Monday, July 28, 2008

Look Who's Still Here

Fresh off a series victory in Fenway Park, the Yankees head into the final two months of the season thick in the middle of the AL East race. The Bombers currently stand 3 games behind the soon-to-be-fading Rays and the will-inevitably-be-there-until-the-end Red Sox. This should come as no surprise, as the Yankees, despite their many mishaps over the years (signing Giambi to an A-list contract, Carl Pavano, not trading Hughes/Kennedy for Santana), still have a rotund $209 million payroll that allows them to field a veritable star-studded team of current and former elite players. By comparison, the Red Sox have the next highest payroll at approximately $150 million. Again, it's not a surprise that these two powers are in contention in late July, and have been dating back to the days when a Bill Clinton was still at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, in the years following the Yankees last World Series appearance in 2003, they have become somewhat of slow starters. This could be due to many factors (aging players taking longer to perform optimally is just a suggestion), but the media has wasted no time hurling themselves off the Yankees bandwagon faster than your drunk uncle Charlie in an attempt to become the first to claim the Yankees dynasty/era as over. Hell, quality baseball reporter Buster Olney even made a few bucks off this concept. For further proof, you may search the archives of the New York Post, New York Daily News, or USA Today from April-June of 2004-2008. Or if you are a masochist, you can attempt to view any old episodes of Around The Horn/PTI from this time frame.

But the numbers/reality reveals that the Yankees have proven adept at digging themselves out of whatever hole they find themselves in around mid-May and are able to pull themselves out to the point where a position in the playoffs (and until last year, a division title) seem like an inevitability.

Yanks are Done, Too Old, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE PAUL O'NEILL!?! etc." Moments

April 25 8-11, 4.5 Games Back

May 6 11-9, 9GB
June 7 28-30, 7GB

April 8 1-4, 3GB

**Note: This was arguably and inexplicably the low point of the media hysteria, as thusly summed up in this hyperbolic opening paragraph in a Jon Heyman Newsday article:

"Opening Night in Oakland is but a memory. Things are deteriorating fast for the Yankees out west. And if George Steinbrenner can get Yankees/New York Post spinmeister Howard Rubenstein away from that Page 6 scandal, it won't be long before Steinbrenner issues his first statement."

Or this from Ed Price, Newark Star-Ledger:

"The Yankees offense has not looked grand since the season opener, managing just six hits last night at Angel Stadium in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that dropped them alone into last place in the American League East."

Again, this was a mere five days into the season.

April 27: 8-13, 6.5GB
May 29: 21-29, 14.5GB
June 27: 36-39, 11GB

April 19: 9-10, 3GB
May 20: 20-25, 7.5GB
June 11: 33-33, 7GB

Enough already. As someone who watched the Braves reel off 14 consecutive division titles, the latter half coming amid predictions of their demise, I find it foolish to count out a heavyweight contender until you literally have 'em on the ropes, going down for the count. That was not the case for those Braves teams, and it is not the case for these Yankees teams. While I respect and acknowledge that just being the New York Yankees will draw unparalleled media coverage, it's safe to say that predicting doom and gloom for the Yankees in June will make one look like a foolish baboon. Boom.

Yankees Final Regular Season Records, Standings

2004: 101-61 (1st place, AL East)
2005: 95-67 (Tie-1st)
2006: 97-65 (1st)
2007: 94-68 (2 GB, AL East; won Wild Card)
2008 (current): 58-46 (3 GB)

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