When the Yankees woke up on the morning of August 29, 1995, the Yankees were out of it. They had lost nine of their prior ten games, the most recent loss being a makeup game against the Kansas City Royals. They were five games under .500, 16 games behind the first place Red Sox, and tied with two other teams for 5th place in the Wild card race. That puts you in the group of teams that no one mentions when talking about the playoffs. Just eight weeks earlier, they lost their ace – Jimmy Key – for the season due to a torn rotator cuff. They had just acquired David Cone, who had a great pedigree but was the owner of an inauspicious 9-6 record at the time. Does all this sound familiar??
What happened from that point on is almost miraculous. In the last 31 games of the season, the Yankees went 25-6. In fact, the Yankees did not clinch a playoff spot until the final game of the season. For the purposes of this discussion, I will call the first 131 games of the season as the “first half” and the last 31 games as the “second half”. Really, they were two different teams before and after the morning of August 29.
I mentioned David Cone. After his 9-6 start of the season, he went 9-2 and fulfilled the role of ace of the staff. Andy Pettitte, who did not really gain stardom until the following season, had a 6-8 record and an ERA of 4.73 for the “first half”. The “second half”, he was a shining 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA. In fact, the entire pitching staff found a new gear in the “second half”. The Yankees, who were 9th in the American League in runs allowed in the “first half” went to second in the league for the remainder of the season. Is this happening now? Can you say Brandon McCarthy? If Michael Pineda can keep up his current pace, add his name to the list. Masahiro Tanaka will be back in a couple of weeks. There is hope!
The hitting was another major factor. The team went from 8th in the league in runs scored to 3rd between “halves”. Everyone, including Wade Boggs, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, and others carried the burden of supporting their pitchers with runs. Here is where the team really needs to get on their game. It is not like there is not the talent or potential. When the names on the lineup card read Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter, you cannot help but think that these guys are capable. BYB has written much about the hitting and the coaching, and we are not looking to place blame on any single party. Nevertheless, they need to get it together. When the opposition has a one-run lead, the story needs to change from us worrying that scoring a run is insurmountable to them worrying that a one-run lead is not enough.
Look, I am not making guarantees. This team could finish the season in first place, or at .500 wondering what the heck happened. My take on the team is that they are playing with a lot of momentum right now, and you have to credit Joe Girardi for his leadership in piecing together a team with more stars on the DL than on the field. Nevertheless, we are going into September with some uphill battles, and it is going to take an effort that goes beyond what happened in the first half of 2014. Can they do it? Yes they can!
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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