Sometimes you just have to wonder about the Yankees. The team made a serious investment in starting pitching, the bullpen, and in the outfield. Yet here we are, struggling to stay above .500, when we should be dominating the division. How is this possible?
The scary thing about it is that most of the games the Yankees have played (31 out of 48) have been against teams with a losing record. There is very little difference in the Yankees win/ loss percentage against winning teams vs. losing teams. As of this writing, against teams with a .550 winning percentage or better, the Yankees are 7-5. Against everyone else, the team is 18-18.
Here is the thing. Having a record two games better than even against winning teams is not an indicator of a high-caliber championship team. Still, if they have that kind of record against winning teams, it shows that they are about on par with them. If that is the case, then why are they not blowing away poor teams? In fact, it should be a concern to the team that the only series in which they have swept this season was shortened series (due to a rainout) against the Cubs. They are splitting series against teams that they should be sweeping.
Part of it is definitely the injury bug that is plaguing this year's Yankees, just like last year’s team. It is hard to get on a winning track when the backups are filling starting roles every day, and Bleeding Yankee Blue has been vocal about that. That is not to mention the fact that the majority of the starting rotation is either injured or underperforming. Again, we have written about it numerous times before, and a trade to bring in some healthy, durable talent certainly would help.
The bigger part of the problem seems to be the general demeanor of the team. There is no sense of urgency to this team. There is no sense of alarm that a third of the season is over and we are still in third place, hovering at about .500. This is where I have to look at the leadership.
I would never want to criticize a legend like Derek Jeter, but he is the captain of the team and he has to bear some of the responsibility. I have heard nothing from any news feeds to indicate that the captain has called a closed door meeting with the team. I have not heard anything of Joe Girardi yelling at the team to get them to wake up.
In the movie Miracle, one of my favorite scenes was when Team USA phoned it in for a tie against a mediocre opponent, and was ready to hit the night out on the town. Coach Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, told the team to get back out on the ice, and called them out. “You think you can come in here and play the Norwegian National Team, and tie them, and then go to the Olympics and win?!? You’ve got another thing coming”. He rode them until they puked on the ice. Maybe it is time Girardi did something similar.
Joe Torre did not have a problem getting the 1998 Yankees to wake up. After obliterating the opposition for the majority of the season, they went on a 12-16 stretch into September, just before getting ready for the playoffs. After yet another frustrating loss, he did not wait for the next day. Before leaving for the night, he called a team meeting and gave them a piece of his mind (read here).
One thing is for sure - this team is not where it should be or where it needs to be. Besides, it is not as if the team lacks talent, even with all the injuries. Nevertheless, if they are going to compete for a World Series title, they have to get on track and do so quickly. Because if they think they can split series with the Cubs and White Sox, and then go to the postseason and win, they too have another thing coming.