By Sean McAlevey
It’s bad enough to have been without Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and phenom starter Micheal Pineda to start the year.
Now this? Another set of injuries to key players?
With a healthy lineup, the Bombers’ inspiring 38 wins – good for third in a stacked AL East – would have been up around 42 or 43, which would place them in a dead-heat for the division crown. They would have put to rest the preseason predictions that had “experts” predicting they’d finish no better than 3rd in the AL East. If the Bombers had dodged a few unfortunate breaks (literally) they’d be neck-and-neck for the division lead – and for the best overall record in the American League.
That’s exactly the point that I’m trying to bring to the fore here.
Barring a horrible setback, the Yankees should have everyone back before August. Instead of Jayson Nix at short, it’ll be El Capitan; instead of David Adams at third, it’ll be the $275 million man, A-Rod; instead of Lyle Overbay at first, it’ll be Tex; and instead of an aging Vernon Wells playing musical chairs in the outfield with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, the Grandyman will be back roaming the vast plains of center field. Returning that many impact players can only make the Bombers better, which is part of the reason why New York’s rash of injuries could be a blessing in disguise.
The other part of the reason is that manager Joe Girardi has had ample time to test the usability of reliable veterans, like Wells and Overbay, while simultaneously being able to aid the development of young reserves, like Adams and Nix. Having key bench players, who can either fill-in or pinch-hit for a resting starter, helps tremendously during the latter parts of the season – and particularly the playoffs, the only relevant part of the season for the boys in pinstripes.
Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves. Are the Yankees going to miss the playoffs for only the second time in the last 18 years?
They might. Recall Yogi Berra’s famous quote, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
But when you consider that four All-Stars and two future Hall of Famers will be returning from the DL to invigorate a stagnated Yankee offense in the second half of the season, it’s hard to imagine they won’t be playing in October. If and when the Yankees make the playoffs, there’s no telling where the ceiling is for this team.
The pitching rotation looks phenomenal. Hiroki Kuroda has been on fire this season, posting an impressive 2.78 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, while former Cy Young Winner CC Sabathia has been his usual workhorse self, averaging nearly seven innings per start. Surprisingly, 26-year-old David Phelps has looked spectacular thus far; his 4.08 ERA is rock solid for a fourth/fifth starter.
So far, Yankee pitchers have surrendered the third-lowest run total in the American League. Adding the newly acquired Michael Pineda – who, in his one major league season with Seattle, owned a marvelous 3.74 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP – to the mix will solidify the Bombers’ rotation as one of the best in the AL.
Though the pinstripes have endured an unusual power outage on the offensive end, the coming return of the four key bats mentioned should surge their lineup enough to return them to the pinnacle of run scoring. With an ace of a pitching staff and a return to normalcy for the Yankee bats, the only direction to move is up.
Many remain skeptical of New York’s future. After all, a 38-31 record is shockingly underwhelming for a team that has won less than 90 games only twice in since 1996.
For most teams, however, 38 wins at this point of the season would be considered their ceiling. In this case, it’s the Yankees’ floor.