Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Falling Fast

The New York Yankees are falling faster than Kirstie Alley's weight during Dancing With the Stars. For their fans, their rapid descent invokes painful memories of 1965, a year in which the Bronx Bombers turned into duds.

The 1964 season had been yet another banner year. They had won the AL pennant – again, just as they had in 1960, and 1961, and 1962, and 1963, even though their margin over the second place White Sox was a scary one game instead of the 10 1/2 it had been in '63.

Mickey Mantle hit 35 home runs and Joe Pepitone hit 28. Elston Howard had emerged as a terrific replacement for Yogi Berra. Mick's outfield mates, Roger Maris and Tom Tresh, had done okay. The infield was solid defensively, even if Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek, and Bobby Richardson had not exactly torn the cover off the ball. Ralph Terry had slumped badly and been exiled to Cleveland but the team still  had solid pitching with Whitey Ford, Jim Bouton, Al Downing, Mel Stottlemyer, and Phil Mikkleson.

In a bizarre move, the Columbia Broadcasting System who were the Yankees' new owners and obviously knew a lot about baseball, replaced pennant-winning manager Berra with Johnny Keane, the Cardinal skipper because he had won one more game than Berra in the World Series but six fewer during the regular season.

The wheels fell off in '65. The Yankees were ten games back by the middle of May and never recovered, finishing an embarrassing 21 1/2 out for sixth place. Ellie Howard hit .233. Roger Maris swatted eight home runs and hit. 239. (Hector Lopez took over for him.) Tony Kubek, who had hit .314 in '62 but was in his last year in baseball, batted .218. Bobby Richardson, who had hit .302 in '62, hit .249. Worst of all Mickey Mantle, who was now a very old 33, hit .255 with a paltry 19 homers.

But '65 was a dream compared to '66. They were ten games out by May 3rd this time. They finished 26 1/2 back. It was their worst year since 1925, the year of the Babe's bellyache.

Pepitone (35 homers) and Tresh (27) did all right but that was about it. Mantle went 23, 56, .288. Howard rebounded to just .256. Maris rose to 13 home runs and .233. The once mighty pitchers had seen better days. Ford was 2-5. Bouton was 3-8. Downing was 10-11 and poor Mel Stottlemyre, who had won 20 in '65 thanks to a whole bunch of double plays in '65, now lost 20.

In researching for this entry I saw how bad the Yankees had been in the early nineties. I'd mercifully forgotten. In '90 they won only 67 games and in '91 only 71.  That team featured perennial all-stars Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes, Andy Stankiewicz, Melido Perez (loser of 16 in '92), Scott Kamieniecki, Tim Leary (loser of 19 in '92), Jeff Johnson, who was having his best year at 6-11, and one-year wonder Wade Taylor.

By '94 they still hadn't improved, winning just 70. They recovered nicely from those painful seasons. And they certainly recovered in 1926. Maybe they'll do it again. But for now, the Yanks have won just six of their last eighteen games while Boston and Tampa Bay are absolutely tearing the league apart, these are indeed painful times. Just like the summer of '65.


Rick Blechta said...

Bad as the Yankees are, the Blue Jays are worse. They just can't seem to get firing on all cylinders at the same time. It's really tough to watch this team. For starting pitching, it might be Cy Young or Cy Strange...

Will Braund said...

Is it just me or are the Jays, in addition to their other issues, terrible at hitting in the clutch. The have guys with lots of RBIs but do they ever get them when it counts?
Vernon Wells has continued to display no talent for hitting when he needs to. I have no idea why he's still in the middle of the Yankee line up. He's an automatic out when the chips are down.