Home stretch for the Yankees – the last twenty games of the 2011 regular season


Well, this baseball season had so many surprises for the Yankees – some pleasant, some not – that it is difficult to know where to start. First the (almost) given; barring the most appalling collapse, the Yankees are in the post-season. Even if the Red Sox were to overtake the Bombers – and the Sox have lost 7 out of 9 at this moment (9/9/11) – I could not see the Yankees failing to make the play-offs. The American League East will, as is now becoming customary (to the annoyance of Commissioner Selig), yield two teams for the play-offs.

How did the Yankees reach this stage? Coming out of Spring Training, it was assumed by most pundits – and the infamous Sports Illustrated – that not only would the Boston Red Sox take the East, it was just a case of which National League team would they utterly mesmerize with their pitching in the World Series; oh yes, and John Kruk confidently predicted that not only would Alex Gonzalez of Boston become MVP of the American League, but that he would hit 50 homers in the season. Well, ‘A-Gon’ might get the MVP, but the 50-homer prediction was nothing short of stupid. In a ‘new’ park against ‘new’ pitchers?

One of the most amazing transformations, and something which could not have been predicted, was the break-out year by Curtis Granderson, who has transformed himself into a legitimate power hitter, someone who you could ‘pencil in’ for 30 – 40 homers per year (thank you, ‘K-Long’), to go along with his superb fielding skills. Also, Robbie Cano smashed his way past Alex Gonzalez to take the Home Run Derby trophy before the All-Star Game, due to electrifying hitting, plus his father’s wonderful BP pitching – always let Dad pitch to you, is what I say.

The veteran Yankees have given great cause for concern, however. Until he reverted to his old stance and swing, Jeter looked to be in a major decline. Now he has (simultaneously, almost) split with Minka Kelly and started to hit very close to .300 – co-incidence, perhaps? A-Rod has been plagued by injures, and his power has virtually disappeared – this is turning into a lost season for him, and may expose the Yankee management to some fearful financial consequences as his monster contract rolls on and on and on………..

Jorge Posada is a terrible example of how to give more years than you should, when it comes to an honoured veteran who can’t possibly manage without that last contract year, and the $13.1 million which goes with it! Posada is a shadow of his former self, and the Yankees must seriously consider dropping him from the post-season roster. 

As always, though, it is ‘pitching, pitching, pitching’.  Excellence (except against the Red Sox) from CC, mysterious lack of form from Hughes, and the steady emergence as a genuine No. 2 by Ivan Nova, have left the Yankees, with their 200+ home runs so far, having to blast their way out of difficult situations. The worst of all? Easily A.J. Burnett, whose diabolical, 2009-2013, $82.5 million contract is only matched by his truly awful performance during most of this year. If you thought 2010 was bad, just look at the 2011 season – and we are stuck with him until ’13! (Almost a right-handed Kei Igawa – well, close anyway). Letting Burnett anywhere near the post-season roster would smack of baseball suicide. He keeps saying that he has ‘reformed’ – but I think he needs a whole team of sports psychologists.

One last little bright spark for the future? A bumper sticker I saw, ‘Jesus Comes! But Will He Catch Or Play DH?’ Montero has arrived – it is extremely early days, but the raw power is there; just let ‘K-Long’ work with it!

Will the Yankees make it all the way? Will they grab #28? Who knows. Better analysts than I will ponder that one……..but I shall be watching closely, as always.

‘Batter up!’

UPDATE:

Ignominious exit #1

After qualifying for the playoffs, the Yankees fell to the Tigers in a torrid mess of a Game 5 at the Stadium. A-Rod striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth was – a disaster. Changes must flow from this……..

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