By Sweeny Murti
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Heading into the July 4th weekend, at the start of an 11-game road trip, the New York Yankees are under .500 (41-42).
Yes, it’s disappointing. But it’s somewhat understandable given the injuries and massive underperformance going on. But is it really possible that the Yankees are only 18-23 at home? This is the place where the Yankees are supposed to flex their muscle, and it hasn’t happened. Only 18 home wins before the All-Star break? Ridiculous.
So far, in 41 games in the Bronx, the Yankees have hit 45 home runs and given up 57. Compare that to just two years ago, when the Yanks out-homered their opponents 138-94 while going 51-30 at home.
If the Yankees can go just 6-5 on this road trip through Minnesota (four), Cleveland (four) and Baltimore (three) then they would hit the All-Star break at 47-47. Of their remaining 69 games, 41 of them are at home while only 28 are on the road. At minimum, what would it take? If the Yankees go 27-14 at home and 18-10 on the road they could finish with 92 wins, which could be enough to win the AL East, let alone secure a Wild Card spot.
As presently constructed, these guys aren’t nearly that capable. But if Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano start to hit the ball out of the park a little more frequently, upgrades are made via trade and CC Sabathia returns healthy — providing as little as a quality third starter would — then maybe there is a run in this team. But those are far too many “ifs” for a team that already loaded up its offense last winter and have very little to show for it.
The Yankees can’t waste any games at this point, but they certainly need to start reclaiming their home-field advantage when they return home after the All-Star break.
Some other thoughts as the Yankees hit the road:
*Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder have been tearing it up in the minors, and they might offer some help
to the big club, though it’s far from a given. Neither one has played a game at the big-league level
yet, and if you’re considering making a move with either Soriano, Kelly Johnson or Brian Roberts, then you have to be prepared to release those players and have no fallback if the
young kids fail.
For example, if you brought up Pirela and asked him to be Ichiro Suzuki’s platoon partner, you can’t just bench Soriano. You likely have to release him. And someone else would pick him up. If Pirela ended up starting out 4-for-30, then what? Meanwhile, Soriano would get picked up by another team and probably hit 15 home runs for somebody else. Are you prepared for that?
And the possibility of Pirela, Refsnyder or anybody else struggling out of the gate is very real. And the likelihood of slumping veterans eventually finding their way is just as real.
A scout for another big-league team told me this week, “Veteran guys don’t panic. You bring up a kid who will have some pressure on him to perform. (If) he starts out slowly, then he starts to press and makes it worse. Veterans can manage the ups and downs better.”
There is definitely something to be said for the energy that a younger player can bring if he’s productive. And the gamble is worth it if you’re a team without playoff aspirations. But if you do believe the playoffs are still in reach — and yes, they are still in reach for these underperforming Yankees — it’s hard to pin all your hopes on those guys and have nowhere else to turn.
*I’m not sure if I would consider Carlos Beltran or McCann more disappointing through the first half of the season. There are different factors for both. Beltran was a guy who I really felt in spring training was ready for a big year, and was primed to be a leader on this team. He’s been held back a little physically, while McCann has simply underachieved. He has handled the catching component very well, but as a lefty power hitter he’s being counted on for a whole lot more than he’s produced to this point.
*So let me see if I have all this straight in regards to the latest A-Rod story.
A-Rod reportedly received a medical exemption from MLB to use PEDs in 2007. He hit 54 home runs and won the AL MVP. He then opted out of the richest contract in pro sports, came back for even more money and was then outed twice in four years as a PED user, suspended for it the second time. He then appealed and sued MLB to regain lost millions, which he only got in the first place because he reportedly got an exemption to use PEDs previously?
This is another of those instances where neither side looks good. Maybe MLB felt wronged after the 2007 exemption led A-Rod on a continuing path of PED use, and it doesn’t come off looking so good here, either. But why is the story never over with A-Rod? He wants to put this behind him, but it makes him look bad every time another secret comes out.
A-Rod, at this point,intends to play for the Yankees in 2015. And what a circus that will be.
But they could probably use his bat, no?
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