“What would George Steinbrenner do?” What a ridiculous question

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There’s no sense in sugarcoating it. The Yankees are playing terrible baseball right now. They have lost seven of ten and the offense is in the crapper. Of course it’s early yet, and unless you believe that the Orioles are going to continue to win one-run games all the time and put up big offensive numbers despite striking out a ton and never walking, the Yankees should be back in this thing eventually. But yes, things are bad at the moment.

But no matter how bad things get in the Bronx, could we please dispense with the hacky “If George Steinbrenner were alive he’d …” rebop?  I’m lookin’ at you Wallace Matthews:

This was the kind of night when, in the old Yankee Stadium, George Steinbrenner might have commandeered the PA system to apologize to the fans and maybe offer them a rain check to a future game … In another era, “The Boss” might have grabbed the microphone and apologized for this one, and then stormed into the office to fire someone.

These days, you’ve got to hope the Baby Boss, in his own quiet way, is cooking up something similar.

Yes, because the Yankees’ post-1995 success was totally built on knee-jerk firings as opposed to Steinbrenner, for once in his life, not messing with that which smart baseball people put together. What would George Steinbrenner do?  Probably a bunch of stupid, poorly thought-out things that did way more to generate back page headlines than improve the baseball team. That’s what Steinbrenner would do.

But  sure, if you want to go back to the days when Bob Lemon, Gene Michael, Clyde King and Billy Martin ran around a revolving door and the team didn’t win squat, go right ahead. But that’s not what made the Jeter-era Yankees successful.

The 2012 Yankees are a slumping team that, I suspect, will stop slumping soon and begin crushing the ball again. It’s also possible, on the other hand, that, yes, it’s a team that is suddenly feeling its age and said slump is less aberration than it is the new normal.

But whichever of those things it is, firing people and doing dumb angry things will not help. This is the team Joe Girardi has, and its particular personnel and contractual composition do not make it amenable to quick or easy fixes. You can’t can Girardi and resurrect Billy Martin, nor can you trade A-Rod and Teixeira for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.  To suggest otherwise is to abdicate anything approaching reasonable analysis in favor of mindless yammering.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.