By Jason Keidel
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The Yankees’ brass must wake up most mornings and wonder where they are.
Under .500 on Memorial Day. Swaths of empty seats at Yankee Stadium. Nearly 1 million local fans unable to watch because of some beef with Comcast. The Mets have a better record, more buzz, and just played in the World Series.
Already pundits are parsing the roster, debating which players the Yanks might use to chum the trade waters. Move Brian McCann? Carlos Beltran? How about their bejeweled bullpen? Surely the Dodgers and Giants will joust for Andrew Miller, who is having a surreal season and is considered a bullpen bargain at just $18 million over the next two seasons. Maybe the Cubs will throw down on Miller, whom general manager Theo Epstein has acquired before.
No matter the players, pieces, or pulse, all seem to agree the Yankees, who have been perennial bulls at the end of July, will likely be bearish in 2016.
Indeed, this is a surreal time for the Bronx Bombers, who just won a game with one hit for the first time in a century.
While the Mets jam to the oldies, wrapped in their old-school, 1986 jerseys this holiday weekend, the Yankees might surely wonder if indeed the world has teleported 30 years into the past.
Just as in ’86, the Mets are by far the more trendy team, with younger core players, dynamic pitching, and cool handles like “Thor” and “Dark Knight.” Many feel like Citi Field is a cool, retro ballpark, while the New Yankee Stadium is decidedly corporate, with none of the magic or mojo of the old place across the street.
For the first time in a long time the Yankees (24-25) must feel like Gotham’s afterthought, buried in their own division and nestled in second place in their own city. Mets fans surely aren’t complaining.
Though many of us have been hard on the Yankees, for a myriad of reasons, it’s hardly time to read this team last rites. They are 5.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox, with a chance to leapfrog the Toronto Blue Jays and nestle into third place with a win Monday night.
The Yanks are treading water despite Michael Pineda having the worst ERA in the American League, despite the disaster Luis Severino has been, and despite Alex Rodriguez hitting with just a fraction of his 2015 traction.
CC Sabathia has been the feel-good story of the young season. Nathan Eovaldi has been sizzling. Masahiro Tanaka has pitched largely like an ace. So the rush to jam the panic button and ship out Miller, Aroldis Chapman or anyone else feels premature.
Maybe the Yankees don’t feel like a playoff team, but they’re still 15-8 since May 6. And between now and June 27 they play only one team with a winning record (Baltimore), including seven games against the god-awful Minnesota Twins. A lot can go wrong around the AL during that time, and go right for the Yanks, which makes Memorial Day way too early to save any white flags.
The next six weeks, rather than the last six weeks, will be the real referendum on the 2016 Yankees, who hope to wake up and realize it really isn’t 1986 all over again.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel