Let’s Not Print The World Series Tickets In July

On May 28th, I wondered how the Yankees would fare over their next 44 games. With yesterday’s win against Toronto, we have an answer, really really well. The Yankees not only survived a rough patch in the schedule, they dominated it, going 31-13. Not only that, but they went from 2-1/2 back in the division to 9-1/2 games up thanks to the fact that only Boston has played above .500 ball in the AL East since that date.

But, let’s not forget that there are still 71 games left to play. Almost half a season to go. In fact, today is an anniversary that should remind us that nothing is settled in July. It was 34 years ago tonight that the Yankees started to climb out of the 14-game deficit in the AL East. That 1978 team went 51-21 over its final 72 games while Boston went 37-35. If these Yankees close their season in a similar fashion, they will end up with 93 wins. That would mean Baltimore would have to go 46-24 to beat them a .657 clip. Boston would need one additional win, so 47-23, a .671 clip. Both are difficult, but certainly not impossible. And remember, Boston still has 12 games against the Yankees and Baltimore has 10, so they will have plenty of chances to cut that lead down.

To me the biggest question mark in all of this is Brett Gardner. We still haven’t heard what his MRI on Monday showed. That indicates to me that he can’t be counted on to return. While the Yankees haven’t missed his bat, they certainly have missed his glove. The Ibanez/Jones combo would be a perfect DH tandem. As outfielders, they are not assets. So, if I were Brian Cashman, I would be trying to find someone who could take over leftfield on a regular basis in the trade market and it doesn’t have to be a rental guy.

This is a fairly similar situation to the trade deadline of 2006. Back then the Yankees had Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui on the DL. The Yankees had an option on Sheffield for 2007, but they could also let him walk in the free agent market. They went out and got Bobby Abreu from the Phillies and then picked up the option, but traded Sheffield in the off season. With Nick Swisher a potential free agent after the season, the Yankees could try and trade for a guy who could play left now, with the idea that he switches over to right in 2013. Perhaps someone like a Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer or David DeJesus. Three guys who are playing on teams that are in rebuilding mode. (I recognize that in that trio only DeJesus could be called a good outfielder, but I still think Willingham or Cuddyer would be better than the Ibanez/Jones combo.)

Or, the Yankees could sit back and do nothing, which is probably Brian Cashman’s preferred route. I wouldn’t be overly upset if they stood pat, but I hope that would be a reflection of the prices in the trade market rather than being happy with where they are in the standings. There is plenty of baseball left to be played.