Yankees' homer total is no accident

Nick Swisher connects on a two-run home run

Nick Swisher connects on a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 27, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Go big or go home.

The architect of these Yankees offers no apologies for the all-or-nothing attack of the 2012 Bronx Bombers. It's no happy accident that they led the majors with 245 home runs (the most in franchise history), went deep in a major league- record 131 of 162 games and relied on the long ball for a third of their RBI production.

This is by design, and general manager Brian Cashman loves what he sees from this power-mad roster.

"I want a team that walks and mashes," Cashman said. "And if you can mash and hit home runs, then you can hit singles and doubles, too. We're not going to hit triples. But we're built the way we are for a reason.

"I'm still using the Gene Michael playbook, and this is about getting big, hairy monsters that mash and are selective at the plate. There's a reason we're perennially at the top of runs scored."

That's the bottom line, right? There's no extra credit for taking longer to get around the bases, no additional style points for nifty bunts or dramatic steals.

When Joe Girardi faced questions earlier this season about the Yankees' occasional lapses with situational hitting-- as he often does -- he explained that home runs are just part of his team's DNA.

As for runners in scoring position, well, Girardi pointed out that his players don't need to be standing at second base for that. It happens as soon as they step into the batter's box.

"Our bread-and-butter has been the long ball," Nick Swisher said. "The Yankees have been doing that for years. On some teams, a guy may get a base hit, steal second and then there's a single for him to score. With us, we might walk and then hit a two-run jack.

"That's our thing. We take a lot of pride in that. Hitting home runs is the greatest thing in the game, in my mind. We have a lot of fun with it."

The party, however, tends to fizzle in October. And although the Yankees flex all that muscle during the six months of the regular season, that approach often fails in the pursuit of the ultimate goal: a world championship.

Since 2000, only one team that has hit the most homers during the regular season has earned a ring -- the 2009 Yankees, who had 244. The previous year, the Phillies won the World Series after finishing second in home runs (214). The White Sox clubbed 235 but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Otherwise, there has been little correlation between going deep and going the distance in October. Last season's champs, the Cardinals, ranked 13th in the majors with 162 home runs -- 60 fewer than the Yankees.

In 2002, the Angels finished tied for 21st with 152 home runs, 78 behind the Rangers, who led the majors for three straight years and four of five from 2001 to 2005. During that stretch, Texas did not make the playoffs.

That's more of an indictment of the Rangers' weaknesses in other areas. But from a psychological aspect, it's possible that teams could get conditioned to simply expect the home run rather than manufacture offense during the power outages.

"I don't think we lean on it or rely on it," said Curtis Granderson, who led the Yankees with 43 homers, a career high for the centerfielder. "But at the same time, you also know that it's a threat and it's one thing that you always have to be conscious of. I've talked to a couple players about it and you know there's certain teams that aren't going to hurt you with it. But that's not us."

Granderson is only the fifth Yankee to hit at least 40 homers in consecutive seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi. As a team, the Yankees have 10 players with at least 10 home runs and five with at least 21. With the return of Mark Teixeira last Monday, their starting lineup averages 22 homers per spot in the batting order.

"I think we have a great mix of power and patience," Swisher said. "We strike out a good amount, but that's part of the thing. If you're going to be hitting deep in counts and you're going to be seeing a lot of pitches, that's going to happen."

That said, Swisher paused for a moment, then laughed.

"Plus," he added, "who doesn't like the home run?"

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Baseball videos

advertisement | advertise on newsday