The beauty of baseball, and maybe even the curse of it, too, is that it’s so easy to be fooled by what your eyes see.
This year’s Yankees present a perfect test case.
In this age of advanced metrics, the simplest lesson to take from those who subscribe to sabermetrics is to always trust the numbers, not your eyes.
Yet who are the real Yankees?
Are they the team that produced one of the American League’s worst offenses, statistically speaking, for nearly three months? Or is it possible that this collective bunch of perennial All-Stars collectively slumped at the same time, thereby setting the stage for an epic second half by each person?
You wouldn’t think that is possible, and then comes along a game like Wednesday night’s 9-7 come-from-behind victory over the Texas Rangers, owners of the American League’s best record.
For one night — heck, for one inning — everything that could go the Yankees’ way did just that. And for a fleeting moment the Yankees looked like the team that could score runs in bunches that Brian Cashman and company always envisioned them to be.
“I always thought we could score runs in a hurry,” manager Joe Girardi said moments after the Yankees scored six runs in the ninth inning — including a tying three-run homer by Brian McCann and a walk-off shot by Didi Gregorius — for what easily ranks as their most promising of the season.
Sure it’s easy to envision a scenario in which, say, Alex Rodriguez turns back the clock to 2015 and guys like Mark Teixeira, McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner rebound in the second half to produce a more consistently productive offense. Look no further than the numbers on their baseball cards as proof.
That’s why a guy like A-Rod stood in front of his locker Wednesday night and felt comfortable discussing how upbeat he is after going 0-for-5. Twice he hit the ball hard, but both times he was robbed of a hit. He’s working hard, watching video and feels close to getting himself back on track, he said. Maybe this is a night you can believe him.
And then there’s McCann, who has been a decent player in pinstripes but not everything they hoped for.
All of the front office’s spray charts showed McCann adding buckets of home runs because of the Yankee Stadium short porch in rightfield. That’s what they boasted about on the day they introduced him. But that never really materialized.
Then there he was Wednesday night, sparking the Yankee comeback by depositing a solo homer in the rightfield seats in the eighth and another three-run shot into the same spot in the ninth that tied the score at 7.
The mere fact McCann was still playing was a bit of good fortune. His knee locked up as he ran around the bases on his homer in the eighth, and it would have been understandable had the Yankees had him call it a night there.
But McCann said he could stay in, and the Yankees won because they believed him.
Girardi is as even-keeled a manager as there is, refusing to read too much into the highs and lows that come with a 162-game season. But even he admitted this was “a big win for us,” given how their season has gone thus far.
“Things can change very quickly,” Girardi said. He was talking about the game itself, but he might as well been talking about the Yankees’ season, as well.
Rodriguez called this “probably the biggest win of the year for us,” but Gregorius one-upped him. “The biggest,” he said, “is yet to come.”
For one night, it was tempting to believe him, even if all the numbers they’ve compiled thus far say otherwise.