The Yankees? Wouldn’t it be something if…
The Yankees are fascinating on a whole bunch of levels. As you probably know, they’ve made a fundamental commitment to doing things a different way.
“I don’t believe we should have to have a $200-million payroll to win the World Series,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said.
This statement does not mean the Yankees won’t spend money. They will. Lots of it. More than almost any other franchise.
For this, they will not apologize.
Nor should they.
But the larger mission is to build a consistently productive player development system and to use big-ticket free agents to fill specific holes.
So last off-season, the Yankees toed a disciplined line. They got younger. They didn’t go crazy in free agency.
However, if they were to contend in 2016, they needed productive seasons from some of their older players.
What did C.C. Sabathia still have in the tank? Carlos Beltran? Jacoby Ellsbury? General manager Brian Cashman did a nice job adding young, athletic guys to his club the last two off-seasons, but those guys weren’t going to carry the load in 2016.
Back when the Yankees were 9-17 and in last place in the American League East, the season seemed to be coming undone.
The Yankees have been exactly what they hoped they could be. Since May 6, they’re 22-13 and have climbed back above .500 at 31-30.
They awake this morning over .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on April 13.
This run is tribute to manager Joe Girardi and his coaches, to the environment they created and to push ahead in a city where, well, the environment can be tough on a losing team.
That’s especially true of the Yankees, who’ve set the bar for winning in professional sports.
Back to the old guys.
At 35, C.C. Sabathia has figured it out. Again. He has regained some of his velocity and all of his command. Mixing in cutters and sinkers and curves with a nice changeup, he has fashioned six of the best weeks of his career.
His .087 ERA is leading the way for a rotation in which Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova are 9-2 during the run.
Let’s be honest. You didn’t think Sabathia had something like this in him, did you? He probably wondered himself.
He has set a high standard for production and professionalism. He has a high pitching aptitude as well.
To see someone make significant adjustments is a tribute to Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild for his guidance. It’s also a tribute to Sabathia’s tenacity and smarts.
And there’s 39-year-old Carlos Beltran.
He’s doing some nice work on a Hall of Fame resume with 12 home runs, 10 doubles, 34 RBIs and a .314 batting average since May 6.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner are all in the middle of nice runs.
Even Alex Rodriguez, who struggled so mightily early in the season, has gotten it going, hitting .317 this month.
And the Yankees are very much back in the conversation. They’ve gotten within 5 1/2 games of first place in the AL East and within a game of third-place Toronto.
Are the Yankees better than the Orioles and Red Sox? That’s a tough point to argue at the moment.
That’s also a discussion for another time. All that matters now is that the Yankees keep winning and regaining their footing.
There could be reinforcements coming from the minor leagues over the next few weeks, and Cashman is relentless in looking for upgrades outside the organization.
For now, they look like a team capable of making a second straight postseason appearance, and if they get there and have Masahiro Tanaka and Sabathia lined up and Beltran and A-Rod hot and…
Nah, forget about it.
Let’s enjoy the ride and see where it goes.
Old guys rule.