The nominal first half of the season is over for the Yankees. In fitting fashion, they enter the break with a .500 record.
The four game set with the scorching hot Cleveland Indians seemed like a recipe for disaster, but New York managed to somehow take three of four. The series win was capped off with an 11-7 victory on Sunday afternoon that saw the Yankees build a towering lead and then nearly self-immolate. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco was knocked out after recording just eleven outs, and eventually handed Masahiro Tanaka an 11-1 lead.
Nothing comes easily for the Yankees. Tanaka would not escape the fifth inning. Six runs would come home, partially due to a rare Didi Gregorius throwing error. Nathan Eovaldi would come out of the bullpen to take the game the rest of the way, and managed to not allow a run.
What was initially a laugher became one of the more uncomfortable four-run victories in recent memory. The Yankees feasted on an ineffective Carrasco, an uncharacteristically shaky Cleveland infield and the Indians’ middle relief corps for their 11 runs. Their offensive half of the fifth inning seemed to go on forever as they scored six runs. Those six runs were promptly given right back. Eovaldi was effective in relief, but Tanaka once again looked shaky on normal rest. The game generated more questions than answers.
With the season 88 games old, the Yankees are neither winners nor losers. They are 44-44. The team is consistently inconsistent, and rife with holes and deficiencies. They aren’t necessarily a bad team. They’re just incompetent enough to have never been two games over .500. There’s still a few weeks of baseball to be played before the all-important trade deadline, and the Yankees role in that affair will be decided before then, if it hasn’t been already.
But despite the win on Sunday, despite the emergence of Gregorius as a premium two-way player and the overwhelming oppression brought on by the back end of the bullpen, the Yankees don’t feel like a team that’s just a player or two away from contention. They don’t feel like a team in need of just one big trade, a Yoenis Cespedes descending from the clouds with a chorus of angels behind him. There is no one player who can feasibly be acquired and plugged in that could suddenly turn the Yankees into a truly threatening team.
There is now time to ponder and plan for Brian Cashman and team ownership. Their plan will impact the team for years to come. The plan could provide the team with more young talent, or mortgage that talent in the name of a fool’s errand down the stretch.
The Yankees are neither winners nor losers. They’re simply, perhaps maddeningly, bland. They’re not the young version of bland either. These are not players that need more seasoning and reps. They’re old players waiting to be put out to pasture. That’s the sort of situation that likely can’t be fixed with a few trades.
They’re bland, boring, and old. They are neither winners nor losers. They simply exist, aimlessly, in baseball doldrums.
Enjoy the break.
The Play: Jacoby Ellsbury exacts righteous justice on a baseball (+ .219 WPA)
Jacoby Ellsbury nearly got himself tossed out of the game when he argued with an umpire about a questionable strike call on the outer half of the plate. He did this on the next pitch.
Yankees: Ellsbury (2-5, HR, BB, 3 RBI)
Indians: Mike Napoli (1-3, 2 BB)
The Highlight: Headley turns two
Chase Headley provided an early boost when he snared a Jason Kipnis liner out of the air and doubled up Carlos Santana at first. So smooth.
Carlos Beltran, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller will head to San Diego to play in the All-Star Game. The season will resume on the 15th when the Red Sox come to town. It’ll be Michael Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez as the starters.
Photo Credit: Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports