David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Perhaps it was a calculated effort by Joe Girardi to pick Sunday night to rekindle the debate on instant replay.
The Yankees again were hurt by a questionable call, this time on a tag at second, and Girardi chose to get tossed for arguing.
But after a 3-0 loss to the Tigers, who have a 2-0 lead in this ALCS, this was no time for the Yankees to be pointing fingers at umpire Jeff Nelson. Nope. Instead, they should be taking aim at Robinson Cano.
Nelson made for a convenient fall guy, and there's nothing the media horde enjoys more than talking about the need to use 21st-century video technology to solve all of the sport's problems. But that's not happening in time for Game 3, which is Tuesday night at Comerica Park, and the Yankees have far more pressing issues.
At the top of that list: What exactly is wrong with Cano?
We're not talking about his usual laissez-faire approach to running the bases or his indifferent sidearm flips to first base. That's just accepted as part of the package. The part that's killing the Yankees right now is Cano's apparent inability to hit a baseball.
Two weeks earlier, Cano entered the playoffs as the most lethal offensive player in the majors. He finished the regular season on a 24-for-39 tear with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. Since then, however, he has been as dangerous at the plate as a bobblehead doll.
After Sunday's 0-for-4 performance, he's hitless in 26 at-bats, the longest postseason drought in Yankees history, according to Elias. The overall record for playoff futility belongs to Dan Wilson, who strung together 42 with the Mariners.
The good news for Cano? If he doesn't wake up, the Yankees likely won't be alive long enough for him to catch Wilson this October.
"It is odd," Girardi said. "You know this is a really, really good hitter that is struggling right now and he's not getting a lot of pitches to hit."
Before Game 2, Girardi stressed how important it was for some of his great players -- he'd settle for one at this point -- to step up in the absence of Derek Jeter, who was lost for the playoffs after fracturing his ankle early Sunday morning.
Jeter is the Yankees' captain, but he's 38, and not half the offensive player that Cano is. Game 2 was set up to be a passing of the torch, from one Yankee great to another in the making. But Cano dropped it, grounding out feebly in all four trips to the plate.
As for the added responsibility that comes with being his team's perennial MVP candidate, and perhaps feeling compelled to hoist the Yankees on his shoulders, Cano shrugged. "I don't put that in my mind," he said. "Of course you have to produce. There's nothing else you can do but stay positive."
The Yankees need different results. From someone, and if not Cano, then whom?
Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson remain so lost at the plate that the Stadium crowd didn't even bother to boo all that loudly when either one struck out. The fans did get on Cano later in the game, particularly in the seventh inning, when he fumbled a relay from Jayson Nix, losing the ball on the exchange. It could have prevented the Tigers' first run if it had resulted in a double play.
Those sins have a tendency to be forgiven if Cano comes up the next inning and swats a three-run homer. But it's not happening, and without any help from the Yankees' shriveling lineup, Cano is left to take the brunt of the blame.
And that's where it should be. Not on Jeff Nelson, not on Bud Selig for dragging his feet on instant replay. The Yankees are a mess offensively and Cano is 2-for-32 in seven postseason games. Any explanation for the hole they're in needs to start there.