Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Use the Oven Mitts

            A run was needed and a run has been received as the Yankees have steadily transformed into one of the hottest teams in baseball. After a string of wins against tough opponents such as the Detroit Tigers, the Angels (yes - they're terrible this year, but Mike Scioscia usually owns the Yanks), the Red Sox at Fenway, combined with continued success against the roll-over Toronto Blue Jays at home; the Yanks need to be handled with oven mitts to prevent burns.

            Leading the charge has been Alfonso Soriano who chipped in with a mind-blowing 8 homeruns and over 25 RBIs since returning to the Bombers nearly three weeks ago. The trade by Brian Cashman, which received little media attention when it occurred, has to be the quickest impact trade in MLB history. In a 4-game span during his hot streak Soriano clubbed 5 homers and over 18 RBIs. Another pick up of Cashman's, Mark Reynolds, cut by the Indians, introduced himself in his first Yankee at-bat by hitting a homerun over the Green Monster.

            The second major factor in the Yankee surge has been the underestimated Alex Rodriguez who looks anything but the slow and withered reports that came out of his rehab assignments. Although the 211-game suspension finally came down upon A-Rod as was expected, also as was expected, A-Rod appealed it and took the field for the Yankees in 2013. His bat speed is much improved from the embarrassing display from last October and he's able to play third base without a hitch. After the third base merry-go-round this season, the Yankees finally have a steady player at that position who can actually hit a ball over the outfield wall. The bizarre part about all this are the stories and rumors that keep leaking out in which Rodriguez ( or his handlers) accuse the Yankee organization of falsifying his MRI and X-Ray reports with the goal in mind of keeping A-Rod out of the lineup, including back in last season's playoff run.

            Cashman admitted he's no longer able to speak with his highest paid player and one-time corporate lackey ally Randy Levine said he would like to get rid of A-Rod entirely. While that front office mess goes on, the biogenesis drama stays strong with A-Rod being accused of informing on other participants, including his teammate Francisco Cerveilli. Rodriguez denied that story, but with that craziness, battling the front office, and all the other baggage that comes with A-Rod, he's been able to concentrate at the plate and has completely taken everyone off guard by his production.

            Whatever dissenters A-Rod had on his own team might've been won over thanks to Boston starter Ryan Dempster, who purposely plunked the media star in cold blood and fired up the Yankees to a major come back win up at Fenway. Manager Joe Girardi went absolutely ballistic on the field after the umpire warned both benches after the beaning, and not before when Dempster threw his first pitch behind A-Rod's legs. The warning took away the Yankees right to retaliate with a beaning of their own. It was a moment that brought the Yankee clubhouse together and its one beaning that Boston may look back to regret.

              The last piece that has helped get the Yanks rolling has been the return of Curtis Granderson to the lineup and he's yet to have a break in his hand or wrist. After months and months of sporting a lineup that was even weak by National League standards, the Yankees have assembled a squad of batters who can drive pitch counts up and knock the ball out of the ballpark. Also, Granderson's return allows Girardi to give Gardner and Ichiro some much needed rest and lengthens the lineup whereas players like Nunez and Overbay can hit further down in the order with no pressure to put up major numbers. Derek Jeter made a visit to the DL after his second return this season and his rehabbing for his third 2013 return, which should be sometime next week. Once Jeter is back the team will make a long-shot run at the AL East with the Wild Card being more realistic.

67-59 (4th Place AL East - 6.5 games behind 1st Place Boston Red Sox and 4 back of Wild Card leader Tampa Bay Rays). 

- Alfonso Soriano is in the best offensive stretch of his career at age 37 - hopefully he's not been hanging out with A-Rod after school.
- Alex Rodriguez shows no signs of being distracted by his suspension appeal or the war of words with the Yankee front office. His hip surgery must have went well because he's been hitting the ball with authority and showing enough range at third.
- Ivan Nova is the Yankees most trustworthy starter these days behind Kuroda.

Foul Tips:
- Mariano Rivera blew three consecutive save opportunities for the first time in his career, but then he followed that up with 3 saves and a Win shortly thereafter.
- CC Sabathia has been slightly better in his last few starts, but still far from the dominant starter he once was not too long ago.
- Andy Pettitte also has been slightly better in his past couple of starts, but he's been struggling to get out of the 6th innings most times.
- Derek Jeter has been on the DL three times in the past two months with various leg and calf issues. If this latest rehab stint doesn't hold his legs up, they may have to consider shutting him down for the season.

- Joba Chamberlain has completely fallen out of favor with Girardi. The once jeweled prize of the Yankee farm system has been buried deep in the bullpen for having an atrocious season.
- Phil Hughes is stuck on 4 wins for the season, and although the offense has let him down alot this season, his starts have mainly turned into batting practice for the opposing team.
- Important utility man Jayson Nix suffered a broken bone in his left hand from an errand pitch and is likely done for the season. Nix was able to play all infield positions without Girardi having to hold his breath. Cashman might need another clever pickup replacement because in no way are they trusting Eduardo Nunez's defense.
- Both David Phelps and Michael Pineda appear to be shutdown for the season due to various nagging injuries. There was hope earlier in the year that Pineda could come up as a bullpen man in 2013 and just throw blazing fastballs.
- The biogenesis daily media reports as well as the infighting with A-Rod and the front office is overshadowing the on-the-field activity for the team. It's gotten very ugly and A-Rod warned alot more stories will likely come out over the next few months.

            The Yankees are set up to make a run at a postseason birth if they can keep everyone in the lineup healthy for once in 2013. Boston can usually be relied upon for a good September collapse, but the Yanks would still need to keep up this current intensity in order to compete with the many other AL teams in the hunt.

             Maybe the Yankees can be the small-town feel good story this time......