After failing to take advantage of the lowly San Diego Padres to kick off a pivotal month of July, the New York Yankees are now facing a harsh reality.
By Christian Kouroupakis
The New York Yankees bid farewell to the month of June on a high note as their 15 wins ranked sixth-best in the American League with the final two wins coming against the dominant Texas Rangers.
Despite that, the Yankees entered July held down by their dismal start notwithstanding their 90-win paced performance from the previous 30 days.
They needed to win games and as they kicked off a month that would define who they are as a team, the San Diego Padres were just the team the doctor ordered.
The theorem was uncomplicated. New York planned to use the Padres as a springboard to launch them over the .500 mark for good and use that momentum to make them contenders opposed to pretenders.
Well, here we are.
The Yankees fell to the Padres on Saturday night, their second consecutive loss and series defeat to a penetrable squad, to slide two games under .500. New York will send rookie Chad Green (7.20 ERA) to the hill on Sunday in an attempt to salvage a series they should have taken with ease but then the road gets even troublesome.
Following this brief West Coast trip, the Bronx “Bummers” will face the Chicago White Sox (41-39) who have cooled but have won six of their last ten and then travel to face the Cleveland Indians who have won 14 of their last 15 games.
The Yankees, who are now 16-23 on the road, will need to win five out of their next seven games to climb over .500 and will need to go 48-34 (.585) the rest of the way just to match their win total from a year ago.
Taking a look at the standings, New York sits eight games back in the American League East while four games out of a Wild Card spot. With the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles due up after the All-Star break, the timer is ticking.
It’s easier said than done, but the Yankees need to taste some success. That’s the easiest way to put this. But the frustrating part about this team is that they have been playing mediocre baseball for quite some time now despite what an appealing June may tell you.
Remember back in the middle of the month, when New York traveled to Colorado and Minnesota before coming back to face them in the Bronx? That was deemed the prime opportunity for them to beat up on inferior teams and climb back into relevancy.
Instead, they finished a stretch against two teams with a combined record of 63-97 with six wins and five losses while falling back two games in the AL East.
There’s no urgency to take that next step and prove they are a team that can contend. Right now? All their doing is stumbling while trying to regain their balance and time is turning into an adversary.
I’ll say this again: they aren’t entirely down and out. The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays proved that a considerable divisional lead can turn in less than a month but it seems as though each moment the Yankees resemble a team ready to pick up steam, they struggle to score runs and make pitches thus hitting another standstill.
That is all this 2016 team will amount to. A ray of hope followed by an enormous letdown. After all, the mediocracy is evident. But what can the organization do about it?
From the beginning, the Yankees seemed like a team that could go on to win 90 games but it wouldn’t surprise many to see them lose that many. For teams like this, July serves a crucial month because they ought to settle on whether or not they are a team with an ability to battle for October or if it’s in their best interest to begin a roster teardown and reconstruct by dealing veterans for prospects.
New York certainly contains worthwhile trade pieces in their bullpen (Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman) and veterans on the last year of their contracts (like Carlos Beltran) that may contribute to a definite playoff team.
In return, the youngsters received could solidify an already elite core group on the rise. That very well may be the difference between no championship and championship or championship and championships.
However, despite the incredible sense that dealing these pieces make for the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner desires to keep a grasp on his veteran tools because he somehow assumes they can still compete for a playoff spot.
Sure, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if (or when) the Yankees hold on to their veteran pieces and play out what will be a mediocre season, but at least the fans will understand what their beloved Yankees are. A team that will dance the tango with the .500 mark all year.
Time is not on the Bombers’ side. The ten-game road trip leading to the All-Star break followed by two series in a row against divisional opponents (10-17 vs AL East) makes their chances of being contenders seem grim.
For the fans, it’s frustrating. For the team, it’s frustrating. Being a team in the middle of the pack is nothing more than just that. So, now more than ever, the Yankees have to turn it around.
They can’t wait another month by playing average to below average baseball. If they have any interest in competing, which they do, it’s time now to make up ground. If not, by the time August 1 rolls around, the Yankees could very well be out of contention.