DETROIT -- An early winter beckoning, the Yankees worked overtime to try to save their season in the hours leading up to Game 4 Wednesday. They benched Alex Rodriguez (again) and Curtis Granderson and figured they would see what Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher could do.
But one overriding question facing the scuffling Yankees is this: Is it simply a coincidence that so many impact players have devolved into a slump at the same time? Or does this signify a deeper flaw in the roster?
New York general manager Brian Cashman spoke to that very topic Wednesday afternoon, and his vote was loud and clear. No, he said, this roster is not flawed.
"I believe in the philosophy," Cashman said. "I was taught by Gene Michael. We are still executing the Gene Michael playbook, which is predominantly left-handed hitters that take walks. They are selective."
There are a few other traits in the prototypical Yankees lefties.
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"They're typically big, hairy monsters, as I describe them, who can hit the ball over the fence, hit doubles, singles, can hit home runs," Cashman said. "They are all very selective."
The catch right now is, Granderson has become so toothless that he was benched Wednesday. He's 0 for 10 with six strikeouts in this series. Though he hit only .232 during the season, he did have 43 homers and 106 RBI. Robinson Cano is 1 for his past 30 this postseason, and 1 for 14 against the Tigers in the ALCS. During the season, he hit .313 with 33 homers and 94 RBI.
Add the slumping Swisher, a switch-hitter, and it is a mess.
What you have right there are three of the big, hairy regular-season monsters. But. ...
"What you are seeing right now is not a reflection of that," Cashman admitted. "These guys are better than this. And you've seen it and we've seen it. It's just a very poor short sample.
"We have a lot of guys who got cold at the wrong time and it looks bad, but this is not a reflection of who they are. But externally, it is a reflection of what we are living with right now."
Meanwhile, in a post-steroid era in which young players and young legs last, the Yankees also this year were fielding a team with six players 37 or older, and three 40 or older: Mariano Rivera (42), Andy Pettitte (40), Raul Ibanez (40), Derek Jeter (38), Ichiro Suzuki (38), Hiroki Kuroda (37). Rivera and, now, Jeter, of course, are out for the season.
Speaking generally about the roster, Cashman continued his defense, essentially saying the Yankees do not need to change the way they do things even while on the verge of an embarrassing sweep.
"No, this doesn't shatter my beliefs in what I have been taught and in what I have learned from some of the best in the business," the GM continued. "Because I know it works. I have lived through it. I have rings to show for it.
"I have rings I've benefited from. I've been part of championship-caliber runs, teams that are tyupically in the top end of the offensive side.
"What we are seeing is not what this offense is capable of and what some of these individual players are. They are performing at a far worse level than what you have seen."