To date, this had been an enjoyable summer for New York Yankee fans. Their team cruised through the early portion of the season, while their old rivals, the Red Sox, collapsed out of sight a number of weeks ago. Yankee fans celebrated wildly, like a pack of angry, learning challenged chimpanzees, taking great delight in Boston’s horrific demise.
Then, the party quietened, the storm clouds began to gather on the horizon.
Suddenly the mighty Yankees are facing something resembling a doomsday scenario, along the lines of their legendary 2004 ALCS collapse. After a complete snooze fest of a first two thirds of a season, the AL East is suddenly the front line, one of the most dramatic divisions in all of Major League Baseball. The Yankees are in a horrific tail-spin of a free fall, having lost six out of their last ten, while Baltimore and Tampa are coming round the bend faster than Seabiscuit.
After Robbie Cano whiffed horribly, lazily missing a ground ball to hand Tampa the win last night, The Yankees, who led by 10 games earlier this summer, had their edge cut to one game by Baltimore, which beat Toronto 4-0. The Rays moved within 2 1/2 games of New York. If New York were to continue their sloppy slide out of first place, they face a drove a bandits in the form of Oakland, Detroit and the Angels for the two Wild Card slots. Not to mention whichever between Baltimore and Tampa doesn’t win the AL East, in the Yankees nightmare scenario.
The Orioles and Rays are playing good, solid, error free baseball, and look set to continue a good run through the remaining 26-28 games of the regular season, while New York, frankly, are reeling. There are no excuses. Their payroll is a gazillion dollars, they are stacked with superstars, and they daren’t start complaining about injuries, they would be deafened by the laughter that would come from Toronto and Boston if they tried to hide behind that. The Blue Jays and Red Sox have been absolutely decimated by injuries. The Yankees are downright healthy in comparison.
Take a look at the standings. The Yankees are a couple of bad weeks of baseball away from missing the 2012 playoffs entirely. That is absolutely shocking.
Perhaps more worrying for New York, their ageing, expensive lineup, may not recover in the next couple of seasons either. Jeter can only keep slapping singles to right for so long, and A-Rod would appear to be disintegrating before our eyes. The Yankees will no doubt enjoy having their gazillion dollar DH of the future come to the plate using a zimmer-frame in coming seasons, as his body ‘mysteriously’ falls apart. Their bullpen is a complete mess and their starting pitching rotation beyond their 400lb Ace CC Sabathia is about as scary as Mitt Romney.
The Rays and Orioles look set to embark on a productive, successful period of seasons to come, and Toronto are not as bad as their injuries have made them play this season. The Red Sox took a deep, deep breath and pressed the big shiny reset button a couple of weeks ago, and can re-tool (particularly in terms of pitching) in the offseason, to come back stronger in 2013. The Yankees? Right now they are an old, expensive team, with hundreds of millions concreted in on old players contracts, and right now, they look set to miss the playoffs.
Is the short term or long term the more depressing and scary for Yankee fans? Ask one today, and while you’re at it, give them a hug.
They need one.
Follow Cormac on Twitter