Yankees slump. Noise ensues.
If you’d tapped Joe Girardi on the shoulder this spring and told him this is how it would play out, he would have signed up for it in a heartbeat. He would not have liked losing Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner, etc. He would not have liked the inconsistencies of Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. He would not have liked being forced to use 22 different pitchers.
Still, if you’d told him the Yankees would be spending their 84th consecutive day atop the American League East on September 4, Girardi would have accepted. That’s the bottom line is this whole deal. At a time when the Yankees are getting the full New York treatment from talk radio and the tabloids, the bottom line is that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong.
The Yankees were not poorly constructed. They are not poorly managed. They do not lack heart or character or fight or any of those other ridiculous terms the media tosses around. The Yankees lack healthy bodies.
A-Rod and Teixeira have struggled at times this season. So has Curtis Granderson. It was never in the blueprint to give Andruw Jones 201 at-bats. Raul Ibanez was supposed to get his at-bats as a DH rather than an outfielder. Eric Chavez wasn’t supposed to make 44 starts at third.
In 48 days, their lead in the AmericanLeague East has gone from 10 to one. In that time, they’ve gone 20-24. They’ve averaged 4.5 runs per game. Their ERA is 3.99.
Neither number is particularly good. Neither number is awful, either. The Yankees were always going to rise and fall on Pettitte’s ability to come back strong in September and shore up the rotation behind Sabathia. With Sabathia, Pettitte, Kuroda and Hughes pitching well down the stretch, the Yankees are good enough to make the playoffs.
Analysis can get silly. We look for reasons beyond the obvious. For the Yankees, the obvious is that too many players have gotten injured. That’s why their lead is down to a single game. Down the stretch, the Rays have better pitching. The Orioles have some magic going on.
The Yankees have some uncertainty because their two biggest names–Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter–are 36 and 38 years old. Kuroda is 37, Pettitte 40.
Their production will begin to decline, and perhaps in A-Rod’s case, that decline has already begun. It’s possible to draw up scenarios in which the Yankees miss the playoffs. The Yankees live in a bottom-line world, and that bottom line would be unacceptable. But it’s too early to open that door.
The Yankees have suffered a ridiculous number of injuries, and with 28 games remaining, they’re still atop their division. Until the last couple of weeks, they’d absorbed every punch and handed out a few of their own. It’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out. Regardless, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the roster or the franchise.