Here in early June, with the Yankees still flirting with .500, which side are you on? The everything-must-go, strip-the-roster, begin-the-rebuild-now crowd? Or the stay-the-course, playoffs-or-bust, never-say-die faction?
While most teams go through this debate every year, as part of the eight-week countdown to the non-waiver trade deadline, it’s hardly an annual rite for the Yankees, a team that insists anything short of October is a failure.
They don’t usually have that discussion. Often, because they don’t need to. But also, the Yankees don’t want to. As Brian Cashman has stated many times, he doesn’t have the luxury of taking a season or two off to rebuild.
Stressing that philosophy, the Yankees will use any excuse to push the playoffs rather than sell off their parts, and expect the next month to give them every opportunity to practice what they preach. For those anxious to see what the Yankees can get for Carlos Beltran or Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, we have some bad news. There’s a good chance it may never come to that.
Not with what’s been going on lately, or what lies ahead on the schedule. The Yankees twice rallied Wednesday night — and shrugged off Nathan Eovaldi’s rare clunker — to beat the Angels for a third straight time, crushing them, 12-6. They did it with four home runs, including two by Scranton call-up Chris Parmelee, and Carlos Beltran’s fourth in six games.
“I believe in what I’m seeing right now,” said Beltran, who has 15 homers overall. “I believe we can keep doing this.”
They’re not chasing history like the Cubs, or trying to hammer their way from worst-to-first like the Red Sox, and maybe what’s happening in the Bronx isn’t the best value for your entertainment dollar. But the Yankees look prepared to eventually challenge the top of the American League East, and whether they’re successful or not, it seems like they can convince the front office to at least keep them together to try.
“I think you have to play yourself into contention,” Joe Girardi said. “This is a real important month for us.”
The Yankees improved to 29-30 with Wednesday night’s win, and were 6 1⁄2 games in back of the first-place Orioles. We’re not saying it’s time for the Vegas books to install the Yankees as a World Series favorite. The Angels are terrible, and the Yankees have been insufficient against their AL East comrades (10-17). They have a long way to go.
But as Cashman uses the upcoming month to gauge the worth of this year’s roster, the Yankees should be able to alter the early perceptions. From now until the All-Star break, they only play three teams with a winning record: the Tigers (30-29), Rangers (36-22) and the Indians (32-25) at Cleveland. Overall, their opponents during that stretch have a combined .479 winning percentage, a number dragged down by seven games against the lowly Twins (17-40).
Lousy teams aren’t layups necessarily, and again, the Yankees still are looking up at .500. Despite blowing two winnable games in Baltimore, they’ve been displaying the components of a much better team. Along with Beltran’s homer barrage, Ellsbury, who had three more hits Wednesday night, has a slash line of .340/.410/.534 with six doubles, four triples, two homers and seven stolen bases in his last 30 games. Before Wednesday night, Eovaldi had been automatic, but even with him throwing BP wasn’t enough to sabotage the Yankees, whose rotation was ranked fourth in the AL in ERA (4.23), fourth in WHIP (1.26) and first in K/BB ratio (3.18).
“I like where everybody’s at,” Brian McCann said.
Sure, these aren’t the ’98 Yankees. But if you’re looking for a complete overhaul in the Bronx, this may not be the year after all.