The Yankees entered play on Thursday hoping to salvage the finale of a three-game series with the Red Sox that manager Joe Girardi had deemed crucial to New York's playoff chances.
They dropped the first two games to lower their record to 70-62, seven games behind Boston in the American League Wild Card chase. Wednesday's game came unraveled in a seven-run eighth inning, highlighted by Dustin Pedroia's first career grand slam off Dave Robertson, a rookie reliever who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday morning.
But the larger problem has been the Yankees' offense, which has continued to struggle in scoring situations. Shortly after exiting the Stadium from just the second game he attended in person this season, Steinbrenner told reporters, "They have to start hitting. Injuries or no injuries, they've got to be more consistent."
Cashman responded: "It's certainly something that is hard to watch," and added, "We're losing right now and we're better than this. At some point, you are what your record is until you prove otherwise."
Cashman offered a vote of confidence for the performance of Girardi, who will become the first Yankees manager to miss the postseason since 1993 if the club is unable to run off a September rally for the ages. Cashman also said that the Yankees have a "great" hitting coach in Kevin Long, who is in charge of an offense that will fall well short of the Major League-leading 968 runs they scored in 2007.
"After all the red tape, I think Girardi has done a tremendous job given what has occurred," Cashman said. "He continues to try to remain upbeat with this coaching staff to try to keep his players up. It's frustrating for all of us, but the buck stops right here with me. My job is to put it together, my job is to fix what's broken and my job is frustrating the hell out of me."
Girardi declined to comment on the co-chairman's remarks, saying that he had not read them, and that he would prefer to speak to Steinbrenner directly before speaking to the media. But ownership's sentiment should not be a surprise in the Yankees organization.
Though Girardi continues to believe in the Yankees' chances, a club that had been expected to compete for the postseason now stands mathematically opposed to that goal.
"We haven't played consistent," Girardi said. "At times we haven't hit, at times we haven't played good defense, at times we haven't pitched. When you are where you are, obviously there's some inconsistencies or you wouldn't be there."
That situation has never produced encouraging commentary from the front office during the franchise's Steinbrenner era.
"I do know one thing -- this team is trying," Cashman said. "They're not laying down. That's a fact. They want to win and for some reason, it's just not happening."