Here's how the A.L. benches stack up, worst to first, by VORP so far this season:
14) Toronto: -14.8. The Jays have been ravaged by injuries, but their bench still wouldn't be awful if not for ex-Met Jason Phillips's stunning -15.3 VORP.
13) Texas: -9.5. Another team getting killed by injuries, but also one without a solid plan going into the season (Sammy Sosa is a starter, so his brutal stats don't even count against them).
12) Chicago: -5.4. A motley crew of rookies and utility types aren't getting it done at all on the South Side.
11) Yankees: -2.3. Absolutely no excuse for a team with a ginormous payroll to have a bench this putrid. (Or this thin...right now the bench runs exactly three deep.) Joe Torre's personal hero, Miguel Cairo, is VORPing -0.8. And the numbers would look a lot worse if the rotting corpse actually got any playing time. Wait until Posada breaks down in late August. Yikes.
10) Baltimore: 2.2. Yawn.
9) Seattle: 4.3. Whatever the reason for Seattle's inexplicable solid play, the Bloomquist-filled bench isn't it.
8) Minnesota: 7.4. The pirranhas are middle of the pack.
7) Boston: 14.2. The Red Sox don't have a great bench, but the Crisp Mo Pena platoony thing keeps things interesting. And at least Doug Mirabelli has some purpose.
6) Anaheim: 15.9. Now we're getting somewhere. The Angels have one of the deepest benches around, filled with youngsters with actual, honest-to-goodness promise.
5) Cleveland: 17. The Indians have the best back-up catcher in the league in Kelly Shoppach, and surround him with useful platoon hitters. This is how to build a bench, Cashman.
4) Oakland: 20.3. How does Billy Beane do it blah blah blah.
3) Detroit: 25.1. Some decent pop masks a putrid back-up catcher (not that the starting catcher is any good, either.)
2) Kansas City: 26.7. Jigga what? True story. The Royals' subs have been getting it done at a rate their starters can't match.
1) Tampa Bay: 32.1. The Rays may have a lot of problems, but positional depth isn't one of them.
OK, so maybe those last two teams prove that you need a lot more than a good bench to win, but you certainly need to have at least a competent group of substitutes to contend. Benches are critical to overcoming injuries, preventing injuries by keeping starters rested, and giving managers flexibility late in games. The Yanks are o-3. Their bench has gotten worse year-by-year, and this year is the nadir. We hope.