Yes, the Yankees are in a rough patch. They hear footsteps and their starting pitching has gone South in a big way. But isn’t that what the script says…
Suddenly, the Yankees are looking vulnerable. Known weaknesses are being exposed. A double-digit lead in the A.L. East is now down to single digits. The wear and tear of a major league season are showing its ugly head as nagging injuries surface, putting Brett Gardner, DJ LeMahieu, and Gary Sanchez on the shelf. Nothing serious, just enough to cause concern.
And above all else, the Red Sox are coming.
The Red Sox, an afterthought of the Yankees until now, have been playing .600 baseball (50-34) since they began the season at 9-13. Much like the Yankees, they are doing it with a cloud of smoke and mirrors pitching staff. David Price and Chris Sale have been magnificently inconsistent. Rick Porcello is back to being Rick Porcello. And Craig Kimbrel is pitching in Chicago.
But much like the Yankees as well, they can hit. Top to bottom, hits and runs come from everywhere on any given day. Mookie Betts is still one of the five best players on the planet and Xander Bogaerts is one of the best shortstops in the game today. The Red Sox are good – very good.
But despite their windfall series against the Yankees this weekend at Fenway, are they good enough to catch the Yankees? Could this season be a reversal of fortune of the 1978 season? A season when the Red Sox nip the Yankees at the last moment to win the Division, instead of the other way around as it was for Bucky Dent and the Yankees?
Las Vegas doesn’t seem to think so. As of July 23, Betsfirm.com puts the Red Sox chances of winning the World Series at only 2.95%, while the Yankees are second only to the Dodgers at 17.02%.
Yankees: The Pit And The Pendulum
Noticeably, after a weeklong series of faltered starts by the entire rotation, the pressure on Brian Cashman has increased tenfold to pull a rabbit or two from his tophat. The Yankees fan base, as well as the Yankees themselves, stand by waiting – and waiting – for the savior(s) to arrive.
Brian Cashman is a measured man, though. He will not succumb to pressure unless he sees the Yankees on the winning side, or at least in a break-even stance, to get what he wants and the team needs. He’ll stand pat if he has to…
Which reverts back to the original theme here. The Yankees are a better team than the Red Sox this year. Just as the reverse was true last season. Individual and team slumps are inevitable in baseball. There are just too many games to play in a season. The Yanks are down, the Sox are up. Soon, baseball, as it always does, will separate the men from the boys and that trend will reverse itself.
The question, however, is this. Which team will be in full sync and high gear during the final week of the 2019 season? In late July, the Yankees’ recent turn through the rotation means nothing. That all changes if it happens again that last week in September just before the playoffs.
The deadline looms, but not the end of the season. The proverbial “there’s still a long way to go” axiom is still true in baseball. Aaron Boone and Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, have time to force the return of normalcy to the Yankees pitching staff.
Pitching Can Be A Contagious Disease
But there’s the kicker. What is “normalcy” when it comes to this pitching staff? And what is reasonable when we apply expectations to the likes of James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia? The answer, I’m afraid, is not much. If anything, this Yankee’s staff has overperformed. As a result, the team is where they are today.
Doomsayers will proclaim the bottom is (finally) falling out. But what’s really happening is that things are leveling out, as they always do in baseball. The Yankees staff is not as good as they were, and they are not as poor as they’ve been over the past week.
They just picked a bad time to stink up the joint as a pitching staff. They’ll be fine.