For a little while there it looked like the biggest thing anyone would have to worry about with the Yankees this season was whether or not they'd act like arrogant buffoons during their visit to the White House. A member of the front office was able to pull off that little trick, although she'd like you to know she's really a big fan of the sitting president, but it turns out that there will be more to get upset about than just ill-timed taunts of Barack Obama.
Surprisingly enough, it isn't Mark Teixeira that's making anyone sweat. There are legions of past and current athletes in New York that would love to get the kid glove treatment the Yankees first baseman has gotten during his awful first month of the season -- Javier Vazquez leaps right to mind -- but everyone assumes Tex will be fine once May comes a-calling and that's just fine and dandy.
A little less fine and dandy at this hour is the Yankee bullpen. The team's lost four of their last five games and in all but one of those losses they've seen their bullpen let them down at one point or another. Joba lost a game on a home run, Joe Girardi and Damaso Marte combined to turn a one-run Angels lead into an insurmountable four-run advantage and, on Tuesday night, it was Boone Logan and David Robertson's turn.
Logan walked Luke Scott with two out and none on in the sixth and Robertson followed by hitting a guy and giving up three straight singles to give the Orioles a lead they wouldn't relinquish. There are points where you'd quibble with Girardi's handling of the situation, River Avenue Blues does a nice job of breaking down the Logan decision and why it was questionable, but there are going to be nights like this when you ask Boone Logan to get big outs. Logan's not the reason why good people are worried about the pen.
Robertson and Marte are the reasons. The playoff performances of those two pitchers was the reason why the Yankees felt confident about their bullpen heading into this season, but neither guy has turned in anything resembling the work they did during the run to the title in October. Robertson, in particular, looks like a lost lamb on the mound. He hit Ty Wigginton on an 0-2 pitch last night, the kind of thing you deserve to be punished for in this great game of ours. You have to wonder how many more times Girardi will turn to him in anything other than a blowout.
It's too soon to prescribe any radical solutions to this problem. If the last week of New York baseball has taught us anything, it's that small sample sizes don't mean much in either direction. The 2009 season started with a fairly rancid bullpen and things turned out okay. There's something particularly galling about watching relief pitchers blow games, however, and that might make this issue a big one in the weeks to come.