With a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay, the Yankees dropped out of first place for the first time since August 3. They've lost seven of their past eight games, three via the walk-off. No one player has been entirely blameless during the stretch and many players have played poorly, or not at all.
Some players are dealing with injuries—Nick Swisher has a balky knee, Brett Gardner's wrist required an MRI and Jorge Posada missed time with concussion-like symptoms—but others have simply performed badly. Derek Jeter has hit .190/.261/.286, Robinson Cano .259/.259/.296 and Mark Teixeira .160/.250/.160. Marcus Thames and Austin Kearns each had a run of absolute offensive dominance, but both have predictably cooled off.
Part of this can be explained by the quality of pitchers they've faced, but for every David Price and Cliff Lee they've faced, they've also seen Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen.
The pitchers haven't been terrible, but they're closer to that end of the spectrum than they are the other. Joe Girardi hasn't helped by bunting seemingly every time the Yankees manage a baserunner. The bullpen has been mostly good, but they're slightly overworked due to some extra inning affairs and short outings from starters. Of course, part of that is roster construction, which runs up the ladder to Brian Cashman and his cronies.
With expanded rosters, the Yankees should not be struggling to find someone to pitch the tenth inning. Triple-A championships are nice, but putting the big league team in the best position possible should take precedence. There's very little reason for pitchers on the 40-man roster not to be with the big league club.
Truth is, it's a cold spell for the Bronx Bombers and any semblance of a chink in the armor sends many fans running for the streets, pitchforks in hand. The Yankees have the best run differential in baseball. At +173, their run differential is already better than it was during their championship season of 2009, with 18 games left to improve it.
There have been some articles recently that at best, are laughable. I've heard everything from the Yankees are missing some fabricated intangible magic to Joe Girardi doesn't think that winning the division is important.
The Yankees have the best offense in baseball by a considerable amount. They have an elite workhorse of an ace in CC Sabathia. They're looking to add another one as Andy Pettitte makes his way back from a groin injury. Their bullpen has been one of the best in the game since the acquisition of Kerry Wood at the trade deadline. Even with seven losses in their past eight games, the Yankees have the most wins in baseball.
The absolutely have question marks headed into the playoffs. How will Phil Hughes pitch in uncharted innings-pitched territory? Is AJ Burnett going to be able to right himself before the playoffs? Is Javy Vazquez?
I can guarantee you that Dustin Moseley will not start a playoff game for the Yankees. Neither will players like Greg Golson and Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees have a 98.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, and while winning the division is a very desirable commodity, the ultimate prize is the World Series.
Joe Girardi knows the Yankees better than any national journalist and certainly better than any Bleacher Report columnist. He was absolutely ripped a new one for not using Jorge Posada as a pinch-hitter late in a game against Baltimore, only for it to come to light that he was suffering from a possible concussion. Open mouth, insert foot.
Exactly one year ago, there were similar concerns about the Yankees and Joe Girardi. I know, I had them. But whining about it or thinking you're more qualified than Joe Girardi is ridiculous. But I'll take the results from 2009 every single year.
The Yankees are the best team in baseball and as such, are capable of winning the World Series with or without home field advantage and regardless of how they played in September. The 2000 Yankees lost 13 of their last 15 games and then went 11-5 en route to their 26th championship.
Admittedly, the last week hasn't exactly been storybook for the Yankees, but the 2010 Yankees will be judged by what they do in October, not a dozen games in mid-September.