The Yankees have to this point in Spring Training (22nd March) achieved more wins than any other team. On one hand this could be due to the fact that they have lost less players to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) nations than most teams, but, on the other, winning games can never be a bad sign. Spring Training is no great way of measuring the outcome of the regular season but being top of the Grapefruit League beats the heck out of being at the bottom.
The New York Yankees surprised us all by how long they stayed in contention for the second wild card before slipping away in the final week or so of the regular season. However, in reality they didn’t really maintain the momentum that they had worked up in August and the team both in terms of their batting and pitching struggled over the last few hurdles and the much vaunted Baby Bombers began to look a little more ordinary after the initial excitement around the call-ups had settled down…
I would be the first to admit that I didn’t expect to see the Yankees have their best month of the season in August. With the departure of Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran it seemed so unlikely. Just as unlikely as Ronald Torreyes leading the team in batting average. Who could guess?
Well, that is in the little bit of October the Yankees were actually involved in this year. They made it to the playoffs but only by wildcard qualification. And then in the one-game wildcard playoff, they failed to produce a single run in their game against the Houston Astros. Let’s look at what went wrong… and one or two things that went right and look bright for the future.
What: The New York Yankees vs the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays
When: 7th September to 13th September 2015
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Stood outside Yankee Stadium on the 10th of September as the rain begins to gently fall, you realise that perhaps this is not going to go to plan. When the series with the Orioles had opened and a Yankees win meant that the lead that Toronto had in the American League East was cut back to half a game, the world seemed filled with optimism. Even when Baltimore took the next two games, things hadn’t seemed so bad – results elsewhere had gone in the Yankees favour. And after all, one and a half games behind doesn’t look so bad when the team ahead of you is just about to arrive in town for four games and anything could happen.
What: New York Yankees versus Tampa Bay Rays
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York, USA
When: September 4 to 6, 2015
New York City is one of my favourite places in the world. London, Whitby (UK not Canada), Stratford-upon-Avon and New York are the places I love and not necessarily in that order. Being back there is always a good thing.
They call it the City That Never Sleeps and you can see why. But I guess in a city that never sleeps then sometimes changes seem to happen at double the speed. Some of my favourite things about this city are gone forever.
There was Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on 59th Street and its mashed potatoes and chicken. It’s not there are any more. There was the food and idiosyncratic shopping at the South Street Seaport. It’s been demolished. Of course, there was the old Yankee Stadium which you will look for in vain. It’s a long time gone. It’s not only Joe DiMaggio who we must ask where he is gone, some other favourites are gone too.
I first caught the baseball bug in the mid 80s but it was the mid 90s before I journeyed to New York to sit in that old Stadium that Ruth built. Then there was a players’ strike but like them I was to be back the following year. 1995.
1995. The year that a still developing centre-fielder called Bernie Williams was joined in the majors by four more developing stars. Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Somebody told me a few days ago that the New York Yankees buy their success. That’s fine rhetoric and oft repeated but the evidence won’t bear it. The Yankees are at their strongest when their farm system is at its strongest – whether it be the “Core Four” of 1995 or the debuts of Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig or Munson. Growing internal greats has always worked out best.
Let’s consider some figures:
What do they represent? Well, unsurprisingly for this column, they represent the monthly team batting averages for the New York Yankees for every month prior to August. The top one on the list is July, the bottom is April. June and May come inbetween and reveal the way that the Yankees’ batting had improved every month this season – that is until August, the month when their batting performance fell apart. Let’s see where the disaster had its roots: