By Jason Keidel
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On Memorial Day weekend, I wrote a piece placating the panicked masses who were jumping the Good Ship Yankee after just 50 games.
At 24-26 I declared that there was way too much time, way too much season before the franchise would jam the eject button and talk 2017.
Give them six weeks, I said. Then we have a better sense of the 2016 Yankees.
Well, the time is upon us, and, sadly, the Yankees are still barely a .500 ball club. Since they started 24-26, they’ve gone 20-18, as average as they’ve looked all year. And they aren’t victims of an ornery division. They’re fourth in the the AL East, but would also be fourth in the AL West and last place in the AL Central.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when the Yanks had their mail forwarded to October and the All-Star Game. Doesn’t take great memory to recall the days when they freckled the diamond with studs, from Jeter to Teixeira to A-Rod to Cano to Bernie to Jorge Posada to …
In 2010, the Bombers sent five players to the All-Star Game, four of whom — Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte — were homegrown talents.
This year, the Yanks send three to the Midsummer Classic, only one of whom — Dellin Betances –was spawned by their farm system.
The Yankees’ record on this day in 2010 was a rather robust 56-32. This year’s Yanks are a picture of mediocrity.
Which raises the question: Is it time for a fire sale?
Do they unload their bejeweled bullpen? No doubt teams are drooling for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Their most holy bullpen trinity — Betances, Miller and Chapman — have a dizzying 185 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings. The Yanks don’t even need a press release to get GMs in a cage fight over their services.
Also, an article on NJ.com pondered a deal sending Carlos Beltran to the Chicago White Sox. So there are several Yanks on several wish lists around the sport.
Midseason flea markets are as common as fireflies in Central Park. So it’s not absurd for a team to consider shipping their blue-chip pitchers and position players for prospects.
But these are the Yankees, where the mandate always resides a few rungs higher than any other baseball club.
They charge you premium prices for a premium product. The implicit deal you make with the Yankees when you drop that abundant quid is that they will always bleed their last resource for a World Series title.
It will be hard for them to charge you a grand for ringside seats if they can’t even promise you a contending team. And the Yankees are not a contender today.
So what do you want? Ever since King George bought the Yankees, his life morphed into a singular mission to make New Yorkers proud of his club. And his sons have not only grabbed the baseball baton from the old man, but also echo his eternal sentiment that the Yankees belong to the fans as much as the Steinbrenners.
And it revives a debate that has dominated the Big Apple ever since the Joe Torre dynasty melted into memory.
Are the Yankees allowed to rebuild? Does the implicit pact with fans have some secret clause in case they sink back into the middle of the pack?
Or should the Yankees be bulls, not bears, before the Aug. 1 trade deadline?
It’s hard to imagine a deal or two, or a player or two, that would push the Yanks into a pennant chase.
Beltran is the only player (other than Didi Gregorius) on the roster close to batting .300. Mark Teixeira looks brittle and ancient, his average actually south of Mr. Mendoza’s line. Their other big-ticket players, such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, have yet to play up to their price tags.
Masahiro Tanaka has been solid. And up until a few weeks ago, CC Sabathia had been a godsend. But the rest of their rotation — Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda — has been dreadful. Tanaka and Sabathia are the only starters with an ERA under 5.00. Don’t even ask about Luis Severino (0-6, 7.46 ERA).
The Yanks have every right to detonate. But if they do, will they still have the right to sell themselves at the singular team in American sports? Can they stand on their prerogative as our pastime’s ultimate champions when they haven’t won a World Series in seven years and just one overall this century?
It’s hard to sell the Yanks as the best team in baseball when they’re not the best team in town.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel