The recent struggles of the New York Yankees have made things much more interesting in the American League East. The Bombers are still in first place and this may just be one of those slumps that happens to a team in the midst of a long season. However, they no longer have a stranglehold on the division lead and it’s another team beginning to slowly make their presence known.
Here is a hint … it’s not the Boston Red Sox.
It’s getting late in the season and the Baltimore Orioles are playing meaningful baseball games. They are very much in the hunt for a wild card spot and currently are sitting in second place in the division, only 4.5 games out of first place. It wasn’t too long ago the Yankees held a 10-game lead. While the Yankees have struggled since the All-Star break to win ballgames (11-13), Baltimore has taken advantage and closed the gap that once seemed like an insurmountable task for a team with their kind of track record.
One thing is very clear here, the Orioles are no longer a laughingstock. This doesn’t appear to be one of those fluke occurrences or brief teases. The Orioles are catching the attention of everyone with their play. The Yankees are accustomed to looking over their shoulders in the division for Boston or Tampa Bay. However, this is August and we are talking about the Orioles.
O’s manager Buck Showalter is in just his second full season leading the team and he’s clearly shown that he has their respect. It was Showalter who managed the Yankees back to respectability in the mid-90′s. He moved on and then the Yankees began a dynasty. Make no mistake about it though; it was Showalter who played a major role laying the groundwork for that dynasty. He’s now performing his magic in Baltimore.
The Yankees have to know right now that they need to start winning ballgames and rediscover that consistency they showed in the first half of the season. This is still arguably the best team in baseball and they have time to turn things around and get hot again. They don’t face the Orioles until the end of the month and they have their hands full before they even get to that series. That’s how far the Orioles have come this year. They’re not only in the yard right now for a playoff spot, they are now knocking on the Yankees’ door for the division crown.