By Jason Keidel
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Despite some sleep apnea at the end of June, the New York Yankees have had a dreamy season so far. Especially when you consider where we pundits projected them to finish in 2017.
You can forgive the Bronx Bombers if they stuck their tongue, or a finger, in our direction for finding them unworthy of any bold ink this year. And if you told us that their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, would pitch like Steve (or Mike) Trout, then there was no way the playoff race would be coated in pinstripes.
Sure, the Yanks are a pedestrian 45-41 now, their necks sore from gawking up at the Red Sox, 3½ games out of first place in the AL East. They’re 7-18 since June 12, when they were 38-23, four games above Boston and darlings of the baseball world.
But that was a bit too dreamy, even for the most jaded Bronx Bombers devotee. You could not have expected them to keep hitting at a Ruthian clip, and you could not have expected their starting pitching, which was quite a sore spot in 2016, to be this good the rest of 2017.
You can expect Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and a few, select bats to keep pounding the seams off the ball. Likewise, you can expect some good pitching, but likely not enough to leap-frog the Red Sox or make any tangible noise in October.
But with general manager Brian Cashman preaching prudence when asked about any power moves he might make before the July 31 trade deadline, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks are loading up for a pennant push. It sounds like Cashman told the club to make lemonade.
Will they make modest moves, like shoring up the bullpen with the Phillies’ Pat Neshek or the Padres’ Brad Hand? How about tossing a life vest out to first baseman Greg Bird, who’s injured and drowning and batting .100 in 19 games? Could they reach across the Harlem River and pluck Lucas Duda from the hated Mets?
The biggest possible splash, dealing for a front-line starter, doesn’t seem to be in the cards or stars over the Bronx. No doubt the Yankees would love to hand the ball every fifth day to Jose Quintana, Jason Vargas, Ervin Santana, Yu Darvish or even former Golden Dome wide receiver Jeff Samardzjia.
But any such trade would almost certainly require the Yanks to belch some of the soil from their farm system, the most fertile in the sport. Which also means they would have to surrender Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier, with the former arguably the best prospect in the sport. Cashman made it clear he will not break up a D-League he worked so hard to rebuild.
There are valid arguments both ways. When you have a title contender, you go for it, or else “wait until next year” goes from yearly exception to yearly mantra. The other argument is that you don’t get greedy or myopic just because you’re a little better than you thought you’d be. And when you enter that portal of greed and impatience, other GMs smell the scent of desperation, the bloody waters of win now.
So while it’s frustrating every time your team doesn’t pull a big trigger at the trade deadline, there is merit in keeping faith in the oh-so-soporific process that we so often hear from head coaches, particularly in the NFL, particularly from Bill Belichick. But it seems that corporate credo has worked pretty well for Bill and Brady in New England.
And even in the short time the Yanks have preached financial providence, their farm has hatched the two most dynamic sluggers in the sport — Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge — in consecutive seasons, no less. And word is Gleyber Torres is better than all of them.
We know what they say — actually, Hall of Fame NFL exec Bill Polian says — about fans and teams. If the GM listens too often to the fans, he will soon be sitting with them.
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