Step One

The Yankees reached .500 last night, the first step for any team that wants to be considered a playoff contender. They are 31-31 with 100 games to go and actually 1 game ahead of the pace set by the 2005 Yankees.

This isn’t the time to focus on divisions or wild cards, it is the time to try and mend some cracks and get to five games above .500. The biggest crack at the start of the year was the pitching and the starters have now rounded into shape. I don’t know if Clemens is going to do much better than he did on Saturday, but the Yankees may not need him to. The offense is back on fire, thanks to Abreu, Cano and Cabrera having huge June’s.

Abreu looks like a changed man and when he takes pitches like that, he just wears out the opposition. Cabrera has found the same fire he had last year and while it bothers me that he couldn’t do that as a bench player, it is a welcome sight now. Cano is back as well and he is becoming more selective which is nice to see. In 2005 he saw 3.05 pitches per plate appearance. In 2006 that went to 3.22 and in 2007 it is 3.38. If he ever learns to draw a walk, look out.

My biggest worries right now are the bullpen and first base. Torre seems committed to using Cairo at first as part of a platoon that makes no sense (how do you platoon two righties?) I can see the argument that when Wang is pitching, you want a defensive firstbaseman, but on other nights it is a mistake. While many are calling for the Yankees to trade for Mark Teixeira, I would set my sights a little lower. The Giants aren’t going anywhere, so how about Ryan Klesko? He’s about average to below-average with the glove, but he has a nice bat and can also play the corner in the outfield. Would the Giants take Farnsworth and something else in exchange if the Yankees picked up most of his money?

For the bullpen, I would definitely get Chris Britton back and send Ron Villone packing. I think with Britton, Bruney and Proctor the Yankees would have three good choices for the 7th and 8th. Vizcaino has been better this month, though his command is still shaky. Myers is what he is and Henn gives you a long guy. That would also get you back down to 12 pitchers which is something the Yankees should do ASAP no matter what.

Two more with Arizona before the suddenly-slumping Mets come in for Subway Series Part Two.