I have to admit I didn’t see the New York Yankees being as close to the top of the American League East standings as they as we get ready to enter July. With very little Mark Teixeira and no appearances yet from Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, it really is a testament to Manager Joe Girardi, General Manager Brian Cashman and the players themselves that they are still within shouting distance of division-leader Boston.
With Teixeira now under-going season-ending surgery on his wrist, the returns of Rodriguez and Jeter could not come sooner despite the fact that their expected return dates are still unknown as of yet. Obviously the Yankees would love to have the leadership and clutch-hitting of Jeter back as well as a powerful right-handed bat which A-Rod can hopefully provide.
What you should find intriguing about this is just what will the return of these two guys ultimately mean for the Yankees in the final three months of the Major League season.
The argument can be made that A-Rod may actually come in a provide more in the way of numbers. Actually, any improvement would help their 26th best batting average of .236 which makes their current standing all the more impressive. Rodriguez is of course coming off of hip surgery and on his new Twitter account last week proclaimed himself “ready” which didn’t sit well with Cashman who was pretty clear that the doctors have not officially cleared him yet.
Yankees’ President Randy Levine said “We need Alex back.” If he means in the purest baseball sense, which I believe he does, he is right. The problem is that A-Rod is such a polarizing figure that many fans will not be crazy to see him. Don’t forget he may have yet another performance-enhancing drug issue hanging over his head with the coming forward of the South Florida doctor. Levine isn’t a fool and clearly knows that the Yanks would love nothing better than to dump his monstrous salary which they are on the hook for for another few years. I don’t see any team wanting A-Rod regardless of how well he performs because of his contract so I believe the Yankees will have to eat it.
In Jeter’s case, he is recovering from that broken ankle suffered against the Detroit Tigers in the first game of the American League Championship Series last October. He was thought to be back for the season opener but suffered a setback in spring training. No figure in pinstripes will receive a more hearty welcome back than Jeter which of course is deserved but will he be able to put up productive numbers?
Perhaps the better question is from what position will Jeter be playing? His top replacement, Eduardo Nunez is getting ready to come off the DL as well and at 26 years old, has much better range than the 39-yeard old Jeter. It’s possible we could see Jeter in a DH role against left-handers because he still has great success against them versus only average success against righties. With Teixeira gone, is first place a possibility? From time to time I believe it is.
Honestly, I don’t think it matters if both men come back and play well in 2013. Boston appears to be deeper and have more pitching and the Baltimore Orioles could have the same thing said about them. I feel like Tampa will hang around but just doesn’t have enough horses while Toronto needed a recent 11-game winning streak just to pull back withing five game of the Sox. I have no doubt the Yanks will add some guys at the trade deadline if they are still hovering around the five-games out area. I don’t believe it will be enough however so put your money elsewhere because we all know A-Rod doesn’t exactly handle pressure very well.