[Business Day One] The Times That Try Mens Souls

No Comments

My original plan for the day involved a stirring commentary on the Boston Marathon, and how it reflects the wonderful sports culture of my beloved city. I had the framework in place and was starting to organize my thoughts and observations. I was all ready to start. And then all of my planning went into the trash can, courtesy of the starting rotation of the New York Yankees.

Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano found their way on to the Disabled List this week, joining fellow hurlers Chien-Ming Wang and Jeff Karstens, who have been riding the medicated pine since opening day. Three of the five projected starters and the projected long man are now out of action, with the Yankees sitting at 5-6. With the season at just two weeks old, it’s a bit early to start lamenting a lost campaign, but this is the kind of devastatingly bad luck that can doom a club.

Last year, the Yankees pounded their way into the postseason with 930 regular season runs. But with a soft rotation and an exhausted bullpen, they bid a hasty retreat and were playing golf before the weather got cold. The Yankee relievers had to pick up a lot of slack early in 2006, with Pavano out and Jared Wright and Shawn Chacon good for only about 5 innings of dubious quality per night. Scott Proctor, who pitched 101 innings as a reliever, and the rest of the daily throwers came into October with their shoulders full of pudding. A thousand runs will garner the AL East and a trip to the playoffs, but matters not against postseason pitching. The foundation for the same series of events is in place again.

I certainly don’t want it to happen. And 90% of me is trying to convince that last 10% that the season is still young and there is an abundance of time left to turn things around and get healthy. “It’s not even May yet,” the optimistic part of me stresses. “This isn’t even real baseball yet.” But tired arms can start cropping up early, especially if Proctor and Farnsworth are pitching nearly every day. Tired arms lead to longer innings, and longer innings increase the chance of injury. And if injuries to the ‘pen start surfacing, then the boys from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will have to eat up important innings after the All Star Break. And if that happens, then I’m going to be upset for two straight months.

If this happened to the Milwaukee Brewers or the Pittsburgh Pirates, baseball pundits would lament that it is unfortunate when so much bad luck hits a team all at once. But this hasn’t happened to The Good Land or The Steel City. It happened to The Empire, and no one is going to offer them condolences. Yankee fans realize that they and their team aren’t going to garner sympathy when they take a misstep or fall victim to poor circumstance. We wouldn’t expect it, and we wouldn’t want it. But at the same time, I (at least) hope people understand how tragic it is for any franchise to lose their Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 6 guys at the same time. The Bombers don’t want your pity, but I want you to understand that if this team keeps this bus rolling even with all of the wheels that fell off, they deserve respect.

That is, of course, until they fall to the Twins in 4 games come October. But until then, the Yankees are going to be running a marathon. And just like the 20,000 folks slogging through the grey mist of Commonwealth Avenue right now, they’re going to be trudging the long road for some time.