Despite a long list of nagging injuries and struggling superstars, the Yankees have not only managed to stay afloat throughout a trying period but have amassed the second best record in baseball—behind only the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays.
In order for their winning ways to continue, the Yankees will need to get healthy and coax contributions from those who have yet to play at levels commensurate with their resumes.
The following is a ranked compilation of the Yankees’ banged up and/or underachieving cast whose performances are most vital to the team’s success starting with the least important.
In the offseason, I wrote “While evaluating Johnson, it’s a question of when—not if—he’ll spend an extended stint on the DL.” That question was answered Saturday, May 8 when the Yankees officially placed Johnson on the DL with weakness in his right wrist.
Adamantly against signing the injury-prone Johnson, I was dumbfounded when Brian Cashman brought him back and closed the door on a more reliable past.
The fact remains that Johnson has only accumulated 500 at bats in one previous season over his entire career and he’s unlikely to add to that in 2010 now that he’ll be sidelined for “several weeks,” according to Cashman.
A poor move garnered a worse result. Don’t expect Johnson to be back anytime soon as this same wrist injury cost him almost all of 2008 and a year in the minors as well.
Cano doesn’t really belong on this list after he jumped back into the lineup the next day after being hit with a Josh Beckett fastball on the left knee Friday night. Still, his bean-ball scare gave me the opportunity to slide him in while dropping Johnson to the DL, the list he’s grown fond of and accustomed to.
Although he’s slumped in early May thus far, Cano is still on pace to set multiple career-highs after his April explosion that burst him onto the national scene.
Keep an eye on his average with runners in scoring position, but Cano is not someone to worry about.
Another Yankee in his second tour of duty, Vazquez is proving his failures of 2004 to be no fluke. His head may be more the issue than any physical factor, even though Vazquez’s velocity is down and his location has been deplorable.
More disconcerning is his alarming ERA of 4.67 or higher in three previous AL seasons. The Yankees wisely opted to skip his last start in Fenway while they aim to straighten him out.
However, the combination of Phil Hughes fulfilling his promise and the Yankees’ victorious playoff run led by three starting pitchers in 2009 gives credence to the theory that any contribution Vazquez makes is gravy.
While Vazquez has tried to forget his last year in pinstripes, Robertson is desperately attempting to remember his own. Robertson is consistently getting pounded and his frustration is starting to mount as evidenced by a recent tirade seen in the dugout. His 12.91 ERA makes Vazquez look good.
Robertson was a valuable arm in middle relief last year and the Yankees’ bullpen is a little thinner without him being effective. Though he does have ability, he’s obviously the least accomplished on this prestigious list and therefore should invoke the most concern.
He’s not higher than eight only because if he continues to labor, he’ll do it in the minors while Cashman searches for a spare part to replace him.
Surprisingly, the Yankees outfield has been extremely productive and Granderson isn’t a part of it. Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner are exceeding expectations, but Granderson was off to a slow start prior to landing on the DL with a groin strain.
Granderson’s Achilles’ heal remains his inability to hit left-handed pitching. That deficiency is unlikely to disappear, but if he can be close to adequate in that area then he can still be a useful cog in the lineup.
The “Core Four” has been relabeled the “Sore Four” lately.
Pettitte, despite his protests, will miss his next start due to inflammation in his elbow. He’s looked as good as ever this season and keeping him and the rest of the “Sore Four” on their feet will be essential to the Yankees’ season.
Francisco Cervelli has filled in admirably for the switch-hitting catcher, but let’s be honest: He’s not in Posada’s league offensively. The 38-year-old power hitter seems to get better with age at the plate.
Although Cervelli is a defensive upgrade and can do no wrong with the bat right now, he can’t replace Posada’s production over the long haul and neither can most catchers in MLB, for that matter.
Cashman’s offseason acquisitions, with the exception of Marcus Thames, have all flopped to this point while castoffs Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, and Johnny Damon thrive in their new homes.
The Yankees have no obvious holes at the moment, but if they are to keep pace with Tampa Bay, Cashman may have to make some deals before the deadline.
Those trades will need to be more inspired than some of his more recent decisions.
If anyone else was batting .278, with three homers and 20 RBI in early May, you would be more than satisfied. For Rodriguez, those numbers are uncharacteristically mortal.
He’ll be fine.
Teixeira lived through his typical April nightmare and broke out in a big way on Saturday with three homers in Boston.
You knew it was just a matter of time for him.
The best closer in the history of baseball, Rivera still has no equal.