The New York Yankees' Top Five Needs to Win the AL East

Tron HarrisCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2008

With a record of 50-45, the New York Yankees are in third place in the AL East six games out of first place and 5.5 behind the surprising Rays.  This is not a position any Yankee fan can tolerate, albeit better than being 43-43 at the all star break like they were last year.  Here are the top five things that MUST happen for the Yankees to postpone the final game at historic Yankee Stadium:


Jason Giambi has been a very pleasant surprise this season.  After a very sluggish start in April, he is tied for the team league in home runs with 19, and second to Bobby Abreu in RBIs with 55 (Abreu has 59).  But considering that Abreu has played in nine more games than Giambi, it's fair to say that Giambi has arguably been the most productive Yankee this season. 

Okay, maybe A-Rod has been more productive, but you cannot ask anyone to be better than A-Rod.  In 15 plate appearance with a runner on third and less than two out, Giambi has knocked in 16 runs.  The Yankees would score a lot more runs if the entire team capitalized as well in this situation as Giambi does. 

Giambi possesses a great eye (and a great stache) and a .386 obp good enough for fourth on the team.  I attribute his success this season entirely to the moustache and, "I support the stache" through and through. 

Giambi must keep up the production in the middle of the order and be strong behind A-Rod so Alex gets good pitches to hit.  In order for that to happen Giambi must keep the stache.


Johnny Damon has been the catalyst to the Yankee offense all year.  In my eyes, this is the season he truly became a Yankee.  Aside from his incredible performance on the field, Damon has emerged as a clubhouse leader off the field. 

It was widely reported that Damon was the only Yankee player to speak in the meeting that was held after the Yankees were routed by the Red Sox a few weeks ago.  Sources said he spoke with passion about what it meant to wear the pinstripes. 

Having a guy with Damon's personality in the lineup impacts the entire team in a positive way.  He brings such a positive attitude and energy into the club house every day. 

Not only did Damon talk a lot at the meeting, the next day he came out, lead the game off with a double and then hurt himself in an all out effort to make a spectacular catch (although he was unable to hold onto the ball, he still undoubtedly saved a home run). 

His offensive numbers are also incredible. He is batting  .319 with a .387 obp, both well over his impressive career averages.  Johnny carried the team on his shoulders for a while, and now we need that shoulder to get healthy so he can help carry us into October.


Darrell Rasner has done a very good job filling in the rotation this year, but he has not been consistent enough.  He has an ERA of 4.97 and a record of 5-7, though I will be the first to admit he should have more wins the run support has been disappointing (see the #2 need for more details).  These are respectable numbers for someone entering the league and even really for a number five starter, however Rasner is the Yankees' fourth starter. 

No offense to Rasner, I really respect him, but you cannot expect to make the playoffs, or go deep into the playoffs, with Rasner and Sidney Ponson in your starting rotation. 

The problem is that at this point there are no longer any stud starters on the market.  CC and Harden went far earlier than the Yanks expected and probably before they had even decided whether or not to make a serious run at either of them. 

At this point, the sexiest name out there on the market is AJ Burnett of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees saw first hand what Burnett is capable of just a few days ago, but his ERA is far from great at 4.96 and at 31, Burnett's best years may well be behind him. 

The price for Burnett in economic terms ($13.2 million) and in prospect terms may well be to high.  The San Diego Padres will likely be sellers at the deadline and Randy Wolf will be evaluated by many teams including the Yankees.  Wolf is 6-9 with a 4.66 ERA, bear in mind he plays in the NL West, and is much cheaper than Burnett earning "just" $4.25M this season. 

As an outside possibility, Greg Maddux may be traded, and his 3.90 ERA will earn him some looks from teams, like the Yankees, who are looking for a three month band-aid. 

Realistically, I do not see the Yankees trading to get a starting pitcher based on the now weak market which means we need to hope Hughes comes back strong.


I never thought I would say this about a team with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posoda, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Bobby Abreu, but the offense has just been bad.  Already this season the Yankees have scored three or less runs as many times (47) as it happened all of last year.  They have scored 436 runs which puts them tied for 13th with the Baltimore Orioles. 

The heart and sole of the worst offense in the Major Leagues, Richie Sexson, is not the answer.  Unfortunately, the only thing Sexson does for the Yankees is ensure that super stud Mark Teixera does not come to the Bronx.  That having been said, the only hope the Yankees have of making a big splash at the trade deadline is landing Matt Holliday. 

Holliday is an outstanding player who is just hitting his prime at 28 years old.  The Yankees have the means to lock him up long term, but will likely have to part ways with Melky Cabrera.  Next year, once Matsui is healthy again, there would be no spot in the lineup for Melky, so he should be included to spice up the deal. 

I am thinking possibly Cabrera and Kennedy for Holliday, if the Rockies would go for that.  Kennedy's value took a huge dive after the pathetic start he had this year, however, he still should be considered a B- to a B level prospect because he is only 24 years old. 

There is nothing that would make me happier than to see Holliday end up wearing the pinstripes  because this way even if we don't make the playoffs this year with some quality free agent pitching coming up (CC & Sheets to name a couple) the Yankees would have a potent offense and could focus on pitching.


This is the last chance for Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle's ghosts to make an impact on Yankee baseball.  With "The House that George Built" opening next year/ the hallowed field where Larson threw the only world series perfect game, Mantle roamed center field, and Babe Ruth captivated America with his power will never be played on again. 

The ghosts of Yankee stadium need to make one final appearance and spark some of that patented Yankee magic or this past All Star Break will be the world's final look at the American Sports Cathedral that is Yankee Stadium.  We need some help from the legends so that Yankee Stadium can go out in style, Yankee style, with a World Series Championship.