Where did all the Yankees' hitting go?
As much as the Yankees want to remind us of the past by honoring the dynasty years with plaques for Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez, that only makes the present look that much more depressing.
After O'Neill was immortalized Saturday with his spot in Monument Park, the Yankees extended their scoreless streak to 192/3 consecutive innings before Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-out homer in the ninth Sunday.
Getting shut down by Indians ace Corey Kluber in Saturday's 3-0 loss wasn't a total shock. But when Carlos Carrasco, in his first start since April, and four relievers then beat the Yankees, 4-1, that didn't seem right.
Is Chase Headley now the glue holding this thing together?
We kid, of course. Headley got the day off and the rest of the lineup failed to show up, scraping together only three singles before Ichiro Suzuki's two-out double in the eighth. Entering Ichiro's at-bat, the Yankees were 8-for-57 in their previous 162/3 innings.
The Yankees' offense has been impossible to figure out this year, but maybe we're wasting our time trying. After 117 games, it's hardly a small sample size, and even Joe Girardi has come to grips with the hard truth. Aside from the very rare occasion when this team busts a game open, as it did in Friday's 10-6 win over the Indians, it likely is going to struggle, in keeping with the leaguewide trend.
You may have been stunned to watch the disappearing act. Girardi was not. "I think we got caught up with seeing teams score 900 runs in the past," he said. "That's not happening anymore. With things that have went on in the game, and the improved defense, and the improved bullpen, and pitching today, you're just not seeing as many runs."
Girardi didn't spell out what he meant by "things," but we'll try to fill in the blanks. The crackdown on PEDs has sapped the power from offenses, whether it's removing steroid-built muscle or the amphetamine jolt some players relied on to get them through the season.
The proliferation of defensive shifts also has stifled offense and frustrated pull-happy sluggers such as Mark Teixeira, who had an RBI single taken away by second baseman Jason Kipnis in shallow rightfield.
Looking back at those O'Neill/Martinez dynasty years, the Yankees averaged 899.6 runs from 1996-2000. It was enough to earn them four World Series rings. In 1998, the Yankees scored 965 runs, part of the reason that ring includes the inscription "Best Ever." Only once have they topped that total, in 2007, when they scored 968 -- and wound up with a first-round playoff exit that ended the Joe Torre Era in the Bronx.
Incredibly, at the Yankees' current offensive pace, they won't even beat last year's injury-riddled team, which finished with 650 runs. To date, they have 468, which would give them 648 runs by season's end -- their lowest output since scoring 603 in 1990, when they went 67-95.
What we've seen from the 2014 Yankees is not what Brian Cashman had in mind when he invested $200 million in two big offensive pieces: Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
Teixeira was thought to be a wild card anyway in returning from wrist surgery, but it's the myriad other injuries -- strained back muscle, hamstring, lightheadedness, finger laceration -- that have limited him to 85 games, fourth-most on the team and only one ahead of Beltran. Missing Teixeira's switch-hitting power has hurt the Yankees from a consistency standpoint.
"We haven't really been great all year," Teixeira said.
That's for sure. Can the Yankees, ranked 18th in the majors in runs, make the playoffs with a merely adequate offense? They're going to try, and the road gets tougher this week with three games against the division-leading Orioles in Baltimore.
Maybe hitter-friendly Camden Yards will help shake the Yankees from their funk. Then again, their own ballpark in the Bronx is supposed to be good for that. How'd that work out?
"These guys are human," hitting coach Kevin Long said. It just seems more so this year.