Are the Yankees vulnerable?

 

 

When will things start looking up for the Captain and his mates?

Depends who you ask.

As baseball fans, we are conditioned to ride the wave, to enjoy the peaks, and flash patience during the valleys. It’s a long season, and nothing is won or lost in a month. Not reputations, or batting titles and certainly not pennants or wild cards.

However, as New York baseball fans, we generally gloss over the good, and fixate on the negative. Whether it’s a sloppy bullpen, an erratic skipper or a benign two-game losing streak, we make our mark when things go wrong.

That’s just the way it is. Patience is a virtue? Not in this town, not with two teams and two all-sport radio stations, and a handful of newspapers to go along with the explosive dot com world.

Things usually heat up right around Subway Series time, coinciding with Memorial Day, as fans from both sides of the track earnestly protect their turf.

The Yankees, loaded on paper top to bottom, have generally escaped the white-hot spotlight thus far, free of criticism, and for the most part, free of concern.

Until now.

The Red Sox are flashing a pulse and getting healthy, and the Rays, well, they’ll win 95 games. Minimum.

Suddenly, the star-studded Bomber lineup looks feeble, a mere shell of the high-octane machine that came racing into the season. Before Yankee fans officially put the memories of the ’09 on ice, visions of back-to-back appeared a safe bet.

A small army of dominant starting pitching led the way, while the offense, loaded with M80’s and bottle rockets top to bottom, lit up the early season sky.

The ‘pen? Please. With Joba and Mo, it was on early season lock-down. Sealed shut.

Dominant.

Until now.

Anyone worried yet?

I am.

To wonder aloud whether the Yanks are vulnerable in some circles,  is blasphemous, especially when the great Derek Jeter– a symbol of achievement, grace, and skill from Day 1– is thrust into the cross-hairs.

Sure, he’s limped to a paltry .190 batting average in May thus far, and perhaps most alarming, is his incredibly shrinking OBP, currently hovering in the .310 range. That’s not what worries me.

Am I concerned that Jeter is in the process of morphing into a liability? Hardly. 

But I am concerned about what’s around Jeter, at least for the time being. Jeter, who raked his way to a thunderous .334 renaissance last season, is on pace for considerably lower numbers across the board. Last year, Johnny Damon smacked 24 HR in the two-hole; this season, Brett Gardner, who looks more and more like a sturdier version of Brett Butler, is still relatively unproven. He has a weakness, a hole in his swing, everyone does. How does he respond once opposing pitchers begin to exploit it?

Subtract Hideki Matsui’s power numbers from a season ago, and yet another injury to Jorge Posada, and the Yankee line-up is undoubtedly compromised.

While no one expects The Captain to slump to a sub .285 season, what happens if he does? What happens if Jeter shows a trace of age, and, while still enjoying prolonged hot streaks, stumbles to his worst season as a pro? Is it likely? No, not yet. Is it inconceivable? No, not with his 36th birthday creeping up.

On paper, the 2010 Yankees have a lot going for them, as always.

And once again, right in the middle of it all, will be Derek Jeter.

He has to be.

Basically, Derek Jeter cannot get old.

And sadly, everyone does. Everyone.

Hang in there, Jetes.

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1 Comment

  1. They will be alright.

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