What really might be bothering the Yankees


Carlos Gomez has been with the Astros less than a month, and he’s already doing what he does his best: annoying opponents.

Gomez is an unusual centerfielder, his talents equally divided between power, speed, defense and irritation. If former New York Ranger hockey pest Esa Tikkanen were a baseball player, he’d be Carlos Gomez, only not as good.

Tuesday Gomez homered, hustled into a double with a clumsy if harmless slide, knocked in four runs and scored two, but none of that was what provoked the Yankees. It was how Gomez tossed his bat and berated himself after flying out in the sixth that made the Yankees, trailing 9-0, respond.

Given that the Yankees lost 15-1, it’s safe to say it was the only noise the Yankees made all night.

“I just told him, ‘Play the game the right way,'” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “Run. You know, they’re kicking our rear ends. Show a little professionalism to the pitcher. I know you missed a pitch and you’re frustrated by it … I just think it’s a little too much.”

It would be easier to agree with Girardi if the pitcher in question were not Chris Capuano. The Yankees might respect his professionalism, but clearly not his talents; they’ve designated him for assignment only four times this year, including less than 12 hours after Tuesday’s game. Chirping at Gomez was the first time the Yankees have defended Capuano all year.

And given Capuano’s 7.71 ERA, it’s easy to understand why Gomez thought he should have done more than fly to center.

“I was never a guy that showed any emotion,” said Girardi. “I made an out, I ran to first.”

Girardi, who had a lifetime .267 average but .666 OPS and 72 OPS+, made a lot of outs, which might explain the difference. Girardi played 15 years and hit 36 home runs; Gomez, whose career average is seven points lower, has 61 more career home runs, and counting.

Whatever the reason, Girardi said he played with a stoicism Gomez disdains. The latter’s emotions couldn’t be more obvious if he wore an emoticon on his uniform to display them, whether gesturing in celebration or contorting his face in disgust.

“There have been a number of clubs that have taken exception to some of the things he has done on the field …” Girardi said, without mentioning that Brian McCann, the Yankees catcher who didn’t play Tuesday, has been on most of them. Media reports said it couldn’t be verified if McCann was one of those yelling at Gomez, but they also said he wasn’t in the clubhouse after the game. Coincidence?

It’s possible for both sides to be wrong here, the Yankees for scapegoating Gomez, the latter for not ignoring the chatter. If hearing were smell, Gomez’s would be better than a bloodhound’s. As fans holler, he can hear criticism from a tape measure home run distance away as if it’s the third-base coach whispering in his ear.

It’s also possible that Gomez provided a convenient outlet for a Yankees’ frustration beyond Tuesday night. Less than a month ago the Yankees had a seven-game lead in the AL East; entering play Wednesday, they’re a game behind.

The Yankees are 12-14 since whomping Texas 21-5 on July 28, and the 4.3 runs per game they’ve scored over the last 26 is buffed only by three double-figure games against the Red Sox and White Sox three weeks ago. In their last 20 games, they’ve scored just 62, or more than a run less per game.

As Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda have gone injured and new 40-year-old Alex Rodriguex has slumped, the Blue Jays added Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Latroy Hawkins, the nouveau Astros added Gomez, Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers and Oliver Perez and even the impoverished cross-town Mets added Jose Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes.

The powerful Yankees, with all their payroll, resources and monuments, could only add Dustin Ackley, who’s neither good nor healthy.

Yankees management wasn’t necessarily wrong, since any worthy transaction would have meant parting with rookie pitcher Luis Severino or outfielder Aaron Judge. But tell that to the guys in the dugout.

“If they feel frustrated, that’s not my problem,” Gomez said. “This is part of the game, part of the nature of competition, and those who don’t know how to compete, can just go home and cry.”

Gomez is right about that. If the Yankees don’t like the way Gomez behaves when they’re trailing 9-0, there’s a simple solution: don’t fall behind, 9-0.

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