Rangers 10, Yankees 3: An ugly night in the Bronx has the Yankees on the ropes

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On an objective level there have been worse losses in recent Yankees history. They’ve been blown out. They’ve lost big games. Bad things have occurred to even this most historically blessed team.  But I can’t recall an uglier night, all around, than what we witnessed tonight. Among the lowlights:

  • Tommy Hunter was quite hittable, but the Yankees didn’t take full advantage of his vulnerabilities, missing multiple scoring opportunities;
  • Mark Teixeira injured his hamstring and may very well be done for the year, no matter how far the Yankees advance;
  • Joe Girardi was gifted with what had been a more than serviceable A.J. Burnett start, went to the well with him once too often and ended up paying for it with a Bengie Molina three-run homer;
  • In the bottom of the eighth Girardi allowed Lance Berkman to bat right handed with the bases loaded. It was the Yankees’ last, best chance of the game and maybe the season, and Berkman hits, like, -.397 right handed. He grounded out to third to end the threat; and finally
  • Yankees fans were simply pathetic, first pulling a Jeffrey Maier — and acting like total morons afterward — then pulling a Steve Bartman on a foul ball that, while it ended up not mattering, didn’t distinguish the fan base. Oh, and then that fan base left the place in droves beginning in the seventh inning, despite the fact that it was still only a four run game. Yankees fans are the best around, I’ve heard. Well, I guess I’ll have to take their word for it.

Like I said, just ugly stuff. And now maybe it’s over.

No, not technically over, because the Rangers need four wins, not three. But do the Yankees have a chance? Sure, anything is possible, and if the old saw about momentum being the next day’s starting pitcher means anything, that’s good news for CC Sabathia and the Yankees.

But the fact is that they’re not hitting a lick, not even on a night when the Rangers ran out their worst starter and a Game 1-style bullpen brigade. They’ve lost Teixeira who, while he hadn’t been hitting, could certainly be expected to hit eventually and can still certainly pick it at first. If they’re going to run the table — which they must — they must do it against C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Cliff Lee, three pitchers who gave the Yankees fits the first time through.

You can’t predict baseball, because baseball is inherently unpredictable. But you can make some educated guesses. And my guess is that the Yankees suffered a terminal blow these last two nights. Even if they linger on for another day, the end is near. They’re not going to pull this out.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.