Overachieving Yankees have come back to Earth

Mark Teixeira strikes out in the fourth inning

Mark Teixeira strikes out in the fourth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. (June 2, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

If you're a Yankees fan, here's what you have to worry about now:

If the Yankees are who we thought they were.

That's borrowing a phrase and a YouTube-worthy rant from when YouTube was in its infancy. In 2006, then-Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green ended a tirade after his team's loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football with the immortal: "They are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"

The Red Sox didn't let the Yankees off the hook Sunday night. Boston took the thrice-delayed and rain-shortened rubber match of the weekend series, 3-0, in 5 1/2 innings, to send the punchless Yankees to their seventh loss in eight games.

Sunday night's defeat dropped the Yankees (31-25) into a third-place tie in the AL East with Tampa Bay. That's about where many think they will be at the end of the season.

A playoff-less season.

Which brings to mind another famous NFL coach meltdown, that of the Indianapolis Colts' Jim Mora in 2001:

"Playoffs? Don't talk about ---- playoffs. You're kidding me! Playoffs?"

No, we're not kidding. The Yankees are starting to show the cracks that appeared likely to doom their season before what general manager Brian Cashman called the "B'' team ran off an impressive stretch of wins.

The past week against the Mets and Red Sox has exposed some serious flaws. Mostly centering around a lineup that has not flourished despite the returns of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis.

Teixeira has pushed Lyle Overbay to the bench. That's proper, even though Overbay is second on the team in RBIs with 29. If only he could play the outfield instead of Vernon Wells (who has cratered after a hot start) and Ichiro Suzuki (who doesn't appear to have much left but plays almost every day).

The problem is that Teixeira, always a slow starter, has looked dreadful since returning from his wrist problem. Teixeira struck out in both of his at-bats Sunday night and has fanned in seven of his first nine.

What can the Yankees do besides wait for Teixeira to get hot and Curtis Granderson et al to come back from their injuries? Well, for one thing, stop playing Ichiro every day over Brennan Boesch.

Ichiro is a Hall of Famer and a class act. But he's just not a very good baseball player anymore.

That the 39-year-old is taking at-bats away from the 28-year-old Boesch is why it was folly for the Yankees to re-sign Ichiro in the offseason.

And for two years!

It was questionable at the time and becomes more so with each unproductive at-bat.

After going 1-for-2 Sunday night with an infield single, Ichiro has similar numbers to David Adams: .260, two homers, nine RBIs. In 119 more at-bats.

Adams, the rookie third baseman who is at .259-2-5, is likely to get sent down Monday to make roster room for Andy Pettitte.

Compare Ichiro with Boesch and it makes little sense why Ichiro was in right against Clay Buchholz and Boesch was on the bench Sunday night.

Boesch, in 51 at-bats, is batting .275 with three homers and eight RBIs. He hasn't been given much of an opportunity to show if he can be an everyday player. He certainly hasn't been given the opportunity Ichiro has. Past glories and contracts should not dictate playing time.

Beyond that, it's not clear what the Yankees can do to improve their offense now that the Band-Aid Brigade has come back to Earth and the stars either aren't ready or aren't ready to rake.

It may turn out that the Yankees are who we thought they were.

And that the only playoffs in New York will be on TV.

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MLB

@therealarieber

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