One of the issues that was raised over at RAB following the Yankees awful loss against the Nationals last night was the perception that the team gave a poor effort or was not prepared to play. When a vastly superior club loses to an inferior team, the typical reaction is to search for answers past the talent on the field. The thinking is that if one team is that much more skilled than the other, it must be something external to talent, such as a lack of effort, that led to the poor result. Couple that with two poor offensive performances, and suddenly the team looks like they are not trying.
I believe that it is impossible for us to sit in our homes and judge effort. There were no plays over the last two games that exhibited a lack of hustle or laziness. Rather, the team took a bad approach to two pitchers they had never seen before, reacting to a pitcher throwing strikes by swinging early in at bats. That may make sense against Johan Santana, but with Craig Stammen, you want to force him to throw as many pitches as possible, as a mistake is sure to come. This poor approach led to two consecutive nights of poor at-bats and quick innings, made even more frustrating by the fact that the Yankees only allowed 3 runs in each game. However, struggles at the plate are likely to make any team look slow and listless. As fans, it makes us feel like nothing is happening, which we very quickly equate with not trying. When the team pitches poorly but tears the cover off the ball and loses, we have no such reaction, because a team scoring 10 runs never looks listless, even if they are playing just as poorly as the Yankees did last night.
Quite frankly, unless I hear or see something to the contrary, I do not think effort has anything to do with the Yankees recent poor play. They are just not executing, and it has led to some embarrassing defeats. They need to turn things around before the season spirals out of their control.