Friday, May 8, 2015

These New York Yankees are not boring

The original sentiment about the 2015 New York Yankees was that they were not very good, and worse boring. Due to not reaching the postseason the last couple of seasons, there was little excitement for the fans beyond the long and drawn out celebrations of Mariano Rivera’s and Derek Jeter’s retirements.

So far this season, it seems different. I wouldn’t suggest this is a collection of the most electrifying players in the sport, but there are several players who can ignite enthusiasm for Yankees fans.

It’s true the Yankees are in first-place and that brings its own thrill to the game, especially when many were counting the Yankees out. Optimism grows with every ballgame they win and each series they claim. But beyond winning, there has been a show of camaraderie and it goes beyond growing mustaches.

The Yankees have been brought together by three things this season; above all winning, a growth of mustaches (some better than others) and the most charismatic and notorious player on the team, Alex Rodriguez.

After a rough 1-4 start, the Yankees have gone 17-7 and they’ve received contributions from plenty of players, but Rodriguez certainly leads the way as "must see" at this point. He passed Willie Mays on the all-time home run list Thursday (after being robbed of another homer) and he’s been nothing but baseball focused all season.

Rodriguez has seven home runs on the season and is second on the team in RBI (18) and OPS (.883). When he comes to the plate with a chance to give the Yankees a tie or take the lead, he is once again revered by the fans and feared by opposing pitchers. There is a feeling that he can come through, something few (even his fans) might have expected.

Rodriguez has won over many fans (yes, there are still detractors), even receiving a loud curtain call after surpassing Mays. Rodriguez’s performance is a big part of his support, but some fans were on A-Rod’s side from the beginning with the sympathetic angle that he was being abused by the Yankees. Either way, he’s getting curtain calls and he’s cheered in crucial spots of the game. He brings some drama to each at-bat. And maybe more importantly, A-Rod has given the players in the clubhouse someone to rally around.



A-Rod couldn't drive in runs without some catalysts, and the Yankees have two of the best. The top of the order combination of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner has been electric this season. Ellsbury is scorching hot right now (21-for-42 with 7 SB during his current 10-game hitting streak) and Gardner is not far behind him (13-for-36 with 9 RBI in his last 10 games). It was a question at the beginning of the season as to who would be better suited for the leadoff spot, and once it was established it would be Ellsbury, whether Gardner would settle in as the number-two hitter.

To say they have excelled together is an understatement. Below are their current lines:

Ellsbury – .363/.438/.416, 41 hits, 22 runs and 11 SB in 125 plate appearances
Gardner – .318/.408/.459, 20 runs, 13 RBI and 8 SB in 96 plate appearances

Besides their obvious success at the plate and on the bases, each has played stellar defense in the outfield.

One hitter has regained some flashbulb highlights and that’s a healthy, gluten-free, Mark Teixeira. Teixeira leads the club with 10 home runs, 25 RBI and a .951 OPS. Teixeira might not hit above .250 again due to the defensive shift he refuses to avoid, but if he can reach 30 home runs and 100 RBI, the Yankees will be ecstatic. He’s well on the way to those numbers. Teixeira is once again a potent bat in the heart of the lineup and like A-Rod, if the game is on the line, the Yankees' first baseman has shown he can deliver.

The last hitter in the group, Chris Young, is someone the Yankees took a flyer on last September and paid immediate dividends. He continues to provide the Yankees with excellent production off the bench or as an occasional starter as he’s received plenty of at-bats due to the struggles of Carlos Beltran. Part of Young's allure is the that he was written off, yet has provided the Yankees with plenty of big hits.

On the mound, with Masahiro Tanaka and his dominant splitter on the shelf, Michael Pineda has taken center stage and he owns it. “Big Mike” is a mammoth presence on the mound and has a swagger about him as he goes about his business. He is an absolute marksman with his pitches, striking out 38 batters and walking just three in 39 innings of work. With a 4-0 record and 2.97 ERA thus far, Pineda is well on his way to claiming the role of ace for the Yankees.

Finally, at the backend of the bullpen are two of the best relief arms in the business. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are making opposing hitters look foolish and racking up serious consideration for All-Star appearances. Check out these stats.

Betances – 16.1 IP, 3 W, 1 SV, 27 K, 0.00 ERA, .140 BAA, 0.98 WHIP
Miller – 14.2 IP, 12 SV, 25 K, 0.00 ERA, .063 BAA, 0.75 WHIP

Those are arcade game numbers. Both men feature blazing fastballs and each has off-speed offerings that freeze batters or make them flail wildly at pitches. Once the Yankees have a lead in the eighth inning (and the seventh inning on occasion), it is going to be tough for the other team to overcome.

There you have it. Eight players (nine if you count Tanaka) who bring more to the table than run of the mill performances. Each player mentioned has highlight reel potential when the lights shine on them. There are others who will surely provide heroics and might catch fire along the way (Chase Headley and Brian McCann top the list) and there is always the potential for a call-up to supplant a veteran who might make some noise (Jose Pirela, who is already up; Rob Refsnyder and Jacob Lindgren come to mind).

Cast aside the early-season notion that the Yankees are boring. They have star-power once again. If they keep on winning expect more popping flashbulbs when the focus is on the players currently leading the way.

Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. He is also a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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