Yankees

Yankees: It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish That Counts

The Red Sox are dwarfing the Yankees in all ways possible to start the 2018 season, including the humbling drubbing of the bombers with a small b last night in Boston. You can’t dismiss it, but neither can you dwell on it. All we know is the flow and trends of this season have only just begun – for both teams.

A year ago, this is how the Yankees looked positioned in the AL East Standings on April 11, 2017:

A year later the Yankees record also falls a game under .500. A short time later, the Yankees ran off a 21-9 mark that took all of baseball by surprise, settling the team into a season-long battle for a spot in the playoffs, and perhaps even a division title.

That run carried the Yankees through all of July and August when the magic started to wear away, and all of a sudden the Bombers were once again a sub-.500 team. Aaron Judge was striking out at the same alarming rate Giancarlo Stanton is now, CC Sabathia suffered a predictable stint on the DL, and Brian Cashman struggled to reproduce his magic once again to fortify a team in the doldrums of a disintegrating season.

The rest is history as the Yankees rebounded in September to challenge the Red Sox only to fall short in the final days of the season. Newly acquired Todd Frazier lit a fire in the clubhouse and along with a freshly supplied bullpen, helped lead the Yankees to within one out the World Series.

Count the ebbs and flows. There’s a weak start followed by a thirty game stretch in which the team could do no wrong, only to be followed by a two-month slump. And then, finally, the coup de gras in the final month of the season to push themselves into the playoffs and beyond.

Teams in the major leagues do not go wire to wire. A possible exception this year could be the Houston Astros in the AL West, but if you look at the number of teams who resemble the underachieving Yankees at this juncture of the season, nothing is revealed – yet.

The Cleveland Indians (6-5), have only one batter in their starting lineup hitting .200, and that’s Rajai Davis who is batting an even .200. Another favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers are 4-6, and Clayton Kershaw has yet to win a game after three starts despite a 1.50 ERA. The Chicago Cubs are a .500 team (5-5), and the St. Louis Cardinals are two games under at 5-7. Look for others, you’ll find them.

Baseball is unique as a professional sport in many ways, but the one aspect which stands out is the length of its season. For some, this only goes to count a bane against the sport. But for others like myself, 162 games played over six months to qualify for a tournament lasting another month is a thing of beauty.

Would it be better if the Yankees were sporting the record of the Red Sox at the moment and not their own?

In the National Football League (NFL, a team beginning the season at 1-6 might as well mail in the rest of the season – and they do – anticipating the next college draft while their fans are stuck with worthless tickets inviting them to sit through another rout in 10-degree temperatures.

There’s no getting around it. The Yankees, to use the Bronx vernacular, suck right now. Following a rash of injuries sidelining Greg Bird, who was being counted on this season to fit in the middle of the lineup offsetting and augmenting the presence of Judge, Stanton, and MIA Gary Sanchez. Aaron Hicks was very much in the Yankees plans too.

Greg Bird, New York Yankees
sportsspyder.com

But injuries have nothing to do with anything. All teams suffer them. Some, like the Washington Nationals loss of Daniel Murphy, hurt more than others. Ditto the Dodgers sparkplug, Justin Turner, who has yet to get an at-bat this season.

Looking up the word “average” in the online dictionary provided by Google, we get this definition: “an amount, standard, level, or rate regarded as usual or ordinary.”

Thus the question is, are the Yankees at their “standard or typical” level after being squashed definitively by the Red Sox last night? Definitively, no.

And yet, something has to give because we can’t expect the “law of averages” to hold if a team doesn’t at least reach their expected individual levels of performance. Gary Sanchez doesn’t have to win the batting title and hit 40 home runs to rebound from his dismal start (.059), but he has to get near certain marks the Yankees expect from him.

Similarly, Luis Severino doesn’t need to win the Cy Young award, but he does need to make 30-35 starts, winning 15-17 of those games. For others like Tyler Wade, hit .250 with 20 home runs, play solid defense, and you are our hero.

Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees
Photo courtesy: New York Times

The trouble is, of course, at the moment and with the exception of Didi Gregorius, virtually every member of the team is falling under what the team needs from them, and they are failing as a unit. Reliever Adam Warren, for instance, is not as he has been this season, a pitcher with a 4.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.282. Yet, those are the numbers he’s recorded to date.

I’m never afraid of using cliches, and that’s because they always ring true. Cream, it is said, always rises to the top. The Yankees have everything it takes to be cream. Would it be better if the Yankees were sporting the record of the Red Sox at the moment and not their own?

I don’t know. But I do know the reason why baseball is so intriguing as a professional sport is that we have the next five-and-a-half months to figure it out. Remember last season and many seasons before that, and you’ll enjoy this one a lot more.

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