There Is Only One Way Up From Here, Yankee Fans!
Panic and doubt has swept into the Bronx. After Monday night’s miserable loss to the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees find themselves in last place of the American League East. They are tied with the Boston Red Sox and both teams are currently 5.5 games back from the first place Orioles. The Yankees are 3-7 in their last ten. Most teams during the course of the season have stretches that resemble what the Yankees have recently put up, however, when you consider the Yankees last 10 games have been against the Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Reds and Royals, it is clear to see why Yankee fans are rightfully worried. Even after tough defeats to teams they should handle, I’m going to attempt to talk everybody off the ledge right now.
I’m not going to lie, the Yankees are playing like a bunch of bums lately. The starting pitching, bullpen and offense have all underperformed, especially due to the fact that the Yankees 197 Million dollar payroll is 25 million more than the second highest paid team. After last night’s game, Nick Swisher stated that everything that could possibly go wrong for the Yankees this early in the year has gone wrong.
When you consider Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Swisher have all missed time due to injuries, it is hard to argue against Swisher. Factor in ARod, Teixiera, Cano, Martin, and Swisher have all gotten out to slow starts, and it’s really no wonder the Yankees find themselves in the position they are in.
Now it’s time for the good news. First, the Yankees are tied with Boston, only 3.5 games behind Tampa Bay and as previously mentioned, 5.5 behind the first place Orioles. Baltimore has gotten off to a nice start, but let’s be honest, they are not going to maintain their level of play for the entire season. I fully expect that Tampa, Boston and New York will finish the year in front of the Orioles, as well as Toronto. Therefore, I still think the Yankees need to gauge themselves as to what the Rays and Sox are doing, and neither of those teams has played outstanding to this point, as each of them are battling their own injuries. The Yankees are still very much alive in the grand scheme of the AL East.
Another positive the Yanks have going for them is they will shortly be receiving some of their key players back. Brett Gardner will return to the Yankees in the next week, which will provide them with solid defense and an element of speed the Yankees desperately need. In his short 2012 thus far, Gardner was batting .321, so his small ball approach to hitting has been sorely missed. Losing Mariano Rivera for the year was crippling, but then on top of that his replacement David Robertson also went down. Robertson, who made the AL All-Star team last season, was pitching to a 2.51 ERA and even before he took over for Mariano, was looked at as one of the cornerstones of the Yanks bullpen. The Yankees are hoping to get Robertson back into the fold in the next 10 days, which will be a big help to Rafael Soriano and the rest of the pen.
The Yankees can also be encouraged that despite the team’s anemic effort on offense, there have been a few guys who have really stepped their games up. Many fans did not like the team’s signing of Raul Ibanez, as the 39-year-old only added age to an aging roster. Ibanez has quieted the critics though, hitting 9 home runs and leading the team with 27 RBI’s. There is not much more that anyone can say about what Derek Jeter has done in is career, but his early batting average of .343 with his 5 HR’s is only adding to his legend. Andy Pettite wasn’t expected to be a member of this team, but he has come out of retirement and looked really sharp in his last outing, pitching 8 scoreless innings against a pretty good Reds offense.
One last glimmer of hope is that the Yankee players who have struggled so far in the season really can’t do much worse. The career track records of players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano and even Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher to a lesser extent, indicate that this team will come around. In the last 9 games, the Yankees are batting .083 with runners in scoring position. In yesterday’s loss alone, the team went 0-13 with runners in scoring position. Now I am aware that this team has struggled, but those numbers are awful and I believe a fluke. A team with much less talent will ultimately perform better than those numbers indicate, and I am very confident that these stats will average out to respectable in a short amount of time.
In closing, everyone who roots for the Yankees needs to take a deep breath and relax. We still have CC leading a staff that includes the solid Ivan Nova. Our lineup is proven, they know how to win and every member of the team has had success at this level, including some players who have had legendary careers. Even if a player like Rodriguez or Teixeira struggles all year, there is enough talent on this team to overcome. The MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint and the Yankees are in a position that a nice 7 or 8 game winning streak can remedy. If we are half way through June and the Yankees haven’t turned it around and are still in the AL East basement, then it would be perfectly acceptable to worry. Let’s cross that bridge if we get there, and I am confident that the leadership and talent on this team will steer this squad in the right direction shortly.