Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Yankees' Injuries, Expectations, and the Slow Start of 2012

I've missed most of the last two weeks of baseball. I work at a college; today is reunion, tomorrow is graduation. It's been a little hectic.

I hesitated before writing a baseball post, since I've been living off of box scores and highlight reels. The AL East standings are upside down, which is not unexpected this early in the season. The Yankees' run differential (the separation between runs scored and runs allowed), sits at +11. That's good, but not great.

At this point in the season, with a performance like that, you'd expect the Yankees to be 21-18. And they are.

The team has had an unlucky string of injuries. The 3 headed beast of the bullpen is down to its weakest head, with Mariano Rivera and David Robertson on the DL. It feels like I haven't seen Brett Gardner since Spring Training, and I never got to see Michael Pineda throw a pitch. The 2012 Yankees were supposed to be machine-like. They were going to play in shades of 1998. And then the machine broke down.

As Yankee fans, we live with the weight of history. In recent years, the Yankee corporation has gone overboard celebrating this fact: at Yankee Stadium, baseball history is the unbroken string of pinstriped championship parades. And whenever someone want to remind us of that, they just need to mention 1965.

In 1964, the Yankees won the pennant but lost the World Series in 7 games to the Cardinals. They won the pennant the year before that. They won the World Series the year before that, and the World Series the year before that, and a pennant before that.

But in 1965, the Yankees got old and the wheels fell off and nothing was ever the same. Aside from a couple championships bought in the late '70s at the birth of free agency, it would take the Yankees 30 years to right the ship.

I don't think this is 1965, despite Arod's lack of power, despite the vanished pitching surplus, despite Mark Teixeira's sub-.300 OBP. I expect the team to round into form, and to move up in the standings as they start to win games against their division rivals.

But there seem to be a lot of rivals this year. The 2012 AL East has the makings of the toughest division since the current divisions were formed in 1994. And everyone loves to beat the Yankees.

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