It's late May, and some Yankees fans are reaching for the panic button.
True, half of the starting lineup is deader than Axl Rose's career. And yes, the bullpen has been about as reliable lately as a 1982 Ford Pinto. Derek Jeter just went through a lengthy slump where he might as well have been blindfolded at the plate. If you haven't looked recently, Chad Moeller will be on the big league roster for at least a month, and apparently, we'd be better off with Timmy Lupus playing the outfield than Marcus Thames or Randy Winn. Before his last two appearances, David Robertson has been hit harder than the European stock market. Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera have been hit hard in back-to-back appearances. Javier Vazquez has looked more like Mike Maddux than Greg Maddux.
The list of walking wounded in the Yankees clubhouse is almost too lengthy to list: Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and, (SPOILER ALERT) Nick Johnson. Chan Hopeless Park has been on the DL. Alfredo Aceves, who is a huge key in the bullpen, has been out for the last two weeks. And, after the way he's played shortstop the last few weeks, I think Derek Jeter is a little banged up too (probably from the Beckett fastball to the ribs a few weeks ago).
After amazing health last season, the Yankees were due for some visits to the doctor's office this year.
Still, I don't think it's panic time for the Yanks — by which I mean it's not time to trade Jesus Montero, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman and cash for Adrian Gonzalez/Vladimir Guerrero/Big Name Player Who Is On The Trading Block.
Yankees fans need to take a breath — even though they just watched the Yankees look like crap against the Mets. Thank God that George Steinbrenner isn't still alive, because this weekend's showing, had it happened 10 years ago, would have ended up with Phil Hughes pitching in Scranton, Joe Girardi as the manager of the nearest unemployment line and a tirade in which Alex Rodriguez was blasted as being "Mr. March" and Mark Texeira was called she.
But, since The Boss is chilling in Tampa, all of us Yankees fans should take a chill pill, too.
The Yankees were bound to go through a stretch where they lost some games. It happens.
Take heart in these five facts, and then enjoy the weekend:
1. Mariano Rivera always has a stretch in May where he gets lit up like it's the Fourth of July. It's science. Last season, he blew two games in Boston and everyone was just waiting for a new closer. It's not like he's Trevor Hoffman or anything. Mo's velocity is fine. His problem in his last two appearances has been location — he's missing with cutters that he usually his the corners with and he's really been struggling with yanking his fastball low in the strike zone. Those are correctable problems, unlike the Hittable Mr. Hoffman, whose 85 mile an hour fastball has been getting clobbered for a solid month now. Mo will be fine.
2. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Texeira have just started to heat up. For much of April, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano carried the team. Now, the big guns are getting going, which will make the offense that much better. You know Jeter will hit the ball better than he has been (and he had two hits last night), that Cano will get going again (he hasn't hit the ball for diddles ever since Josh Beckett hit him in the knee with that fastball. BURN IN HELL, BECKETT) and Swisher will get on another hot streak. And, it won't be too long before Curtis Granderson and Jorge Posada come back, Brett Gardner can take a day off and catch his breath, and Randy Winn will be buried on the bench where he belongs.
3. The schedule gets a lot easier. In the last three weeks, the Yanks have had Boston for five games, a really tough Minnesota Twins team, Tampa Bay, a Tigers team that is giving everyone problems. The best thing that could happen is having 10 of their next 13 games against the Mets (putrid), Orioles (horrible against everyone but Boston) and the White Sox (who the Yankees have already taken 2 out of 3 from this season). The only tough team in the next two weeks is Minnesota, who the Yanks have handled pretty well. If the Yankees keep it close with Tampa Bay, who is up 5 games in the AL East going into this weekend's series against the Mets, they'll be fine.
4. Unless Tampa Bay has channeled the 1984 Tigers, they'll cool down. Right now, they're on a pace to win 118 regular season games, which would be a record. The tough thing about the Rays right now is that not everybody in their lineup is hitting well, but their pitching ridiculous right now. Everybody throws 94 plus, has good off-speed pitches and knows where the ball is going. But, pitchers have bad days, and nobody knows if Tampa Bay's offense will continue hitting. I like the Yankees chances to at least earn a Wild Card spot, and I won't rule them out to win the division. Tampa's going to come back to the pack.
5. Look at the bright side, otherwise known as the starting rotation. Keep in mind all of these stats are before the Mets series, but Phil Hughes is off to a better start (5-0, 2.25 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 44 innings) than anyone could have possibly imagined. As a fifth starter, he's a weapon. C.C. Sabathia hasn't pitched his best and he's still 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA. A.J. Burnett is also 4-2 with an ERA of 3.86, and Andy Pettitte, even with a bad start Thursday against Tampa Bay, is 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA. And, if Joe Girardi hadn't left him in one batter too long, the Yankees have a chance of winning that game in the ninth. If you're trotting out four starters who give you a better than average chance to win, it's too early to panic.
So, just relax.
And, if you're not capable of that, just pop in that 2009 World Series DVD and think about last year.