The Yankees aren't dead yet. They've been treading above the water for a while, and while they never seem to make any headway, they also don't go away.
But this isn't what we're used to seeing from this club. The Yanks have made the playoffs for the past three centuries, and while it may have been closer of late, they haven't missed the postseason since Julius Caesar's reign.
But this year, they're barely staying alive in the wild-card race and are essentially eliminated from winning the division.
There has been talk about the future from Brian Cashman and even Joe Girardi, who has only had this year to impress his new bosses. But I don't think either of them should be fired, despite this awful season.
See, it's not as bad as it looks.
Keep in mind that the Yankees have a legit shot at making the playoffs. It'll be hard for sure, but it's quite possible. You can be pessimistic all you want, and it's not the likeliest of scenarios, but if the Yankees are playing in October, it won't exactly be the shock of the century.
But even if the Yanks miss the playoffs, it's not like they plummeted into last place.
Look at the American League. Tampa and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are currently the creams of the crop, with the Red Sox not far behind them. But then it gets murky. The White Sox look pretty good, but the Yankees are right behind them in the standings, along with Minnesota. All three of those teams (as well as Toronto) have similar records.
While the Yankees may not have as good a record as either of the top two teams in the Central, they're extremely close. Switch their division, and the Yanks are in a dogfight for the division lead. And that's pretty damn good.
Keep in mind that by playing in a tougher division, the Yankees play tougher teams more often. They see more of Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto, than L.A., Chicago, and Minny combined. While tougher schedules cannot be used as an excuse for poor performance, it can certainly help alleviate the feeling of what some have called a train wreck of a season.
And I hate to bring this up, but the Yankees have had a lot of injuries. Their catcher, Jorge Posada, has missed almost the entire year, and that is a tremendous blow not only to the lineup, but to the pitching staff, which had tried to rely on rookies early on in the year.
Many other players have also missed time with injuries, including reigning MVP Alex Rodriguez, ace Chien-Ming Wang, rookie superstar Joba Chamberlain, and leadoff hitter Johnny Damon.
And it's not as if the list stops there. No one likes to use injuries as an excuse, just like hard schedules, but when you see how many injuries they've had, it's very hard to pin blame on a GM or manager.
Also consider the youth movement.
The Yanks chose not to overpay for Johan Santana, and I still contend they made the right move. Sure, Johan would have helped tremendously this year, while Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have bombed, and Melky Cabrera has been demoted. But the non-trade wasn't for this season.
It was for the future; Hughes and Kennedy are extremely young.
Hughes has an incredible amount of talent and will be an ace for many years. Kennedy is a former first-round pick that will be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Yankees didn't want to give that up for a guy who is nearing the end of his prime.
Remember Jason Giambi? People blast the move now, seven years after the giant contract. But at the time, it was applauded as an excellent signing.
I'm not saying Santana is going to hit rock-bottom, but he isn't going to be this good for more than a few more years. While Hughes and Kennedy aren't ready yet, they'll be contributing to this rotation when Johan is collecting ace money and pitching like a third starter at age 33. So while this season hasn't been smooth, it's hard to blame Cashman, who is busy trying to ensure that the team also has a future.
And of course, there's the VORM factor: Value Over Replacement Manager. Would this decline have occurred under Joe Torre? Absolutely. The team is old. The team's been declining for years. Girardi inherited an aging team and did the best he could with it. Any other manager would have suffered the same fate. You can't blame him.
What we have is an aging, declining, broken team. Despite this, their manager has at least kept them in the playoff hunt all season. Their GM is trying to fix the problem before it gets worse, so that his team doesn't continue to slip, and instead has a young core to replace the aging former stars.
The Yankees are not as bad as they look, and the GM and manager have done all they could. It's silly to point fingers at them when their team is pushing for the postseason without an ace, a catcher, and other key pieces.
It's hard to complain about a GM who kept his young studs because he foresaw this decline. You can't blame a manager for doing his best with pieces he's given. Especially when this team isn't even bad at all.
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