good midseason acquisition for somebody in need of pitching, and the Yankees might be interested by the time he's ready to sign later this season.
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Girardi called Darrell Rasner's work "outstanding" recently (though it's still a two-start sample size) and, at some point, they'll need to decide if they can allow Ian Kennedy to take his lumps at the big league level. There needs to be a consistent decision there for Kennedy's sake. You know Brian Cashman prefers to look inside the organization first to see if the answer is there, but if the best talent is outside, so be it.
Why is the world of baseball consumed by Joba Chamberlain's fist pumps? I am happy, delighted, to finally see that my Yankees finally have some visible emotion and youth. Between Melky Cabrera, Shelley Duncan, Robinson Cano and Joba it's great to see baseball players play and not "professionals." -- Daniel V., El Paso, Texas
Because it's a hot-button issue and, as Chamberlain says, he gives people something to talk about. Everyone -- fans, opponents, reporters, former players -- seem to keep an opinion on this matter, but it's not like Chamberlain is the only player in the big leagues who celebrates on the field. I would think that Chamberlain's boisterous personality and entertainment value lends to the fuel somewhat, and the good or bad news (depending on your point of view) is that the debate is not going away anytime soon.
Whatever happened to Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright? Both had time with the Yankees in '07 and now that a year has passed, are they still in the mix? -- Robert A., New Point, Va.
Karstens is doing quite well. He had been on the disabled list since straining his right groin on March 27, but is set to pitch in a game on Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after working in extended Spring Training. Now that he's starting to get some innings under him, start the clock for a call up.
The Yankees acknowledged that they probably hurried Wright to the big leagues but he's regained his touch at Double-A Trenton. The lefty is 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA through nine starts.
With Rasner pitching well and Kennedy showing signs of improvement is there a chance that Chamberlain will stay in the bullpen? - Anthony M., Rochester, N.Y.
Girardi says so, at least for '08. The manager created a mini-firestorm on Saturday when he mentioned offhand that the Yankees' plans for Chamberlain could be based on need, and if they decide their greatest need is setting up for Mariano Rivera, they could stick with that for this season. Cashman said that he's "worn out" on the topic of Chamberlain in the rotation.
"Let's just leave it alone," Cashman said. "Joba is pitching for us out of the 'pen right now. I'm not going to even speculate on when we're going to make the change and put him in the rotation. He's a reliever right now for us. Leave him there. We also have some young guys in the bullpen that are doing well and emerging over time, which is nice to see and gives us more choices. I'm not going to fast-forward any more. We've done enough of that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.