Go for it!
For the past two decades, that statement would not be a shock, but 2016 has been a different year for the Bronx Bombers.
Their mediocre play – The Yankees have hung around .500 all season, and appropriately are right there at the break, at 44-44 – has prompted debate on whether they should be “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline July 31.
This weekend in Cleveland, in which the Yankees took three of four from the Indians, gave the emphatic answer to that question: they should be buyers.
“As a team, I feel in the first half, we didn’t play consistent baseball,” Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said. “We were able to finish strong. It means a lot for us.”
“It’s important to go into the break .500,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We have to make up ground and that has to start Friday.”
The Yankees grinded out three victories the way they did in the late ’90s – they weren’t pretty, but they showed the quality of a playoff team.
The Yankees’ strengths came alive this weekend, mainly their top trio out of the bullpen.
Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman might be the best collection of relievers to close a game in baseball history.
It would be a real shame to not see them finish the season together, to find out what could be accomplished.
If the Yankees make the playoffs, who would want to face that bullpen night after night?
They all showed this weekend in Cleveland that they can be pushed to the limits and succeed.
On Thursday night, Betances went 1 2/3 innings and Miller and Chapman an inning apiece in a 5-4 Yankee win.
In what could be a turning-point of their season, an 11-inning, 7-6 win on Saturday, they combined for 5 1/3 innings, and allowed just a run on four hits, with eight strikeouts, combined.
The biggest takeaway from the weekend may have been that Girardi has found his fourth option out of the bullpen, Nathan Eovaldi.
Eovaldi was pulled from the rotation, as he went 0-3 with an 8.65 ERA in five starts in June.
On Sunday, he made a statement, as he came in for Masahiro Tanaka in the fifth inning, and held Cleveland scoreless on one hit and three walks, with three strikeouts, for 4 1/3 innings to earn the win.
“It’s been a while,” Eovaldi said of getting his first win since May 29. “I am glad to help Tanaka out and help the team win again. It feels good to be able to win the game.”
The Yankees offense, which has been moribund for most of the season, came alive this week.
On Tuesday, they pounded out 20 hits in a 9-0 win against the White Sox, and then put up 25 runs in the four games in Cleveland, including 11 in the series finale on Sunday.
Beltran carried the Yankees through the first half, as he hit .299 with 19 home runs and 56 RBI, among the best in his career at the All-Star break.
Beltran missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury suffered on June 28, but recovered nicely, as he hit .314 (11-for-35, 3 doubles, 3 RBI) on the 10-game road trip, in which the Yankees went 5-5.
Some of the other key contributors in the Cleveland series were Brian McCann, who got the game-winning RBI double on Saturday night, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who had a three-run homer on Sunday.
If the Yankees are to make a run, they need Brett Gardner (.257, 5 HR, 22 RBI) and Ellsbury (.279, 4 HR, 29 RBI) to step it up at the top of the order, and their power hitters, McCann (.248, 14 HR, 38 RBI), Alex Rodriguez (.220, 8 HR, 28 RBI), and Mark Teixeira (.193, 7 HR, 20 RBI), to get it going.
They can’t expect Beltran to carry the team in the second half – It has to come from the whole lineup, and possibly add another bat at the right price.
Even though the Yankees are a .500 team, their position in the playoff picture is not bad.
They are just 7 1/2 behind Baltimore (51-36) for first place in the American League East, and 5 1/2 behind Boston (49-38) and Toronto (51-40), who hold the two Wild Cards at the moment, with a bunch of teams in between.
The Yankees have plenty of games left – 13 with Boston, and 10 apiece against Baltimore and Toronto – in order to make up ground. Most times, playoff spots are determined by how teams play in their own division.
It also has to be stressed that the Yankees could certainly catch these teams, that they all are flawed in some way.
Baltimore has overachieved this season, and it is likely they could hit some turbulence as there is doubt their pitching can hold up down the stretch.
Boston has been up-and-down since June 1, their starting rotation is suspect, and they will be without their closer, Craig Kimbrel, for three to six weeks after he had surgery on his left knee.
Toronto has come on of late, but they are unlikely to duplicate the hot streak they went on last year in the final two months after acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. Like the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes, those are once-in-a-lifetime deals. Their bullpen is a big question mark.
Coming out of the All-Star break is the perfect time for a fresh start and to make some noise in the playoff chase. The Yankees host the Red Sox for a three-game series starting Friday night, followed by the Orioles for four, and then a big three-game interleague series with the San Francisco Giants.
The message from the Steinbrenners all season is that they have shown belief in their players, that general manager Brian Cashman has put together a playoff team.
In Cleveland, the hometown of George M. Steinbrenner III, they rewarded that faith and showed what could be possible.