Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Responding

A period like the Yankees experienced from Friday of last week to Tuesday of this week was very likely to happen. The division is too good, and the schedule is therefore too tough, to just cruise to a division title. Cruising the Yankees are not, 12-11 in their last 23 games, mostly due to the 1-4 they were in their last five prior to Wednesday's win. 1-4 as a result of left hooks from Tampa Bay and Toronto. Again, that is going to happen. The Yankees did not play good baseball and the Rays and Jays did. It happened, and all the Yankees can do now is respond, and make sure this period ends right here.

The Yankees took a good first step in doing that today, getting starting pitching, relief pitching, and hitting to win the game cleanly. In a lot of ways I felt like this was the first test of the season for the Yankees. You could say the series at home against Tampa Bay coming out of the break, which they won 2-1. You could have said the series in Tampa last weekend, which they lost 1-2. But those were only really tests because they were playing another really good team. Wednesday against the Blue Jays was a test because of the circumstances. They were getting backed into a corner for the first time all season, with Tampa surging and the Jays just knocking them around. I heard someone say the other day something along the lines of that anytime the 2009 Yankees got backed into a corner, they came out swinging and restored order. Would the 2010 Yankees do the same thing? Test #1 passed. You don't get swept at home in August of a Pennant race if you want to be a serious baseball team. No surprise that Derek Jeter, having a subpar season, had his first 4-hit game of the year when the Yankees needed a win for the first time in a long time. That's what championship players, and championship teams, do.

The Yankees will another chance to show us whether or not they might be a championship caliber team this weekend, as Test #2 arrives in the form of the Boston Red Sox for a four game set this weekend. I suggested circling your calendars for this one a few weeks ago, and here we are. The Yankees have largely owned the Red Sox in August series between the two teams since 2006. For the Yankees, it's a chance to build on Wednesday's win, get out of this recent malaise, show that they can win tough baseball games, try to get back out in front of Tampa Bay, and try to put Boston in the rear view mirror at the same time. For Boston, this is an incredible opportunity to get back in the thick of these races, both for the division and the Wild Card.

For the Yankees, it's a chance to respond to the first punch they've taken in a while. I said before today's game that we would find out something about this team's stomach over the next five games. Today was a good start. We'll see what they do this weekend. We'll see how tough they are going to be. Tough is what this division and wild card races to the playoffs requires.

Quick thoughts on the Yankees trade deadline moves. Solid all around. The general sentiment has been that the Yankees didn't do anything of major impact, and that's because they didn't have to. They needed to tweak here and there, and that's what they did. I would agree with that assessment. They didn't give up anything major in terms of prospects, although that could change since there is a lot in Mark Melancon's record that says he could be very solid and Jimmy Paredes is young and has upside. But you give up a reliever that could be very solid and a young infielder with upside for Lance Berkman every time, especially when you are in a pennant race, trying to defend a World Championship, and have a legitimate need at DH. Berkman is a great fit with his high on-base ability, and I'd say he's a definite candidate to get the "Whoa, I'm on a winning team again" look that we all know so well and start hitting. Regular time at DH might serve him well due to his recent injuries as well. They got Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood for players to be named later, so there is even less downside there than there is with Berkman. Of the three, clearly Berkman has the best chance to make an impact. But Kearns provides nice depth, and Wood is a move that has upside with no downside, so it's worth the chance. Good job by the Yankees, these players could contribute and they didn't give up a ton to get them. However, the key for the Yankees is still to get Pettitte back, stay healthy, and have their core players produce.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

Every team goes through a period during the season where they play disappointing or uninspired baseball. The reasons for that are many, but in the case of the best teams it's often just the grind of the season taking it's toll or catching a team on a hot streak. Those things happen. And that's where the Yankees are right now. If the major concern for the Yankees is a six game stretch where they go 2-4 and still come out tied for the division lead, then things in New York are pretty good.

Also, if you haven't heard already Damien Strahorn is now the head coach at Plymouth State. Make of that information what you will.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

"Berkman is a great fit with his high on-base ability, and I'd say he's a definite candidate to get the "Whoa, I'm on a winning team again" look that we all know so well and start hitting."

PF: Great point. The Gunn gets the same look on his face when Wazz and I come up to visit him in Portland ME.

Also, Rolando looks like he could be the real deal. Too bad he's not in Giant blue this year.

the gm said...

PF,

I can't agree more about your analysis of the Yankees' trade deadline moves. Berkman doesn't represent a missing piece at a trade deadline, as the Yankees are probably already the best team in the league. However, he is a good supplemental guy, he is an upgrade for sure. Makes the team better.

I am not, however, convinced about Kerry Wood. Sort of a rough season so far. But as you said about Berkman, he could be someone to amp it up with a new situation. Probably a better pitcher than Chan Ho Park. Probably a better move than getting Chad Qualls.