David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
HOUSTON - The Yankees directed reporters to the indoor batting cages for Joe Girardi's postgame news conference after Wednesday night's 3-1 loss to the Astros.
The volume of media lately has grown too large for the manager's office, and this was the best empty space available.
Even so, we can think of a few better uses for that room. And with another miserable offensive showing at Minute Maid Park, maybe a handful of the Yankees should have been taking some extra swings at that late hour.
Two games, two losses, and a total of two extra-base hits, the second courtesy of Carlos Beltran's eight-inning double Wednesday off Astros journeyman reliever, Matt Albers. That was a leadoff double, by the way, and Beltran watched the rest of the inning unfold from second base, where he stood helpless as Albers promptly struck out the side.
Yes, it was that bad. Whatever scenario you may have dreamed up for the start of this Yankees' season, 0-2 probably wasn't on the radar, not with Houston as the first stop on the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour. At least Jeter got a cowboy hat and pinstriped boots for showing up Wednesday.
For all the talk about it being early -- which of course it very much is -- we still have to ask the questions. Where do we start pointing the fingers? Do we need some kind of explanation for this?
"We're going to be fine, man," Beltran said. "We haven't been able to put anything together, but I think offensively, we have what it takes to win games. We don\'t have to worry about it."
That's pretty much the theme on Day 2, when we're still trying to get a read on what a team's potential problems might be down the line. A couple quick observations? The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and Alfonso Soriano is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts so far.
Soriano stranded three runners in Wednesday's loss and, as strange as it may be to say, has looked a bit overmatched at the plate. He feels he needs to be far more selective -- not his strong suit -- as the Astros pitching staff has used Soriano's attacking-style against him.
"There's nothing you can do about it now," Soriano said. "We've got 160 games left. We just have to pick it up and keep working hard to get better."
But here in the first week of April, the Yankees already are supposed to be a finished product. That's what the $491-million renovation this winter was for.
"We had some opportunities and we didn't come through," Girardi said. "That will change."
You would think so, right? A day earlier, Girardi made the standard crack about not expecting the Yankees to go undefeated this season anyway. It got the usual laugh, and everyone figured they'd come back and win the next two games before flying up to Toronto.
But after losing a second straight to the Astros, and spoiling a decent start by Hiroki Kuroda, it's a head-scratcher. We could hang the Opening Day loss on CC Sabathia easy enough. After all, serving up six runs in two innings is a ticket for disaster anyway, and a lineup -- even one as expensive as the Yankees -- can have a bad night.
We'll see what happens in Thursday's finale. Two losses is unsettling, but a sweep? That's disturbing, and we can't see life getting any easier against the Blue Jays, who have their Rogers Centre opener Friday night. That's when the Yankees hand the ball to Masahiro Tanaka for his major-league debut. And after carefully staging his U.S. career every step of the way to this point, we're sure that they didn't figure he'd be pitching to save their season.
That last part is a joke, of course. But if the Yankees continue to misfire, it won't be very funny for long.