On Aug. 1, after the trade deadline had come and gone and the Yankees had finished sending away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, manager Joe Girardi said he still believed the team had a chance to make the playoffs.
“Some people are probably going to think I’m delusional,” he said.
The Yankees were a .500 team when Girardi made his statement. Entering that night’s action, they were seven games out of first place in the AL East and 5 1⁄2 games back for the second wild card.
Since then, the Yankees have said goodbye to Alex Rodriguez and downgraded Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira to part-time status. They have hitched their wagons to rookies Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin and also have two rookies (Chad Green and Luis Cessa) in the starting rotation. And Girardi still believes making the postseason is a realistic goal.
“I think it is, to make the playoffs,” he said Wednesday. “I like what we have here. I know that there’s a lot of inexperience and we’ve had some injuries to our pitching staff and we’ve had some players traded away, but we’re going for this. That’s what we’re doing. I think you see the fight in the guys. We believe.”
The Yankees woke up Thursday in Anaheim, California with Disneyland out their windows and the playoffs no closer to reality. They have improved to two games over .500 at 61-59, but after Thursday’s action, they are 7 1⁄2 games back in the division and six games out of the second wild card.
According to Fangraphs.com, the Yankees entered Thursday with a 2.4-percent chance to make the postseason. Baseball Prospectus had it at 3.4 percent.
Still, even a pair of losses to the first-place Blue Jays — including one in which they blew a 6-0 lead — before the Yankees headed west couldn’t dull the sense that the team did the right thing in jettisoning or de-emphasizing their veterans and giving the kids a look.
The kids — most notably Sanchez and Judge — so far have proved to be all right.
“They’ve handled whatever we’ve given them so far,” Girardi said. “Obviously, these are two young men that have the ability to be very productive.”
They have been more than that so far. Sanchez, who has supplanted McCann as the No. 1 catcher, is 18-for-46 and has a .391/.429/.783 slash line with five home runs, three doubles and 11 RBIs in 12 games since his recall.
Judge, who has taken over rightfield, is 7-for-18 and has a .389/.450/.778 slash line with two home runs and four RBIs in five games.
Even owner Hal Steinbrenner has gotten caught up in Baby Bombers fever. When Judge and Austin became the first two teammates to homer in their first big-league plate appearances in the same game in baseball history — and did it back-to-back, to boot, last Saturday — Steinbrenner almost jumped out of his padded seat.
“I was emotional,” he said Wednesday at the owners’ meetings in Houston, according to The Associated Press. “It doesn’t happen often. I’m very excited about this.”
Steinbrenner also denied that the Yankees have given up on this season, saying it’s not in his DNA.
“There’s no white flag here for me,” he said. “There was no surrender. If you had seen me get rid of Pineda and Eovaldi and Gardner, then you could probably make a case.”
Baltimore 6653 —
Detroit 63573 1⁄2
Houston 61595 1⁄2