The Yankees are more than midway through an important fifteen game stretch against American League East foes. The stretch started magnificently with a three-game sweep of the first place Blue Jays. The Yankees had managed to reduce the Blue Jays lead in the East to only 1.5 games and pull even in the loss column. Then came a three-game set with the Orioles, and if not for a walk-off blast from Carlos Beltran, they would have been swept. The last three days have been spent in Toronto where the Bombers lost two of three. Thus after nine games in this stretch, the Yankees have gone 5-4 and find themselves in third place. They are 2.5 games behind the Blue Jays and a game behind the Orioles.
This stretch has shown that the Yankees are not quite ready for prime time yet. A 5-4 stretch against their main competition in the division is not a bad record, but it isn’t a great one either. They are dead even, 10-10, against the East this season. But they are stuck in third at the moment, due in no small regard to their anemic offense. This team and their season remains stuck in neutral. They take two steps forward and one step back.
The 2014 Yankees are an incredibly frustrating team to watch. The optimist sees that they are ready to make a run, and go on a long winning streak, backed by a strong bullpen, and terrific young starting pitching. The pessimist sees a lineup that can struggle to score runs for a patchwork rotation, decimated by injuries. The 2014 Yankees are a team of contradictions. They have one of the best starters in the MLB in Masahiro Tanaka, but little else in the rotation. They have an all-time great shortstop, Derek Jeter, who is a shell of his former self. They have the best young reliever in the league, Dellin Betances, and lead the majors in bullpen strikeouts, but the bullpen ERA on the season is 3.99 ranking the bottom third of the majors. They have former All-Stars at every position except third base and left field, but rank only 19th in the league in runs.
The Yankees need a spark and fundamental change in order to move forward. They need to snap out of this funk and string some wins together. This is the kind of team where an impact player can make or break a season. If GM Brian Cashman is able to swing a trade that will have the same sort of impact that Alfonso Soriano had last season, this could be a special season. If not, chances are the Bombers will meander through the regular season never truly contending, and never truly out of the race. They might make the playoffs or they might not. Either scenario would be a failure.
The mission statement of the New York Yankees is to win the World Series. The first step towards that end is more consistency. The next six games are against the World Champion Red Sox and last place Rays. The Yankees need to make a run here before the break. The time is now to pick up some wins against teams that have struggled thus far this season. The time is now for the Yankees to gain ground in the division. The time is now to see who this team really is.