David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
BOSTON - Turns out the Mets were only subletting the city for the first month of the season. Seems as if the team that owns New York still resides in the Bronx.
A snap judgment? Maybe. But we can only consult the evidence thus far, and after stumbling early, the Yankees have rebounded in a way that's been every bit as impressive as the opening three-week surge by their crosstown rivals.
Before you get too crazy, however, this isn't about the Mets. We're only using them to show how quickly the momentum can turn and what little value small sample sizes have in trying to forecast an entire season.
With Sunday night's 8-5 victory over the Red Sox, which completed the Yankees' first sweep at Fenway of a series consisting of at least three games since 2006, they now have a better record (16-9) than the Mets (16-10). And this Bronx revival is just as surprising as what happened in Flushing, given the mounds of dirt we piled on the Yankees after a 1-4 start.
"Hopefully it continues," Joe Girardi said.
Yes, we were among those eager to bury the Yankees. Guilty as charged. We bought into the idea of an old, underachieving roster sputtering to a 75-win season. The defective rotation, Didi Gregorius wilting in the spotlight, the myth of Mark Teixeira's gluten-free comeback, just to name a few red flags.
And that's not to say there aren't genuine problems. Masahiro Tanaka already is gone for a month with forearm issues that may or may not be linked to his existing UCL tear. CC Sabathia, though seemingly healthy, remains an unknown quantity.
Did we mention the looming legal battle over Alex Rodriguez's disputed $6-million marketing payment?
But for all the Yankees' apparent flaws, they're playing better than just about every other team right now. After a 3-6 start, they have won 13 of 16, the second-best stretch in the sport since April 17 (the Astros are 14-2). With Teixeira and Brett Gardner going deep Sunday night, they have hit 33 homers, second-most in the AL behind Houston (37) and fourth in the majors.
"We believe in ourselves," Gardner said. "Things have been going our way for the most part and we've been playing pretty clean baseball."
The Yankees improved to 16-0 when leading after eight innings, 13-1 when scoring first and 10-3 on the road.
Brian Cashman loaded up on power relievers in the offseason, so the bullpen's dominance -- led by twin hammers Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances -- is the least surprising part of the resurgence. Otherwise, it's been a matter of established stars, presumably in decline, performing up to their potential.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner are the 1-2 weapon at the top of the lineup they could never be last season with Derek Jeter's farewell tour clogging the batting order. Ellsbury reached base six times Sunday night and raised his average to .351 with four singles. Gardner, who smacked a three-run homer in the sixth, had consecutive three-RBI games this weekend for the first time in his career.
"They're two players, when you hit them back-to-back, it could be special," Girardi said. "It's really nice to have. They probably don't want to be outdone by each other."
And with the Yankees cruising lately, A-Rod is allowed to be just another player -- or less of a distraction. Cashman caused a stir Saturday by publicly declaring for the first time that the Yankees will not pay him $6 million for tying Mays the previous night with his 660th homer. But Rodriguez refused to fire back Sunday, calling the matter "family business" and repeating that he's a much different A-Rod than the one who fought with the Yankees daily back in 2013.
"A hundred percent," he said Sunday. "I've learned my lesson. The old me is gone."
Instead, we have a smiling, agreeable A-Rod as the face of a Yankees team that's had at least a share of first place since April 23. Again, we know it's early. But from what we thought about the Yankees a few weeks back, it's been a remarkable 180.
Maybe the key to the city will swap hands a few times before this season over. For now, however, the home office of New York baseball remains in the Bronx until further notice.