The un-official Second Half of the Yankees Season begins tonight. Derek Jeter summed up the first 90 games by saying "The team has been good enough to be 6 games out." The only consistant part of the team has been their inconsistency. The best example of this is the final week of the first half. They win 4 straight over Boston and Tampa and then flounder away the final 4 by losing three of them to the Pirates and Jays. They could have gone into the break really hot but instead have caused Yankee fans a lot of anxiety this past week. This will tell if replacing Joe Torre with Joe Girardi was a good move. Torre never missed the playoffs now Girardi has a lot of pressure.
This might be the season that injuries have finally caught up with the team. They have sustained some substantial injuries. Derek Jeter missed a week with a quad pull, A-Rod and Posada spent between two weeks and a month on the DL, and Posada has been unable to succesfully remain the catcher. Now Matsui appears to be out for the year and Damon has been out for two weeks and will be out atleast one more. This has to be one of the main reasons the offense has struggled. You never know who will be healthy and who will not be. There have been only a handful of games where the opening day lineup has been on the field.
If you would have told Yankee fans at the begining of the year that Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain would combine for only one win as starters you would assume that they are way out of the race. The pitching staff has been actually held up alright and survived the injuries to their ace Chien-Ming Wang and two starters who were counted on Kennedy and Hughes. In addition Brian Bruney and Jonathan Alabadejo were showing signs of being dependable relievers when they too were bitten by the injury bug. Bruney could be back in a week to help out the bullpen and give Girdardi another dependable arm.
The big questions for final 70 games are: 1) Can Robinson Cano rebound to his all-star ways? Cano might be the most important player in the second half. The Yankees thought he would be a middle of an order type of hitter by now not a guy batting 230. He has shown signs he has his old beautiful swing back and the Yankees hope that is the case. Cano is not the only bat needed to get hot, Jeter is well below his averages as he is only hitting 280's and Bobby Abreu has slumped lately. They also need the 2007 A-Rod to reappear. His numbers look good but his 180 batting avg with RISP his not helping the team. They need him to carry the load the rest of the way. The Yankee bats should be able to carry a slumping Melky Cabrera and his solid defense.
2) What moves are up Cashmans Sleaves?- Barry Bonds probably not coming to the Bronx. Could Matt Holliday be on the way? Sure, and he would be a great addition, but the asking price is way too high. If the Pirates want two or three top of the line prospects, what will the Rockies want for a franchise, top 10 hitters in the game? Cashman does not want to unload all the prospects he has been saving in one move. And he has shown a willingness to hold on to players, but will he feel the pressure of saving his job? Look for Yankees to get a Randy Wolf type pitcher, and probably Adam Dunn to be the new DH.
3) Will the Yankees Make the Playoffs- The have made it every year since 1995 and you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are a team that always finishes strong, besides 2000, and the Rays and Twins have not been in this type of pennant race. They are in a better stading position than last season but not team situation. Last year they could hit and bludgeon teams to death for wins. We have not seen that this season. And they were a lot healthier. This week off probably helped heal up some problems and re-focus the team. The Yankees will need to get off to a good start to put pressure on these teams. As Mariano Rivera said, "they know we are still in this." The Yankees need to be good closers once again. Look for them to make the Wild Card again.
This is it final 70 games to get one last playoff run in the House that Ruth Built. If the Yankees don't turn it around Sept 21 on ESPN will be the last time the Stadium opens its doors and Tuesday will have been the last major event we will witness there. Look for a team led by Jeter, Posada and Rivera to show some Yankees Pride and get the team to the playoffs.