By Sweeny Murti
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Next week the Yankees begin their annual tribute to inspirational people in everyday life known as HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel). You can read some of the wonderful stories from years past, and this year’s events, as well at www.hopeweek.com.
Meanwhile, on the field, the Yankees will begin another type of Hope Week. It is the last week of play before the All-Star break and the Yankees are hopeful about so many things.
The Yankees HOPE to finish out a strong week against the Royals and Twins. A good week keeps them well over .500 and within striking distance of a playoff spot. There will be less than 70 games to go when play resumes July 19.
The Yankees HOPE that Boston cools off even a little bit. The first three games after the All-Stark Break are at Fenway Park. The Yankees will play the Red Sox 12 times in the second half, all but 3 of them in Boston. Asking them to go better than .500 in that stretch could be asking a lot, so other teams will have to help if the Yankees are to compete for the division title and not just a wildcard spot.
The Yankees HOPE Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez come back healthy. They have started five different shortstops and five different third basemen in the first half. They need the stars back. Yes, even A-Rod. It’s fine if he’s not a 40-HR guy anymore. They need the guy who is capable of hitting the ball out of the park even once in a while, make the opposing pitcher think even just a little bit. That is missing right now. The Yankees would be in so much better shape right now with all the other injuries the same, if only Jeter and A-Rod were in the lineup every day.
The Yankees HOPE CC Sabathia has a big second half. With his fastball velocity back up to 93-94 (up from 89-90 in April), Sabathia looks healthy. He needs the results to go with it. Last year, it turned out, Sabathia pitched with an elbow that needed surgery in the off-season. Perhaps the impact of taking the ball a few times when he maybe shouldn’t have could be what’s being felt in the first half this year. Many great pitchers have not so great years on their resume. The Yankees can’t afford this to be one for Sabathia.
Even with the return of A-Rod, Jeter, and Curtis Granderson too, the Yankees HOPE they can add a difference-making bat. Think David Justice in 2000. That’s the kind of power surge this team needs. One bat isn’t going to be enough. But if the injured guys come back healthy AND they can trade for another right-handed hitter, then perhaps this bucket of bolts known as the 2013 Yankees can be salvaged and not sent to the junkyard.
And the Yankees HOPE that Robinson Cano can stay hot as long as possible. This, of course, can’t go on forever. But Cano is the best hitter on this team and the Yankees need him to have an MVP-like second half, carrying the Yankees like he’s never been asked to do before. This is not time to worry about contracts. This is time to pick up the offensive load and show he’s worthy a long-term commitment in the middle of the Yankee lineup.
The 10-day homestand that starts Friday is a good chance for the Yankees to put their June swoon behind them. In a tough AL East, the Yankees can get right back in position for the playoff hunt. A few things just have to go their way.
Perhaps HOPE week can be extended.
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