Ranking the blame as Yankees get swept

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It takes more than a couple of goats for a team to get swept in a seven-game series. Let’s run down the five people most responsible for the Yankee meltdown.

Derek Jeter’s ankle not being a person, we’ll leave it out of this.

5. Eric Chavez – Alex Rodriguez struggled mightily, yet Chavez was worse. A-Rod finished the ALCS 1-for-9 with three strikeouts. His replacement at third base was 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. Chavez also committed an error in Game 3 and made what seemed to be a lazy defensive play in Game 4, hanging back on Omar Infante’s infield single in the first inning. Infante came around to score the Tigers’ first run of the game.

4. Mark Teixeira – After a nice ALDS in which he went 6-for-17 with five walks, Teixeira hit third and fourth in the ALCS, displacing A-Rod, yet he went without an RBI in the series. Of course, that hardly makes him unique among Yankees players. Still, it was bad enough that he wasn’t hitting; his two defensive miscues in Game 4 led to a run in the third and probably contributed to CC Sabathia’s blowup in the fourth, given that the big left-hander had to face three batters too many the previous inning.

3. Joe Girardi – Sitting Rodriguez was appropriate, if oddly timed. And while I’m in the minority, I don’t really blame him for not hitting for Raul Ibanez at the end of Game 3. Benching Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson was pure desperation and was counterproductive to the Yankees’ chances of winning. Then in Game 4, he suddenly became more interested in getting everyone into the series than trying his best to set up an unlikely comeback. Still, it’s really hard to look at this series and suggest that Girardi’s performance was worse than the guys who took the field.

2. Curtis Granderson – Granderson’s big homer in Game 5 of the ALDS didn’t let him off the hook for long. He went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts and a couple of walks before taking a seat prior to Thursday’s Game 4. When he did make an appearance in the finale, he struck out once again. Granderson’s pull-happy, uppercut swing has made him a big threat in Yankee Stadium, but his old Tigers approach might have done him more good here. That said, he was surely more likely to help in Game 4 than a rusty Brett Gardner.

1. Robinson Cano – Really, this isn’t even close. Cano had one hit in 18 at-bats in the ALCS, a single in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss that ended his 0-for-29 skid. He also never drew a walk in the series. And in the Game 2 loss, he mishandled a double-play relay, giving the Tigers their first run of the game in the seventh inning.

Now, I still wouldn’t go so far as to say Cano was the Yankees’ worst player in the series; Rodriguez and Granderson probably had more bad swings while getting fewer at-bats. But Cano is the one who had the opportunity to do the most good — half of his at-bats came with men on base — and he never got the job done. His performance is the biggest reason the Yankees went down so easily.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.