Monday, July 14, 2014

We've reached the official halfway point of the season with the Yankees heading into the four-day All-Star break today. At 47-47, the Yankees are 5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.

Hal Steinbrenner opened up his checkbook for the Yankees to spend almost $500 million on free-agents, such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka. But that wild offseason spending has hardly paid off for the Bombers, with really only Tanaka and Ellsbury earning their money so far.

There is no doubt that this team has under-performed so far this season, but you could also point out the fact that injuries have riddled the team just as much as they did last season, with four fifths of their Opening Day rotation currently on the DL.

The Yankees had a goal of winning one last World Series calls it a career at the end of the season, but with the way things are going now, they could be out of the playoff hunt by the time September rolls around.

Most Valuable Player: Masahiro Tanaka

Without a doubt, Tanaka has been the best player on the Yankees' roster this season. Named an All-Star in his first Major League season, Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts but has lost three of his past four outings. Regardless, without him, it's hard to see the Yankees even still being in contention for the division title.

There were a lot of expectations on Tanaka shoulders when coming over, having gone 24-0 last season in Japan and then getting such a big contract (seven-years, $155 million) with the Yankees put a lot of eyes on him. He not only met the challenge, but he went above and beyond it in his first couple of months.

Obviously we don't know if the elbow injury was there when his recent downward spiral began, but maybe the routine of having to pitch every fifth day, compared to once a week in Japan, was starting to get to him.

The Yankees are hoping that Tanaka is only going to be out for about six weeks, with Tommy John surgery currently on hold. There is no doubt that should Tanaka be out for the rest of the year, the Yankees' playoff chances are essentially over.

Least Valuable Player: Carlos Beltran

After a brilliant postseason with the St. Louis Cardinals last October, Beltran hit the open market with the Yankees keeping a close eye on him, and likewise from Beltran, who always dreamed of being a Yankee. Brian Cashman, according to some reports, did not want to sign Beltran on anything more than a two-year deal, but in the end, with the Kansas City Royals making a series push, Cashman gave him a three-year pact, for some reason that is already looking like a terrible mistake.

Hitting just .216 with nine homeruns and 28 RBIs in 61 games for the Bombers this season, Beltran has already been on the DL twice -- first for an elbow injury in May, and the second being right now with a concussion from a batting practice accident.

There has always been some concerns about Beltran staying healthy through the end of this deal, but if anything, we thought it would be related to the bum knees that have troubled him in the past. Instead, it's the bone spurs in his elbow which have limited him to being a DH-only for the Yankees since he can't throw. And because of that, the Yankees have had to use Ichiro Suzuki on a full-time basis, and it even forced more regular playing time for Alfonso Soriano, who shouldn't have been getting that.

Biggest surprise: Yangervis Solarte

Where did this guy come from? A career minor leaguer, Solarte broke through in spring training and earned a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster. He carried his hot bat in Tampa with him to the regular season, hitting .303 in April and .296 in May, where he started to finally come crashing down to Earth near the end, and eventually posted a .164 batting average before he was optioned to Triple-A.

He didn't stay in the minors very long, coming back after just over a week later. Since his call-up, he's 1-for-9, though.

I don't know, maybe he just went on a hot streak for a couple of months, but it seemed like he would never come back to life, which is no longer the case. I really hope that he can turn things back around and start hitting well again -- not just for the Yankees, but for himself -- because he's a fun person to watch. Long live the Legend of Yangervis.

Biggest letdown: Michael Pineda

Honestly, Pineda is the team's biggest letdown, in my opinion, because we hardly ever got a chance to watch him pitch. He only completed four starts before he was dumb enough to get caught with pine tar on his neck, leading to a ten-game suspension, during which he would get hurt and we haven't seen him sense.

This was suppose to be the year that Pineda finally took the mound for the Yankees and made fans realize why it was such a big deal to acquire him. With a 1.83 ERA in his first four starts, Pineda was off to a great start before stupidity and bad luck caught up to him.

Pineda completed a 25-pitch bullpen session without issue Friday, but a mid-August return to the majors remains his best-case scenario. Coming back anytime in August would be a major addition to the Yankees' rotation, but right now.

Reason to keep believing: the schedule gets easier

The Yankees have 40 home games at Yankee Stadium in the second half of the season -- that's the most in the leagues. The Orioles, meanwhile, who lead the division, have one of the league's toughest schedules in the second half, which could bode very well for the Bombers.

On the flip side, the Yankees have struggled at home this season, but you never know how that might play out in the second half.

This team, for the most part was build for their home ballpark, with the power in Mark Teixeira, McCann and Beltran -- Soriano was another, but was recently DFA'd. McCann and Beltran have struggled, while Teixeira is leading the team with 17 homeruns so far. You have to think that they'll turn it around at some point. This lineup is weak, yes, but it can't hit this bad for the entire season, can it?

Reason to stop believing: the injuries

Four fifths of the Yankees' Opening Day starting rotation is currently on the disabled list -- and two of those guys, possibly three, are pretty much done for the rest of the season, with Pineda, as I mentioned, likely to come back sometime in August, at the earliest.

If there was one player that the Yankees could not afford to lose this season, if was Tanaka. And go figure, they lost Tanaka for at least six weeks, possibly longer if the rehab doesn't work and he needs to have Tommy John.

Coming into the season, the rotation figured to be the Yankees' biggest strength, and now it's their biggest weakness with Chase Whitley only going 3-4 innings a start, and there being no other reasonable in the minors because they're all here. The trade market is dry, and the Yankees don't have much to get the top-tier pitchers out there.

Without injuries, the Yankees are probably sitting pretty in first place right now.


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