Back in the day, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic had a song with a line “Gaining on Ya. Can you feel my breath?” That must be the tune that some of the New York Yankees are hearing in their heads as they watched a 10-game lead evaporate since the All Star break.
Coming off the Mid Season Classic, the Yankees were sitting pretty as far as the American League East Division was concerned. They had a double-digit lead, and the closest completion, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays were falling back to the pack. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the division crown.
Alex Rodriguez broke his hand after being hit by a pitch and was placed on the disabled list (DL), missing over 30 games. CC Sabathia was placed on the DL twice, and Mark Texieria has been in and out of the starting line up during this span. Losing your two corner infielders and the ace of your staff for six weeks may be a legitimate reason for blowing a double-digit lead in the pennant race. But it is not a good enough reason for the Yankees.
Edward Nunez, Eric Chavez, and Jayson Nix are capable of weathering the storm in the infield and the pitching actually fared well without Sabathia. So going one game under .500 since the All Star Break is unacceptable, especially for a team with a $200 million payroll. But it is better for them to have stumbled in August than in September.
One of the reasons why I have confidence that the Yankees will hold off the Rays and the Orioles is that New York has Derek Jeter and Baltimore and Tampa do not. “I’m not going to panic” the Captain emphatically stated after the Bombers lost to the Rays on Monday, 4-3, cutting their lead down to a single game. It is that confidence at the top and his resume that leads me to believe that Jeter will not let this team collapse like the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves last season. Add to the mix that Texieria, Sabathia and Rodriguez should be healthy down the stretch, and the Yankees should be fine.
Should the Yankee fans be afraid? Concerned, maybe, but not afraid. With 10 games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore over the next couple of weeks, the Yankees could be out of first place as early as tomorrow. But after it is all said and done, the Yankees will be OK.