Right out of the gate after the All-Star break the New York Yankees have a challenge. In the Bronx they begin a second half at 44-44, and 7/1-2 games away from first place Baltimore in the Al East. Boston, Baltimore and the SF Giants, with the best record at the half, come to Yankee Stadium for the next 10-games that begin Friday night.
Yes, this is a challenge for the Yankees. And the wild card possibilities are a challenge with six teams ahead of them and they could be much better. So, this is a homestand to begin the second half and could tell where this Yankees team is headed by the end of this month.
And the end of the month means trading deadline. If the Yankees are contending they won’t sell, but will they buy? That is the prevailing storyline the next few weeks in the Bronx because the Yankees can get better next year, depending on what they get in return.
If Carlos Beltran goes along with a trade, and a team wants to take a risk on a 39-year old, who has first half MVP numbers and a candidate for Comeback Player of the year in the American League, they could improve.
If they are not contending, free agent to be Aroldis Chapman with his 100-mile fastball out of the pen, is a good chip to trade to also get value in return. And with the Yankees having three viable closers in Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, you know teams are talking. Miller could go, but Chapman is more logical in a free agent walk off year.
And basically, with the Yankees inability to go on a significant winning streak, and because this is a roster of veterans with potential that failed in the first half, inconsistency has been a pattern.
Don’t expect Mark Teixeira, who showed some of the power with a few home runs prior to the break, that gave the Yankees some momentum as they took three of four from the first place Cleveland Indians to be a viable threat at the plate. Overall, it was a failure for “Tex” as it was with Alex Rodriguez who was regulated to the bench and did not play nine of the last ten games.
The “A-Bomb” home run is gone. Alex Rodriguez on the bench is like having unwanted company over for dinner. He looks alienated and the $ 30 million the Yankees owe him for another year should just be taken as a loss. Aging and overhill ballplayers will not offer much and help deliver a championship, and that is the Yankees stigma as they begin the second half.
The challenge also flows to the pitching staff, and again the word inconsistency on the mound will not get the Yankees to the postseason. They don’t want the second wild card again and the first one may not be within reach. With a roster that has once again failed, a division title or making a run for one is not going to happen.
Masahiro Tanaka may be the most consistent on the mound. But that tendency to throw the home run ball does not enable the back end three of Betances, Miller and Chapman to shut it down. CC Sabathia is an aging pitcher, again inconsistent as is Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova.
And when the best starter of last year, Nathan Eovaldi is regulated to the bullpen, and the rookie sensation of late last year Luis Severino is sent down to Triple-A to work things out, the starting rotation is suspect and full of question Marks.
Pitching and defense win ballgames. The Yankees don’t have that. And that goes for an offense that had trouble scoring runs most of the first 88-games, though Chase Headley picked it up in the month of June and before the break. And Didi Gregorius, prior to the break was one of the hottest hitters in baseball, and that Derek Jeter replacement talk is no more.
Starlin Castro? The Yankees are younger there, but leaving runners in scoring position has to be less in the second half. Aaron Hicks, even as a pickup during the offseason was a tremendous failure in the first half.
Brian McCann? The catcher has to start everyday and at Yankee Stadium he has hit the bulk of his 14 home runs. But manager Joe Girardi is always looking to put the proper nucleus together because the Yankees are very inconsistent up and down the lineup, even more as the table setters at the top of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner continued that stigma of not getting on base.
Until the Yankees get over that hump, and that means five games over .500, they will not be those contenders down the stretch. GM Brian Cashman has offers for Beltran, and that move should be made soon to get that value in return.
So this next two weeks could be a determining factor. Do the Yankees sell or do they buy if they are within reach? One thing is inconsistency and does that momentum before the break continue?
Highly doubtful this 2016 version of the New York Yankees will have enough. Let the rebuilding begin and give the kids a shot. Sorry Teixeira, because that .198 batting average could lead to the coming of Aaron Judge who is waiting in the wings at Scranton.
Does Girardi survive? Of course, as failure is not his fault. The old saying goes, you can’t fire a 25-man roster so the manager goes. And as the second half commences for these New York Yankees, the challenge will be more on the shoulders of the manager.