Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once uttered the phrase "you are what your record says you are" and that is the perfect way to describe the New York Yankees these days.
The Yankees look like a mediocre baseball team with the only consistent thing about them being their inconsistency, and their record says they're 34-35. They have flashes of brilliance over mostly bad teams and then go into ruts against better ones. That all adds up to a .500 team. We have never seen a .500 or below .500 Yankees team in over 20 years, so we're not really familiar with how one looks, but now we know.
The big subject looming over the Yankees is will upper management hold out hope on an unlikely turn around or will they face the reality of the situation and try to add pieces for the future by trading off their valuable trade chips? Hal Steinbrenner talked to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews at the Bids for Kids fundraising dinner and shed some light on the situation.
"We'll have to see at the end of July, the way we always do," Steinbrenner told Matthews. "We'll take a look at everything. We'll see what injuries, if any, we've had from here to then and where the deficiencies are. We'll go from there. But if we stay healthy, I've always believed we have a shot. I believe we're going to be right smack in the middle of it."
The issue with this approach is the longer you wait the less value impending free agents like Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran have to contenders. FanGraphs projects the Yankees to finish 80-81 with a 3.2 percent chance of winning the division and 10.4 percent chance of claiming a wild card spot.
Four games out of the second wild card spot certainly doesn't seem impossible to overcome, but the Yankees are also behind five teams. The second wild card was designed exactly to keep teams like the Yankees thinking they have a chance. It' a trap set by MLB to keep as many teams and fan bases engaged for as long as possible.
It will be interesting to see what happens if the Yankees are in a similar spot at the end of July. My belief is that I will have to see the Yankees tear it down before I believe it. They can easily sell the fact that they're in it at four games back and they want more than anything to not tear things up. They likely don't want to because fans will not show up at Yankee Stadium to watch a rebuilding team, even though most fans say they want it to happen. The Yankees lead the AL with an average home attendance of 38,099, before you counter with the narrative that nobody shows up to Yankee Stadium anyways.
Riding the middle is usually never the right approach, and as we have seen with the Red Sox a big market team can retool rather quickly, but the Red Sox were willing to tear it down and the Yankees haven't yet. Actions speak louder than words, and we have to see Steinbrenner do what is best for the baseball team and not the bottom line before buying that he will.