Let me preface this piece by saying in no way is this a pro-Yankee stance, and that I will never
steal buy a Joe Pepitone jersey. I also promise to never partake in the suite-service of the Legends seats that sit directly behind home plate. I will never accept free tickets to do this! It’s terrible that you can eat high-quality shrimp and lobster while watching one of the most legendary teams of all time – of any sport. They will be turned down immediately with every ounce of pro-American/anti-Yankee spirit in my body! Did you hear me, Jeff?
With that said, we think it’s fair you take a look at what this team is doing this year. Sitting in fourth place, the Yankees find themselves eight games out of 1st place in the AL East. However, at eight games over .500, and with the newly created Wild-Card play-in game, at the moment the Bronx Bombers find themselves only 4.5 games away from making the playoffs. That doesn’t seem like quite the accomplishment of a team with a payroll hovering around $230 million. But once you take a look at who has really been playing for them, paving the Yankees’ playoff push, then you might actually be surprised at their current spot in the standings.
Given, Robinson Cano has been healthy all season and is turning in, if not a sub-par superstar season, at the very least it is a pretty good season (.307/.387/.507, with 24 HRs and 87 RBIs). Then you have Ichiro and Brett Gardner. Ichiro has a .667 OPS and Gardner has a pedestrian .336 OBP and 112 Ks as the Yankee leadoff man. Then, there’s Lyle Overbay, who up until this year no one remembered was even playing. The guy looks like a construction worker who wears full Yankee regalia and has season tickets in the last row of the upper deck. Michael Rappaport would play him in a movie. And with that, those are the only four regulars who have played enough time to be eligible for any batting category. Four. Cano, two guys who are basically the same light-hitting person, and LYLE OVERBAY.
So who else has been spotted with a Yankee uni on this year? These guys: Brennan Boesch, Mark Reynolds, Vernon Wells, Jayson Nix, Austin Romine, Chris Stewart, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, David Adams, Alberto Gonzalez, Brent Lillibridge, Ben Francisco, and Reid Brignac to name a few. Not your normal Yankee names. More imporantly, though, who are they? Well, a few have at one time turned in an All-Star season but not recently. Mostly these are cast-offs from other teams who signed on with the Yanks with that last modicum of hope to win a World Series title. And with how this season is going, why would they not?
Statistically, if you look at the Yankees season as a whole, they are getting beat across the board offensively, and their pitching hasn’t been much better. Even Mo Rivera has looked vulnerable, giving up 3 straight blown saves this year for the first time ever. Phil Hughes has looked like a mess for the entire season and would probably receive a demotion to the minors if they had a decent replacement. Pettitte and Sabathia have been modestly good on the season, but one (Sabathia) has an ERA approaching 5.00 and the other (Pettitte) has a WHIP that is over 1.40. Their only starter to have any success this season is HIroki Kuroda, who has a 2.89 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. To be fair, their bullpen has been pretty stellar, with David Robertson, Rivera, and Boone Logan leading the team to it’s 3.79 ERA. But, if you look at the overall picture, it’s been a mess.
On top of the poor play by a cast of character actors, there is the injury aspect, which has limited Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Michael Pineda, and Alex Rodriguez to a combined 80 games. Pineda has contributed zero to that group, but was to be heavily relied upon in the second half of the season. His lingering arm injury is definitely a concern. As is age with this group. And, hovering above all of this is the Alex Rodriguez mess. He brings so much more to the table than whispers of centaur paintings. He also brings the PED cloud. But, we’re not going down that route here.
As you can see, this hasn’t been the normal $200 million dollar season the Yankees typically plan for. They’re earning their money this year, and Brian Cashman – who is the most aptly named GM in all of baseball – has looked like somewhat of a genius. He has made a lot of odd signings at cheap prices and has traded for guys past their prime (Wells and Alfonso Soriano) who as soon as they put on the pinstripes they start producing at a level that makes their former teams jealous.
In the end, they will need their injured stars’ leadership and bats back. They need Cano to keep on trucking. They need Sabathia to pitch like the former Cy Young winner that he is. They need Mo to not break down like the 150,000 mile college car that he is. They need A-Rod to just stay in the shadows for a few more months before he goes to full-blown douche status this offseason. And most importantly, they need Mr. November himself, the guy Terry Hoitz one time shot, to be the cornerstone. It’s a lot to ask for, and it’s a long shopping list of necessary ingredients, but it’s possible because it’s the Yankees. They are never out until they are officially out.