The Yankees Can't Shake What Ails Them

Loss to Reds leaves Yankees where they don't want to be

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Yankees have fallen and they aren't getting up quickly.

    CC Sabathia could have saved the weekend on Sunday.

    The Yankees split the first two games with the Reds and held a 2-0 lead going into the seventh with their best pitcher on the mound. A win meant the Yankees took the series and it meant that they would avoid losing for the fifth time in seven games over the course of the week.

    Sabathia couldn't get the job done, though. Two solo home runs and three straight walks led to three Reds runs and the Yankees would go down meekly in their final at-bats to hand the Reds a 5-2 win.

    Those homers have been the biggest thorn in the side of the Yankees pitching staff this season. Every Yankee starter has been victimized by the long ball this season, with Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes basically guaranteed to give up a couple of homers every time they take the mound.

    All the losing of the last week leaves the Yankees just a game ahead of the Red Sox, which is pretty alarming given how off the rails things went at the start of the season up in Boston. And the fact that it isn't just the pitching that's making life difficult is even more alarming.

    The saddest part of A-Rod's devolution as a hitter is that it no longer feels surprising to see him go eons without hitting a home run or other extra-base hit. In previous years, a slump like this -- Rodriguez has a sub-.400 slugging percentage -- wouldn't be so scary because you knew A-Rod would go on an otherworldly tear.

    You can't take that for granted anymore, not after successive years of diminishing returns. It's simply who Rodriguez is now, which is a very scary thought given how much money he makes and how much longer he's going to be making cashing those massive checks from the team.

    Rodriguez just looks old, as does Mark Teixeira when Teixeira isn't missing an entire weekend because of a bronchial infection. It's hard to make too big a deal out of the sickness when Teixeira has these kinds of starts every season and the most damning part of Teixeira's statline is the sharp drop in his walk rate.

    That tells you pitchers aren't scared of his bat beating them, either because Teixeira can't/won't change his approach in the face of extreme shifts or because his bat has slowed down. Like Rodriguez, these trends go beyond this season which is why you're able to actually worry about them a quarter of the way into the 2012 season.

    Ineffective pitching, ineffective hitters, injury problems and an aging roster are all the reasons to doubt that the final three quarters will be markedly different for the Yankees. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, the return of Andy Pettitte are some of the reasons to believe that the Yankees won't be sunk by a mediocre first 41 games.

    There's a lot of evidence to support both answers. Without some things from the negative side migrating over to the positive, it's going to be hard to swing the pendulum too far.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.