As Cashman said it earlier this year, you can’t have All Stars backing up your All Stars. Perhaps we weren’t quite as comfortable with this season’s offense in February and March, but it was hard to argue that a lineup featuring Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira would be anything other than productive. Of course, Granderson and Teixeira have combined for 94 below average plate appearances this season, and no one has stepped up to replace their production.
As the stage has been set for the second half of this season, we already know that Teixeira is done, and Kevin Youkilis can’t be expected to return. Granderson is swinging a bat, but his return seems to have many questions surrounding it. Then there’s Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, who should both be back in the lineup by at least Monday, but for how long?
Jeter’s “early” comeback seemed like some sort of great comeback story out of a Hollywood script. The 39 year old captain returns, skips the majority of his rehab so that he can reinforce his team. He legs out an infield single, goes first-to-third, and scores on a sac fly with an untested ankle. But just as this luckless team was afflicted by a dozen other comical setbacks, Jeter was pulled from his very own debut with a quad strain.
What Cashman now knows is that he can’t count on anyone. He’s already made headlines by inquiring on third baseman Chase Headley and short stop Asdrubal Cabrera, and it doesn’t look like he’s willing to take the same patient stance of waiting for injury returns in the second half. It’s become clear that if the team wants to field a winning lineup, they’ll have to view any returns by their injured players as graces rather than assumptions.
There are 13 days left before the July trade deadline. Between now and July 31st, Cashman has to essentially retool an infield, finding a platoon partner for Lyle Overbay, and adequate counterparts to Jeter and Rodriguez. Cashman no longer has to look for All Star-level backups, he has to look for All Star-level replacements.
It’s easier said than done, but with just 5 games separating the Yankees from first place, reinforcements on their way, and plenty of games left against the AL East, the team is still a contender and the organization is still a buyer. In two weeks, we could be looking at a very different team, a very different lineup, and a very different record. Whether they’ve fallen out of contention or made a miraculous run, no injury or slump will dictate what this team does, it’s Cashman who is now responsible for the lineup. Unfortunately, patience is no longer an option and injuries are no longer an excuse.