NEW YORK -- The last time the New York Yankees were 41-42, they finished the season by playing .671 baseball the rest of the way. The names joining Derek Jeter on that roster were ones such as Clemens, Matsui and Rodriguez, who it turns out was playing with a doctor's note.
Seven years ago, that Yankees team looked aged in early July, but they used their championship pedigree and a bullpen boost from Joba Chamberlain to make sure that Joe Torre never had a playoff-less season as a Yankees manager.
So it has been done before, even when no one probably saw it coming then.
When times are the meekest, it is hard to imagine good baseball being played again; especially with this dreadful brand of ball being drilled daily into your cerebellum.
The Yankees are 41-42, losers of a season-high five in a row, nine of their past 11 and grasping for anything to hang onto. Manager Joe Girardi said his $200 million club won't quit, even though no one even implied that they would.
"This team never quits," Girardi said after another numbing loss to Tampa, which completed the last-place Rays' sweep. "They never quit and they won't quit."
Kevin Long, the team's hitting coach and Yankee Twitter's Public Enemy No. 1, admitted the offense has been worse than he would have thought. Players are working and constantly tinkering, Long, said in a way of defense.
Carlos Beltran is adopting the role of a full-time DH, looking better to Long the past four games, going 6-for-17, including a 2-for-4 Wednesday. Brian McCann removed a toe tap on Tuesday and added a homer and a single.
"Again, the biggest two we are talking about are [McCann and Beltran,]" Long said. "If McCann can do what he did today and for Beltran, it is four good days in a row that he has had four good quality at-bats. We have kind of changed his routine of what he has done as a DH to try and help that process to become really active in between innings, walking around and talking about things instead of just sitting in the video room, maybe thinking about at-bats. That's been one adjustment that has moved in a positive way."
Long said both players are on a "mission." They need to be if this Yankees team is going to repeat 2007, because there doesn't appear to be much room for improvement elsewhere.
Brett Gardner hit his eighth homer on Wednesday, tying his season high. He may be the Yankees' best offensive player. Jacoby Ellsbury has been pretty much what could be reasonably expected, even if his $153 million contract might portend more.
Alfonso Soriano looks pretty much done, while Ichiro Suzuki has been better than expected but a .345 on-base with little power is not a prototypical Yankees corner outfielder. Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and the suddenly going south Yangervis Solarte are spare parts that haven't provided much.
The Yankees will eventually consider calling up Triple-A sensation Rob Refsnyder, if he can show that he can play enough defense at second. Until then, the answers will come from within the room until Brian Cashman makes a move.
"I still believe in this team," Girardi said. "Obviously, people are going to say, 'OK, tell me why?' Because there is talent in that room. We just need to play better."
And they are trying, which was a big theme of the postgame clubhouse. They may be picking up a lot more "L's" than "W's," but they deserve an "A" for effort.
"It is not from lack of effort," Long said.
Jeter is the one holdover from that 2007 team. He saw that club climb out of despair and win the wild card spot. Jeter talks about simplifying the game, winning each inning. He said the clubhouse is fine dealing with the valley of a long season full of them.
"You can't change it," Jeter said. "It is over with now. I don't know how many games we have left, but we have a lot of games left. Anything that has happened up to this point, you can forget about it. Talent doesn't win games. You have to go out there and win games."
The Yankees haven't done enough of that. Now, they have an 11-game, three-city road trip (Minnnesota, Cleveland and Baltimore) to end the first half. They are actually better away from the Bronx (23-19 compared to 18-23 on River Avenue). They know what they need to do.
"McCann is on a mission," Long said. "Beltran is on a mission. Everyone needs to pick it up a little bit, including the Gardners, including the Ellsburys, and then, these guys have to perform. They need to pick it up, as well."