Sure, Justin Verlander is an excellent pitcher, but as CC Sabathia showed today, excellent pitchers can be beaten. It helps if you face that pitcher with a real lineup, but the Yankees were about a third short of one today with Juan Miranda, Randy Winn, and Greg Golson at the bottom of the order. This trio of light hitters stranded nine baserunners today, contributing to a 1-3 finish for the Yankees in their long series at Detroit.
At the risk of repeating yesterday’s entry, it’s quite confusing as to why the Yankees are prepared to tolerate their current roster when they have alternatives beyond Golson, a pinch-runner/defensive substitute, Winn, a player who needs to hit .300 to be productive and won’t, and the ageless Miranda, who just might -- maybe -- hit well enough to be an acceptable platoon DH but is supremely unlikely to do much more than act as a placeholder.
Injuries happen, and very few teams have the kind of depth that allows them to survive more than one or two significant losses at a time without seeing a decline in some area of performance. I’m not trying to hold the Yankees to an unrealistic standard here. You lose a Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, or Nick Johnson -- and doing without Johnson, and his 4.4 pitches seen per plate appearance is a more significant loss than his weak hitting would otherwise suggest -- and unless you have Joe DiMaggio waiting at Triple-A, it’s a blow. Alas, the Jolter is nowhere in the Yankees’ farm system just now.
That does not, however, mean that Golson or Miranda or even Winn has to play anymore than is strictly advantageous. Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, and Dave Winfree are not future All-Stars or even players you might remember three years from now, but they have their uses amidst their limitations. The same is not necessarily true of the other guys, with the possible exception of Miranda, who might pinch-hit against the odd right-hander -- if the Yankees had a 30-man roster. Failing that, and Bud Selig is unlikely to issue that 30-man waiver anytime soon -- it helps if your bench players have more versatility and athleticism, not to mention a future. The aforementioned trio of Grade-C prospects might have a place on a Major League roster this year or next or never, but you won’t find out the answer until you play them over guys like Miranda, Winn, and Golson, who are 98 percent certain to be in some other line of work in the near future.
Finally, there is the completely unexplored option, the one that you might have thought of when I referenced Joe DiMaggio. There is nothing stopping the Yankees from promoting Jesus Montero to DH. This is not necessarily the best idea, and I am not advocating it, but on some levels it is a more palatable choice than going forward with failure. Sure, Montero hasn’t hit as of yet (.233/.295/.359 at Scranton), but unless last fall’s hand injury is lingering, it is reasonable to assume that he will hit. Could he/would he do so in the Majors? I don’t know, but again, it might be a more profitable exercise than what the Yankees have been doing lately.