Yankees: Is anyone else in the A.L. East built to last

Aaron Hicks Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Hicks Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees currently enjoy a three-game lead in the American League East standings as they begin a series with the Orioles. They’re a team that’s built to last, but is anyone else in the division? The answer may surprise you.

The Yankees, approaching the middle of June, hold a four-game lead in the ever important loss column over the Red Sox and the Orioles entering play on Friday and a three-game lead over both teams in the standings. Following them are the Rays and Blue Jays a full eight games behind in the loss column.

Is the season over and the Yankees should begin now in preparing for the playoffs. Hardly. But at the same time, a legitimate question arises as to whether or not any of these teams has what it takes to not only last out the season but to overtake the Yankees.

Toronto Blue Jays

A quick answer would say no. The Blue Jays have yet to recover not only a horrific start to their season, but they are still mulling the fact that they let Edwin Encarnacion go when they didn’t have to. And then, they followed that with another judgment mistake by taking on Jose Bautista as a last gasp attempt to keep the faithful in line.

Bautista’s slash line of ten home runs and 28 batted in, coupled with a .228 batting average hardly makes up for what they lost, not only in his signing but the loss of R.A. Dickey‘s innings and maturity level on their starting staff.

Nevertheless, the Blue Jays are a nemesis of the Yankees, and they always seem to rise to the occasion when the teams are matched together. As such, they would figure to be more of a spoiler and not a direct competitor of the Yankees, and not a team built to last.

Baltimore Orioles

Any team managed by Buck Showalter is a team to be reckoned with. The Orioles have an expanding history of being an early starter and a declining second-half team. The emergence of Dylan Bundy (6-4 2.93) as a reliable and (finally) healthy starter has strengthened the team, but it takes more than that.

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Behind Bundy, however,  is a very disappointing starting staff led by Chris Tillman, who went 16-6 last season and now sits at 1-3 with a 5.59 ERA. And you only have to look as far down the staff as the name Mychal Givens to find a pitcher who has made zero starts and yet has a 6-0 2.70 ERA to see where the Orioles troubles are, and always have been of late.

They don’t have the pitching and no matter how many home runs Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo hit over the next few months, or if Manny Machado can rejoin the world of superstars, this team is destined to go nowhere.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have the wherewithal to overtake the Yankees. But the question with them is will they? David Price can holler and whine to the Boston media all he wants, but he is not the same pitcher he once was before he signed that fat contract last season.

The Yankees are still the team in the driver’s seat, an ironic reversal from last year.

And the problem is amplified by the fact that he seems to know it, as you can tell by his body language when he became disengaged against the Yankees on Thursday night.

Chris Sale is the real thing, and he’ll continue to pace the American League in all sorts of stats and, possibly, even win a Cy Young award. But, so what?

The real challenge the Red Sox offer the Yankees is with their sputtering offense. Who can believe, for instance, that the Bosox are 29th out of 30 teams in home runs this season, and only 14th in the league in runs scored, behind not only the Yankees but the Tampa Bay Rays?

No doubt, the Red Sox are looking to the trade deadline in July to make a big splash by landing a legitimate starter, but even if they do, so what if the offense doesn’t get going. Only Xander Bogaerts is having the kind of year he is supposed to be having, while Mookie Betts is delivering power, albeit only a team-leading nine home runs and the replacement for David Ortiz (fuggedaboutit), Hanley Ramirez continues to plod along at .249, 8 HR, 24 RBI.

Of anyone, the Red Sox are still the team to be wary of, especially with the number of head to head contests remaining on the schedule.

Summing it up

But having said that, the Yankees are still the team in the driver’s seat, an ironic role reversal from the positions each team held last year at this time.

And much like the Red Sox last year, all the Yankees need to do is weather the storm that is sure to come from one of the teams mentioned above. And again, much like the Yankees of last season who will put on a surge only to fall short of the top against the team in front.

This year, it’s the Yankees, and it could be the same way for years to come as the Pinstripes reload and move ahead with the remainder of the Baby Bombers waiting in the wings.

And then, it’ll be up to the Red Sox to reposition themselves to where they once were before they gave away the farm for Chris Sale and reloading for the future.

And to add a quick right hand to the jaw, this will put the Red Sox exactly where the Yankees were not very long ago. Learn your lesson well. We did.