I was really looking forward to this post. I was fully prepared to write a Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous"-style, "it's all happening" post about the recent turnaround and positive momentum the Yankees were building at the right time as they headed into the final handful of regular season games against their 2 divisional doormats. They had won 13 of 19 games, maintained sole custody of the AL East lead, shaved their playoff magic number down to less than a hand's worth of digits, and were getting healthier by the day.
CC was back and looking like the version of himself that everybody has been waiting for months to see; A-Rod was back, looking healthy, and helping to lengthen the middle of the batting order; Ichiro had turned back the clock to the mid-2000s and earned himself a spot at the top of the order thanks to his hot hitting. Ivan Nova had been activated, Andy Pettitte had been activated, Brett Gardner and David Aardsma too, and there was still hope that we could see Mark Teixeira's goofy mug back on our TV screens at some point. The Yankees were getting their shit together and re-positioning themselves to be the odds-on favorites to win the AL pennant when the playoffs started. Then last night's game happened.
If you want to roll your eyes at this and say it was just one game, that's your prerogative. But in that one game, we were reminded of nearly all the problems this team still has. The offense was lifeless against a pitcher who wasn't exactly throwing Bob Gibson-type stuff, with the middle of the order coming up incredibly small again. The starting pitching was ineffective, inefficient, and unable to get through 5 innings of work. The bullpen wasn't great behind the starting pitcher, and it was the B-team getting the work because the A-team is still probably tired from overuse. Sprinkle in a dash of RISP Fail, and throw in the still-tough-to-swallow loss against the Twins on Tuesday in which we got to see a bad performance from the bullpen A-team and some questionable managing, and every problem area is covered.
Last night's disappointing outcome hit me with a sobering slap of reality, a reality that has left me somewhat unsure of how to feel about this team right now. That reality is that the Yankees are still a very flawed ballclub and they're going to remain a flawed ballclub through the rest of the season, however long it goes. They have questions in their starting rotation, they have questions in the bullpen, and they still have major problems offensively. Robinson Cano, the cleanup hitter and hands down best position player on the team, has busted out of his slump by going 8-12 in his last 3 games and he only has 2 RBI to show for it. That just shouldn't happen, it shouldn't. They're old, they're inflexible, and there's nothing more they can do to address that.
So now here we are, a week away from the ridiculously-formatted postseason starting up and I don't know how I feel or how I should feel about this team. I want to be positive, I want to look at the record over the last 3 weeks and be confident but I can't. At best I'm cautiously hopeful. At worst, I'm pessimistically hostile thinking about the idea of another premature playoff exit. The things that have bitten the Yankees in the ass in the last few postseasons are the same things they struggled with last night and have struggled with all season long. If they can't get it done against Brandon Morrow and the 69-87 Blue Jays, against whom can I reasonably expect them to get it done?
I'm flying home this afternoon for the weekend, hopefully to go to the NASCAR race in Dover with my old man (make your jokes). The weather doesn't look like it's going to cooperate, and if it doesn't it will turn into a quiet weekend at home in Connecticut with my family and guaranteed TV access to the next 3 games of this series. I'm hopeful that I'll see something in these upcoming 3 games to make me feel better, to wash away this sense of worried uncertainty I'm feeling right now. I'm not sure how everyone else out there feels, but I have to think there are plenty out there who share my sentiments. It's not the way we should feel about a division-leading team with 90 wins, but right now it's all the Yankees are giving us.
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