The Yankees Should Be Playing With House Money

I was originally going to post part 1 of my fall top-30 prospects today. Unfortunately, my busy schedule and the need to redo a bunch of graphics put a hold on that. So I’d like to share a thought that I’ve been having lately.

The Yankees are teetering on the edge of collapse. It wasn’t that long ago that they were 10 games up on the division, and set to cruise to the playoffs. The Red Sox and Rays were collapsing, and no one really gave Baltimore credit. Then, the wheels came off. Alex Rodriguez got injured. The bullpen went from bulletproof to vulnerable. The bench stopped overperforming. The Yankees have been below .500 since the All Star break. You know all of this.

We should not be surprised. The Yankees have had the worst luck that a team could possibly have this season. Major injuries to our #3 starter, hall of fame relief pitcher, #4 starter, 3rd baseman and left fielder have combined with minor injuries to our 1st baseman, #1 starter, third best relief pitcher, LOOGY, and much of our high-end minor league depth.

After all of those injuries, it would take a miracle for any baseball team to be in first place. And yet, that’s right where the Yankees are. They have a very good chance of making the playoffs. They aren’t doing what the Red Sox have done in the face of all of their injuries and giving up.

It doesn’t seem that way, because they are the Yankees. We expect them to be the unbeatable best every single year. But they aren’t, can’t, be invincible. Bad luck and old age are a pretty nasty combination. The Yankees were artificially bolstered by otherwordly performances from Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, but those faded as quickly as you would expect them too. Much of the Yankee roster is back to being a loose collection of above-average replacement players, because that’s exactly what a team like the Yankees can put out when their top players are on the shelf.

That’s how we should approach September. A rag-tag group of wounded Yankees, plus the occasional overstretched Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano, are trying to cap off an improbable end to an improbable season. Joe Girardi and his staff deserve a lot of credit – Manager of the Year type credit – for getting them this far.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.