David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
TORONTO - While Joba Chamberlain has become great fun to kick around on his way out the door, let's keep things in perspective with Thursday night's loss to the Blue Jays. The Yankees never led in the game, were shut out in 24 of the 27 innings at Rogers Centre and dropped the finale, 6-2.
We're not here to make excuses for Chamberlain, who turned the seventh inning into a bonfire by allowing a walk, a single and a three-run homer to Adam Lind. But would using Shawn Kelley or Adam Warren or Goose Gossage in that spot really have changed anything? Subtract Joba from the equation, and the Yankees still don't wind up winning this one. Not with two runs.
And therein lies the problem.
When it comes to this lineup, there's no one fall guy here. But we can start with Alex Rodriguez, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and is now batting .080 (2-for-25) since being removed from Tuesday's game in Baltimore with a tight left hamstring. A month ago, A-Rod as September savior felt like a good story line, and he was doing his part by revving up his home-run pursuit of Willie Mays.
Now, Rodriguez appears thrilled with a walk, but he denies the leg issues have anything to do with his recent struggle at the plate. After last night's loss, A-Rod even said he's been working out some at third base, and will do so again before Friday night's series opener against the Giants at the Stadium.
That could be considered a positive, but the Yankees aren't as concerned about his glove. If the time at DH has stalled his bat, maybe getting Rodriguez back to the field will change his luck. Something has to, and in a hurry. With nine games left, a 3 1/2-game deficit, and five teams in front of them in the wild-card race, A-Rod can't pull the disappearing act he did a year ago.
"I'm fine," he said. "I'm happy with the way I'm swinging the bat, especially [Wednesday], when I thought I could have had a couple balls in the seats. That's just the way it goes. My objective is to go up there, get a good pitch and do some serious damage."
Solid plan, but the execution has been lacking, and it's not just A-Rod. All Alfonso Soriano has been saying lately is how exhausted everybody feels. Not what you want to be hearing during the final two weeks of the season with a playoff berth on the line, and Soriano definitely looked fatigued -- or worse, lackadaisical -- after hitting what should have been a leadoff double in the second inning.
Soriano ripped a hard grounder down the line into the leftfield corner, and even with Anthony Gose's strong arm, could have cruised into second base. Apparently, Soriano did the cruising part first, and after crossing first base, didn't have a gear high enough to make up for it. "I looked up when he had the ball," Soriano said, "and he made a perfect throw."
Girardi said he had to "make a better decision" on the read. But when asked if he slowed up, as it appeared, Girardi got flustered. Or maybe fed up. "Yeah," Girardi said, "I don't . . ."
He never finished his response. Only shrugged. That was toward the end of the interview session, and by then, Girardi was done. There was only so much he wanted to relive about this game.
So we'll let Soriano have the last word. "I think that we're tired," he said.
Three days earlier, Soriano blamed the off day for the Yankees getting shut out 2-0 in the series opener. After playing for 17 straight days, which merited a breather, Soriano pinned the club's lack of energy on what figured to be a well-deserved rest.
We're confused. Anyway, in Soriano's way of thinking, the Yankees should be primed and ready for Friday night after getting home at about 3 a.m. Tired or not, they can't be much worse than they were the past week.