At best only two of the three teams, presuming the Wild Card comes out of the AL East, will be playing in October; and the Yankees are looking to be one of them.
The Bombers got to the All-Star Break with a 53-35 record and in second place, a game behind the Red Sox and five in front of the Rays.
What needs to happen for the Yankees in order to not be the third man out at the end of September?
Well, making a list of possibilities, scenarios or musts for any team could go on forever and bearing in mind the length of the MLB season makes it nearly illogical to do anyway.
Still, there are various concerns to keep your eye on about New York heading into the second-half and here are seven that came to mind:
- The Yankees continue to battle injuries, with the latest being the biggest when slugger Alex Rodriguez’s injured body could take no more. Earlier this week, A-rod underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. In the past A-rod’s absence has miffed the rest of the Yankee line-up, as he hits cleanup and is a right-handed bat that the Yankees now are in need of . In the past the team was able to recover from an A-rod DL stint but time was on their side. Unfortunately, that luxury is no longer as there is no time to waste or else the Yankees could dig too big a hole before he returns. This is the perfect time for the début of top prospect Jesus Montero to come help out. Montero hits right, is all power and now GM Brain Cashman really has no excuse not too.
- Skipper Joe Girardi needs to fall out of love with relief pitcher Sergio Mitre. Mitre is a waste of a roster spot that could be used by someone who can actually be effective. Since Girardi and Mitre’s bromance started again, he has only used Mitre when the Yankees have a significant lead in a game. Mitre might not have blown either game but he certainly allowed runs to score, which is just adding avoidable stress for the players. It is inevitable that Mitre will lose leads in the future as he has done over and over in the past. Mitre needs to go to the minors now. Hey at least he would still technically be a Yankee so then everybody (really just Girardi) wins. According to many Yankee fans this one is now on Girardi, like over at Pinstripe Alley who says there are better options in Scranton. I completely agree.
- This is something I have avoided tackling, but now that Derek Jeter is over the 3000 hit hump it is time to start critiquing the Captain. If Jeter continues to slack in the leadoff spot, he has to be moved down the line-up. At least until A-rod returns, the line-up has to be set in an order that is most productive and reality is when Jeter was on the DL, the Yankees didn’t miss his bat at all. Well, you have to be worried with all the mental exhaustion that Jeter is suffering from lately as well. Hopefully skipping the All-Star Game to prepare for the second-half down in Miami will pay off and then this can be voided
- Another Yankee on probation is pitcher Phil Hughes. Hughes is just off a three-month DL stint, as he suffered from a supposed ‘dead arm’ but no one really knows. Regardless of the diagnosis, Hughes was totally inefficient. Hughes has made one start in the Bronx and though improved, I don’t think it is enough for him to stay in the rotation but it certainly could work in the bullpen. Hughes pitched in long relief in 2009 and he changed the team’s season around post-All Star Break. Why Hughes got an automatic spot, as a starter in the first place makes no sense to me. Rookie Ivan Nova was finally coming into his own, and displayed more talent than Hughes ever has and the 18 wins last season were very circumstantial. The NY Post reports that Hughes will be debuting a new pitch as early as this weekend in Toronto. I guess more accurately described as a reformed curveball, as Hughes has changed the way he grips the ball to add more slice. He has also been working closely with pitching coach Larry Rothschild to change his over mechanics and pitching delivery. Let’s see if it works, but whither way Hughes can help out somewhere that is for sure.
- GM Brian Cashman is looking to make some moves, as the Yankees would love to add another LHP in the bullpen. He has some time till the July 31st trade deadline with Boone Logan pitching effective again, but still acquiring another lefty specialist could be the difference maker in getting to the playoffs.
- Another ‘to do’ atop Cashman’s list has to be looking for a reliable veteran to come off the bench and help out especially now sans A-rod. It doesn’t seem like Eric Chavez will be back anytime soon or at all. Chavez would be the perfect filler for A-rod, but Kansas City Royals and ex-Yankee Wilson Betemit would be a nice option. Rookie Eduardo Nunez did an excellent job filling in for Jeter at the plate, but in the field not so much. As Nunez, along with rookie committed 11 errors Ramiro Pena joint while Jeter was rehabbing. Pena is another Girardi ineffective favorite, as he is supposedly on the bench for defense cause he can’t hit. Now that Pena is not defending well, time to replace him with a guy like Betemit is now.
- The Yankees might want to break the steadfast rule of NOT discussing contracts mid-season based on the way ace CC Sabathia is pitching. Look, I realize that Jeter had to wait but he bends the rules so why can’t the Yankee brass just get the deal done. Look, the fans don’t want even the possibility of another off-season negotiation mess. CC deserves to get paid more and it seems with every start the price goes up. River Avenue Blues makes the point that the Bombers won’t be completely handcuffed because only a limited number of teams can afford his price tag. I say just save everyone the headache because fact is without CC the Yankees will not survive, as he is the one guy who is consistently great.
Without question the Yankees have other issues that need a Band-Aid, but the seven above are in my opinion some of the most significant.
What do you think the Yankees largest obstacle is going into the second-half of the 2011 season?
- New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez Injury Revealed (ladylovespinstripes.com)
- Lady Loves Pinstripes: 2011 MLB First-Half Season’s Winners And Losers (ladylovespinstripes.com)
- New York Yankees Hey Captain You Are Welcome (ladylovespinstripes.com)
- New York Yankees Week From Hell Ends With the Los Angeles Angels (ladylovespinstripes.com)
- New York Yankees: Mitre, Hughes and Why Joe Girardi Is Not Doing His Job (ladylovespinstripes.com)
- New York Yankees: No A-rod, No Problem? (ladylovespinstripes.com)