Yankees seek exit from road to nowhere

September 08, 1993|By Vic Ziegel | Vic Ziegel,New York Daily News

ARLINGTON, Texas -- What is it about the New York Yankees and their complete inability to spend a night all by themselves in first place? And why does Scott Kamieniecki have this problem succeeding, winning, in stadiums away from 161st Street?

And while we're asking these important questions, here's another: If the losing continues in Arlington Stadium, how long will it be before manager Buck Showalter takes out his frustration on the candy cartons that sit floor to ceiling in his office?

Let's begin with Kamieniecki, because he went away the quickest Monday night. Kamieniecki, the hottest of the Yankees pitchers since the All-Star break, but always the hardest to spell, was pounded early and often. Gave up a run in the first, four in the second, another in the third. He didn't allow any more because that wasn't him out there in the fourth. Wasn't long before the Yankees, who were never in the game, who never looked quite awake, were 8-5 losers.

What is it about Kamieniecki when he gets away from the D train, the monuments? He's awful and, even worse, he loses. His last 17 road decisions have produced Anthony Young numbers, 1-16. Does he leave his slider home? His favorite Snoopy blankee? If the Yankees should move to another subway stop, say New Jersey, does Scott Kamieniecki become the man without a career?

After the game, believe it or not, two guys in Yankee uniforms didn't think the pitcher had had that bad a night. One was the pitcher. The other was the man who gave him the ball.

"Take away a couple or three or four ducktails," Showalter decided, "and you're sitting with a different ballgame."

Showalter says the duck-stuff was a couple of doubles by Rafael Palmeiro in the first two innings. He didn't complain about Palmeiro's home runs in the fourth and seventh.

This was Kamieniecki's version of his evening: "One of those nights. . . . Everything seemed to find a hole. . . . I warmed up pretty good." (Who knows? Maybe he thought the snakes in the media were too busy watching the Dallas-Washington game to notice his latest road disaster.)

And, yeah, all this losing away from the Bronx does bug him a little. He talked about using "some alcohol to build a fire and burn this gray [road] uniform."

Showalter had no jokes for us. The Yankees began the night with a wonderful chance to become a first-place team, move a roaring half-game in front of the team from Canada.

Two hours and 40 minutes later, but only if you believe the game isn't over until the last man is out, the Yankees were back in second place, a half-game behind the team from Canada, a banana peel in front of hard-charging Baltimore.

"It would have been nice to go into first," Showalter said. He really did.

How many times has he said that? Well, the Yankees hold the record for most games spent in first place holding the hand of another team. If they aren't there by themselves Oct. 3, it will be the kind of stat the Yankees will weep about all winter.

Are you surprised to be this close, Buck? Did you honestly expect to be here in the spring? You did?

For still another night, the Yankees were unable to spend some quality, and solitary, time in first place. Twenty-three to play, nine in the Bronx, and 14 where Kamieniecki doesn't want to be.

The Yankees are close, Showalter says, and that's all that matters. "We're here," he had said early Monday night, sitting behind his desk in the strangest manager's office in the American League. "We're here and we got a chance. We got 24 games and we got a chance. It's right there in front of us. Let's go for it."

The Yankees went the other way Monday night. It's maddening, it's frustrating, and it may go on for another four weeks. Or it may end in the worst way.

It's too confusing. And that makes this the perfect time to explain about the manager's office. It's part storeroom, and the walls are hidden by those candy cartons. Planters Sunflower Seeds, Chuckles, Snickers, Grandma's Big Cookies (Do Not Drop), and Tortilla Combos. The cases of beer and soda are to the right of his desk.

He ignores them. He has big games to play, three more with Baltimore, and another three in Toronto. "Do we deserve to be here?," he asks. "Are we good enough? Do we have as good a lineup as Baltimore or Toronto?"

You have heard his answer a little higher up: doesn't matter. "Regardless if we do or not, we're here," Showalter says. "But if we don't win, there may be no tomorrow. It may snow tomorrow."

It may snow boxes and boxes of sunflower seeds and Chuckles and Grandma's Big Cookies (Do Not Drop). How much of this tie/no-tie business can a manager take?

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