Well, that wasn’t the week New York Yankees fans wanted. They came out scorching hot on Monday for a fifth win in a row over the first place Kansas City Royals and a game later scorched David Price for nine hits in a row and eight runs. The rest of the week went down hill, as the boys dropped one more to the Tigers and then two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays. Yet another 3-4 ho hum week.
Today, however, is September 1st. In baseball lingo, that means for any team within reach of a Wild Card spot that it’s pretty much a new season. Starting today, Oakland, Detroit, Seattle, Toronto and the Yankees need to simply wipe the slate clean and win out and play their best baseball of the season. The Yankees, unfortunately, face one large disadvantage. The Bronx is boiling, folks, and I need to blow some steam.
BREAK UP THE ORIOLES
Week in and week out, I have preached that this Yankees team has a chance for the Wild Card, which I still believe they do. I also have said that with eight September games against the Orioles that the Yankees still had a shot at the lowly AL Least. It was because I simply refused to believe that the Baltimore Orioles were contenders. But now, after another dismal week by the Bombers, the Orioles sit atop the East with a nine game lead. The Yankees chances for the division crown are gone, and I have to believe the Orioles are legit.
I still don’t understand how though. Look at this team up and down and you don’t see anything exciting about it. Why are these guys so good and running away with the division? Is it their infield? It can’t be, just look at these numbers. Chris Davis, baseball’s 2013 home run champion, is their leader. Sure, he has belted 24 home runs this season, but he is batting .190 and could very well strikeout more than 200 times this season. Manny Machado is their best player in this infield, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field at all this season. Jonathan Schoop, who “won” the second base job from former Yankee Brian Roberts this off-season is batting a rather uninspiring .219. JJ Hardy has lost the power and RBI production that made him part of the upper echelon of shortstops, and although he has raised his batting average above his career norm, he is also on pace for a career high in strikeouts by a large margin. When they move Chris Davis to the hot corner and bring Steve Pearce in at first, the Orioles get third baseman with a less than .900 fielding percentage, very little range and who loves to make errors. That leaves Ryan Flaherty to play third, who is batting an impressive .200.
The outfield has the most talent on the team with Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz leading the way, but the Blue Jays have had two good players in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion for years and haven’t made a peep in the East. Everyone still seems to be waiting for Nick Markakis’s breakout performance, but he is what he is, and it’s really not all that impressive.
The pitching staff is led by Wei-Yin Chen. That’s right, folks, Chen is this rotation’s top dog and the New York Yankees can’t catch these guys? None of their starters are strikeout artists, with Chris Tillman leading the way with 122 over 176.2 innings, and none have a WHIP under 1.20 which seems to hint that they are good at pitching in and out of trouble. Zach Britton anchors the bullpen with an impressive debut season as a full time closer, but like I said, it’s Zach Britton.
They keep winning for one major reason. It’s Buck Showalter baseball. How many people have as impressive as a resume as Showalter over the last few decades? The problem is, is that he is never around to see his project reach the fullest potential. He took a New York Yankees team over in 1992 that was floundering in the basement of the AL East. Within one season, he returned them to an above .500 team and the next season, he led them to the best record in the American League.
One year later, the Yanks returned to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and when they lost he was fired. The team he and Gene Michael put together would go on to win four of the next five World Series. He then became the first manager in Arizona Diamondbacks history and in THEIR SECOND SEASON, he transformed an expansion team to a 100 win team. So he built and built and built the Diamondbacks up until he was let go in 2000. I think you all remember what happen the year after he left. If you don’t, just remember why you hate Luis Gonzalez.
So he went on to Texas, where he once again, began his changes. The Rangers, who were a powerhouse in the late ’90s and a frequent Yankees October rival, fell into tough times. Showalter came in, brought in a new philosophy and players, and when he was once again fired, a few short years later, the Rangers made back-to-back World Series for the first time in their franchise history.
Now, he is with the Baltimore Orioles. A team with nothing spectacular to offer in the pitching department, but has the second most wins in baseball. A team with absolutely no plate discipline as they are in the bottom half in both OBP and walks, yet has still produced the seventh most runs in baseball. It’s a team with very little room for error, which is why they don’t make any with the second best fielding percentage in the MLB. Showalter has done, yet again, what he has always done. Found the best way to win with what he has on the field. If it means a pitching staff that goes six innings a game allowing three or four runs EVERY start, he finds a way to get you five or six.
If it means winning a game 4-3 on four solo home runs, so be it. Showalter has done it again, and he is the reason that I can’t see this team falling apart. But, like most Showalter teams, I also can’t see them making much noise past the first week of October. He will probably be fired in a year, and the Orioles will go on to win a World Series!
Maybe then the Yankees, who will be looking to get back to greatness at that same time, will revisit the Showalter era. I know this Yankees fan wouldn’t mind seeing him in pinstripes one more time.