McCann, Yankees more lucky than good

NEW YORK -- Brian McCann has swung and missed a lot so far this season, but he got one thing right when he described his offensive performance in his first 81 games as a Yankee.

"Horrible," said McCann, who is batting .221 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.

His assessment came after another horrible, unwatchable game, one neither the Yankees nor the Rays really deserved to win, and a game McCann was right in the middle of, going 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and failing again in the clutch.

The Yankees (41-40) have now played 81 games, and if the next 81 finish like the first, they will be an 82-80 club. With nearly a half-billion dollars spent on offseason reinforcements, that record is far from good enough.

Still, even after their seventh loss in nine games -- a tedious, offensively challenged, four-hour-and-35-minute, extra-inning 4-3 defeat to the last-place Rays -- the Yankees are just 2½ games behind the first-place Blue Jays.

The leaders of this club are not disillusioned by their place in the standings. Echoing Brian Cashman's pre-loss comments, Joe Girardi admitted that they are more lucky than good.

"I think every team in this division probably feels that they are somewhat fortunate to be where they are with the records that have," Girardi said. "Being 41-40, you wouldn't necessarily think you would be right in the thick of it."

But the post-Mariano Rivera bullpen has been tremendous. Despite uneven results on Monday, you have confidence in Dellin Betances and David Robertson anchoring the pen.

The starting staff, held together by Masahiro Tanaka and some glue, has been good enough to fight through injuries to three-fifths of their staff.

Girardi pointed out they need a little more distance. But when you have Chase Whitley, Vidal Nuno and David Phelps each pitching every five days, you really can't be too picky.

While Cashman has vowed to do everything in his power to improve this club through a trade, the real antidote is for guys such as McCann and Carlos Beltran to do more -- and fast.

McCann arrived with rave reviews as a great clubhouse leader -- and perhaps that is the case behind closed doors. But what the media gets to see doesn't look like a guy who is particularly comfortable or happy in the big city after living and playing his entire life in Atlanta. Perhaps that will change with better results.

McCann seems to care a great deal, which can be a problem when a player receives a big contract. Sometimes they try to do more than they are capable of. McCann, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract in December, seems to be doing less and does not seem particularly comfortable.

In the 10th inning Monday, he had a chance to send everyone home a lot earlier with a win. Derek Jeter singled to open the inning and stole second. With two outs, McCann was at the plate against Grant Balfour.

Sporting a 5.34 ERA on the season, Balfour has not been the closer the Rays thought they were signing last offseason. McCann struck out.

McCann isn't Robinson Cano -- nor should anyone expect him to be -- but he needs to slug better than .361. In McCann's career, he has slugged at a .467 clip.

Cashman can make some moves and perhaps they will help, but this offense needs to be stronger. The big imports this offseason -- McCann, Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury -- have to lead them.

They are being paid huge money -- not to be lucky, but to be good.