What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees bowed meekly before their new divisional overlords, losing a pair against the Jays and splitting with the “first-place” Orioles.
True Yankee™ gainers: Robinson Cano, the only Yankee who remembered to pack a bat for the Baltimore/Toronto field trip… Boone Logan, who’s been missing bats at a semi-Robertsonian clip in recent weeks… Derek Jeter, for extending his no-double-play streak to two games. If that isn’t leadership, I don’t know what is.
True Yankee™ waners: God, who hath smote the bullpen’s most pious minions… Mark Teixeira, because he can’t shake his cough and I can’t shake the feeling that this team would score more runs with Cano/Swisher/Granderson hitting 3-4-5. This would relegate Tex to batting 6th, or even lower against righty pitching… Alex Rodriguez, because he’s going into you-must-love-me overdrive in the wake of his power-deficient start. Expect a major-outlet interview in which he expresses great respect for the fans and says either “team” or some variation thereon (teamwork, teammate, etc.) 320 times over the course of 7 minutes.
What’s next: The Yankees come home, heads hanging hangdog-low, to play a pair against the Reds (defining characteristic: stubborn refusal to acknowledge necessity of OBP atop the batting order) and Royals (defining characteristic: lack of defining characteristic).
True Yankee™ on the spot: Joe Girardi. It’s difficult to get out-managed by Dusty Baker, most recently seen shoehorning his best pitcher into a medium-leverage role while chomping on a flame-broiled toothpick. But the possibility exists - think a late-game bunt for Martin or Jeter. Just to be safe, somebody oughta double-laminate the batter/pitcher pages of The Binder.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees failed to sweep the inferior-in-every-way-that-matters-and-some-that-don’t Mariners, once again calling into question their will to compete over the course of a 162-game regular season.
True Yankee™ gainers: Phil Hughes, who not only pitched seven full innings for the first time since grade school, but actually hit 94 mph on the kind YES Network gun. Radar guns, like hips, don’t lie… Raul Ibanez, who has a real knack of guessing fastball - the one pitch he can still drive - at the precise right moment… Derek Jeter, who summoned the courage and tenacity to single through the left side of the infield mere innings after he hit into a pair of rally-gutting double plays. This guy, he’s just wired differently than the rest of us, he really is.
True Yankee™ waners: Nick Swisher, for attempting to extend that ninth-inning double into a triple, even if replays showed his hand hit the base ahead of the tag. His general awesomeness can only excuse so much… Andy Pettitte, who looked nothing like the guy who dueled John Smoltz for eight-plus innings in the 1996 World Series. That Andy Pettitte weighed at least 20 pounds less and had few specks of grey around the temples… Alex Rodriguez, whose failure to hit a five-run homer on Sunday robbed Pettitte of his first W since 2010. Can you think of a single player who lets down his teammates, fans and friends with such metronomic regularity? I bet he’s a lousy neighbor, too, and always leaves his turn sign blinking long after he has changed lanes.
What’s next: The Yankees head to Baltimore for a two-game series against the upstart Orioles, whose fans are practically begging for some bigger, mightier entity to put a boot on their throats about now. Seriously: the Pirates were in a first-place tie on July 25 last season and still managed to lose their usual 90 games. If the Orioles persist with their spirited uppity feistiness into August, then we can have a conversation. Until then, just play along.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Cory Wade. He has transcended his waiver-claim lineage and evolved into a key bullpen cog. But with the late-game pecking order shuffled after Mariano’s unfortunate KC turf dance, Wade might actually find himself pitching in a high-leverage situation or three. It’s in God’s hands now.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees won a mere two of three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, blowing perhaps their final opportunity to vault themselves back into the top-o’-the-division thicket.
True Yankee™ gainers: Robinson Cano, who has started to hit like Robinson Cano - an odd coincidence, given that his name is Robinson Cano - and thus defied the small-sample simpletons who read too much into his early-season sluggishness…C.C. Sabathia, though this is the last time we’ll celebrate a stopper-pitching-like-an-stopper performance in this space. Nobody celebrates a donut for tasting like a donut, am I right? Am I right?… Derek Jeter, for handling his first slumpy week of the season with the steely resolve of Walter Cronkite, Anne Frank and Bruce Wayne combined. And it isn’t like the stat skeptics are monitoring his ground-ball rate or anything like that. Nuh-uh.
True Yankee™ waners: David Robertson, for not only surrendering his first run in like half a season, but also for registering the Yankees’ first blown save since the John Wetteland era. Mariano must be turning over in his bed… Eduardo Nunez, a ball magnet no matter where you try to hide him on the diamond. Somehow he’ll find a way to undermine team defense from Rochester… Alex Rodriguez, who hasn’t hit a home run or driven in a run since Sunday. Let the on-base-getters-on get on base, Alex. Your job is to hit the ball far and refrain from preening like a jerkhole. Get with the program.
What’s next: The Seattle Mariners roll into town, all bright eyes and hopeful grins. Then the Yankees do a quickie two-stop road trip to play the Blue Jays and the “first place” Orioles before returning home for… interleague play? Already? The season has entered its adolescence.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Hiroki “Hideki” Kuroda. If he can’t shut down the Seattle lineup, we’re gonna start crafting a “dude can only get out little-ball National Leaguers, who slap and wiggle and bunt like the faeries of yore” narrative for him from which he’ll struggle to write himself out.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees bowed down before the league’s loserheads, scoring only three runs in losing two of three to the “first place” Orioles and riding a sad case of the whiffsies to a split against the Royals.
True Yankee™ gainers: C.C. Sabathia, because on a day when the Yankees needed an ace - on a day when the specter of a Mariano-free future hung over the clubhouse like evil mistletoe - C.C. Sabathia was every bit that ace, chomping innings as if they were Chocolate Cheerios… David Robertson, who hasn’t permitted a batter to put a pitched ball into play since last August… Derek Jeter, the sole standing member of the Core Four™, unless you want to count Pettitte as a Core Four™ member, which really you shouldn’t, due to the brief exile in Houston and the Clemens-ish “I want to spend more time with my family… no, come to think of it, I don’t” sabbatical/reverse-retirement.
True Yankee™ waners: Joe Baseball Fan, robbed of the 55 or so innings worth of bullets that Mariano had left in his 2012 arsenal… Jayson Nix, for hitting the batting-practice gapper that, with an assist from the lip of the Kauffman Stadium warning track, felled the great Mariano… Alex Rodriguez, who made it known to anyone who asked that he is “close” to Mariano. Hello? High school much?
What’s next: A return home to face the shift-junkie Rays and the more-boring-than-sad Mariners. “But wait,” you say. “The Yankees aren’t hitting! What EVER will they do against Price and Felix and the rest?” Well, fair friend, Swisher is back and Gardner is close behind. This means that the hitters will ditch the bunting and clumsily executed hit-and-runs, and return to the grind-and-slug tactics that serve them so well. Seriously. If you’re sitting in the low seats in right field, wear a crash helmet.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Mark Teixeira. We’re a-needin’ a focal point for our frustration for the offense (6th in MLB in runs scored through Sunday, BTW) and he’s just sitting there, his mouth frozen in an eternal “duuuuhhhh.” Plus he is being paid a formidable sum to play baseball, which sets our resentment aflame like kerosene on prayer candles.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees won two of three games over the Detroit Tigers, one on a walk-off passed ball and another after the Tigers gifted them 64 baserunners in the first five innings. It was neither impressive nor aesthetically pleasing, but - don your cliché crash helmets, please - they all count the same in the standings. They do. Ask anyone.
True Yankee™ gainers: C.C. Sabathia, who threw the way he does 19 times out of 20. He’s like a really fat metronome… Chris Stewart, who is totally not C.C.’s personal catcher, even though he only starts on the days Sabathia pitches and wears slacks and a dress shirt in the dugout on the days he doesn’t… Derek Jeter, whose horrible offensive drought over the weekend went unnoticed by this girl I saw in the park today. She was wearing an unlicensed Jeter shirt, one with “never underestimate the power of HEART” half-circled around a huge number 2 on its back. I didn’t think to get her opinion of Cap’n Pressure Cooker’s range at short. My bad.
True Yankee™ waners: Freddy Garcia, who, following another body-cavity search of a start, answered the question “are you hurt or do you just suck?” with a darty-eyed “yes”… Joe Girardi or Curtis Granderson, or whoever the hell called for a sacrifice bunt in a nobody-out, man-on-first situation on Sunday. The pitcher was wild and Granderson is a murderous viking against right-handed pitching at the Stadium, and yet somebody thought a bunt was the tactic that would eventually produce a favorable offensive result? I’m going to dunk my head in the sink now… Alex Rodriguez, for failing to acknowledge Willie Mays after passing him on the all-time RBI list. Does this make A-Rod a racist? I think it does! Somebody get Selena Roberts on the phone.
What’s next: Three games against the first-place Baltimore Orioles, whose hot start has nothing to do with the ease-into-the-season-on-a-downy-cloud scheduling and everything to do with Buck Showalter’s messianic policies regarding uniform-pant tapering and strict curfew-adherence.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Raul Ibanez, who will be manning an outfield corner more or less every day until Nick Swisher returns from his hamstring strain. Any ball struck in the air will thus be more of an adventure than locking your kid in the car and Raiders Of The Lost Ark combined. Cross your fingers and brace for impact.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees lost two of three games to the Texas Rangers, confirming their status as the shlubby Oates to the Rangers’ immaculately coiffed Hall. Just as night follows day and Mike & Molly follows Two And A Half Men, so too do the Yankees linger in the Rangers’ long shadow.
True Yankee™ gainers: David Robertson, for being plus-plus, in scouting-kid parlance, as both a pitcher and a human being… Derek Jeter, who continues to approach each at-bat as if it’s his last. Have we confirmed that he isn’t suffering from a terminal illness?
True Yankee™ waners: Phil Hughes, though let’s not let his YES Network enablers off the hook. On Wednesday night, they squealed with delight every time Hughes hit 93 on the radar gun, which would be an achievement if those 93 mph heaters dove, darted or otherwise didn’t beg hitters to put them out of their misery… Michael Pineda, whose broken shoulder should prompt a product-liability lawsuit or something… Ron Washington, because he offends the True Yankee™ ideals of justice, fortitude and common sense on a nightly basis. He has batted Mike Napoli in the order’s bottom third 14 times in 17 games so far this season. It’s true. Just check this here linky-link… Alex Rodriguez, for only delivering a single in-your-FACE-jerkhead flourish to the chin of his former employers down Texas way. And to think the Rangers received the staggering return of Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias (picked from a pool of players that included Robinson Cano) for him and $70 million of the cash remaining on his deal.
What’s next: Three games at home against the Detroit Tigers, who vanquished the Yankees in last year’s playoffs. If recent history holds, Jim Leyland will pull all sorts of wacky shit and it will all somehow work out (e.g., hit a .295 OBP guy in the two-hole ahead of Cabrera and Fielder). This will be inordinately frustrating to us True Yankee™ lovers of reason.
True Yankees™ on the spot: The entire rotation. It’d sure be swell if the starters threw together a good start or three, because people who produce baseball stories don’t quite get the concept of small sample sizes. Me, I prefer my Yankee sirloin without a side of stewed hysteria.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees justified the loyal, long-suffering fandom of thousands of Staten Island residents by sweeping a two-game, late-April series from the Red Sox at Fenway. In erasing Saturday’s 9-0 deficit with a 15-run barrage, the Yankees notched a victory that single-handedly atoned for their collapse in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
True Yankee™ gainers: Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, because it tends to induce amnesia about one’s struggles from the left side of the plate when one makes the ball go boom boom far away high fare thee well wheeeeee… Russell Martin, the current OBP-fetishist poster boy… Derek Jeter, for prompting Mike Aviles to catch his spikes in the infield turf while pursuing an undistinguished ground ball and fall flat on his ass. This resulted in the first butt single of El Intangiblito’s storied career, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
True Yankee™ waners: The starting pitchers, who appear to have a little belly-itcher in them… Joe Girardi, because asking Eduardo Nunez to play a competent 2B, SS or 3B is like asking a kindergartner to knit a wearable sweater. Technically both tasks are achievable, but the outcome can only be measured in degrees of unfavorability. There’s a vacancy in left field for the next week or three; Nunez can’t be any more directionally impaired out there than Raul Ibanez, unless he attempts to win a bet with his old fraternity buddies by wearing his stirrups blindfold-style… Alex Rodriguez, whose over-the-Monster bomb on Friday just felt like showing off. Also, he forearm-bumped indifferently with Swisher and Teixeira after their special moments.
What’s next: Series against the Rangers (in Arlington) and Tigers (at home), which will give the Yankees the opportunity to avenge their ignominious playoff defeats in 2010 and 2011. Nothing satisfies months-old competitive vengeful bloodlust like a win during the third full week of the regular season.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Hiroki Kuroda, who will be fighting for team and country alike when he bumps up against Yu Darvish on Tuesday night. Asked about the import of the matchup back home, Kuroda said something to the extent of “I will smite him and anyone who dares make a Yu/you pun in my presence, especially ‘Yu had me at hello.’” This was promptly reinterpreted by his translator as “It’s not me-against-him. As I understand it, baseball is a team game.” Pretty crafty, translator man.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees endangered their delicate-as-a-hothouse-flower playoff hopes by losing two of four games to the Minnesota Twins, a team without a single pitcher that inspires an emotion other than despair.
True Yankee™ gainers: Curtis Granderson, even as his Thursday-night bashery inspired tens of “The Grandy Man Can!” headlines. Punny editors are more of a threat to our well-being than medical marijuana dispensaries and fringe terrorist sects combined… David Robertson, but the credit should be spread around the Thoreau-deep bullpen. Plus kudos to Girardi for defining everyone’s role before April is out; The Binder is as wise as it is three-ringed… Derek Jeter, for making it really challenging to mock his performance in the context of Yankee-loyalist overstatement. Dude’s been the game’s best shortstop so far [insert small-sample-size caveat here].
True Yankee™ waners: Eduardo Nunez, even though he’s proving a punchy little guy at the plate. On the days he tags in at second or third, the Yankees often count four horrific defenders (Nunez, Jeter, Swisher, Ibanez) among their starters… Hiroki Kuroda, whose crafty deceptiveness was not craftily deceiving to Justin Morneau… Alex Rodriguez, because there was this one ball hit last night that he totally could’ve caught but he didn’t catch it, because he’s a total choker.
What’s next: The first of six belabored series against the Red Sox, each game of which will be a Sisyphus-meets-the-Donner-Party ordeal pockmarked by endless at-bats and myriad pitching changes. As always, the enmity in the bleachers will outweigh the enmity on the field by a multiple of 200.
True Yankee™ on the spot: C.C. Sabathia, who could use one of those throw-team-on-yacht-sized back starts about now. It’s been, what, four outings since he produced one of those? Bad ace! Bad!
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees took two of three from the Los Angeles Angels, lifting their record above .500 and inserting themselves into a playoff race that, last week at this time, seemed as distant and unreachable as the sun’s sun.
True Yankee™ gainers: Ivan Nova, who pitched through what team docs later called a “power-sniffle”… Raul Ibanez, for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do: provide power and trench-deep at-bats against righty pitching, and spread veteranny clubhouse bonhomie on the days when the Yanks face a portsider… Derek Jeter, because his 2012 contributions have blown past “sublime” on the way to “mythical.” How isn’t there a national holiday in his honor? This is Obama’s fault.
True Yankee™ waners: Phil Hughes, whose first two starts have prompted me to question the key tenet underlying my personal baseball philosophy (that 200 good starter innings are better than 70 great bullpen ones, because 200 is more than 70)… Rafael Soriano, for attempting to shake off his rust in a public setting, which is a class-C felony in some of the more prudish parts of the country… Alex Rodriguez, who couldn’t find a single nice thing to say about Cory Wade’s performance in Sunday night’s game. And still he wonders why his Q Score is so low.
What’s next: Four home games against the Twins, who make up for their inability to pitch, hit or field with an uncanny knack for self-concussing. Separately, the Twins’ current Angels/Rangers/Yankees/Rays/Red Sox stretch suggests some kind of profound personal grudge on the part of Bob T. Schedulemaker.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Chris Stewart. In his first Yankee Stadium start for the home team, he’ll have to contend with throngs of fans still peeved that the team chose to deal away George “The Kont-Miss Kid” Kontos for a faceless backup catcher with a toothpick bat. Those self-anointed Kontosians can get nasty; Stewart better hope the team store doesn’t sell D-size batteries.
What happened: The 2012 New York Yankees swept a three-game series from their perpetual whipping boys in Baltimore, with two of the wins coming in extra innings. As a result, the playoffs remain a remote possibility, a star glimmering ever-dimly on the periphery of some distant galaxy.
True Yankee™ gainers: Ivan Nova, whose start stabilized a flagging ship, or something… The whole bullpen but especially David Phelps, whose fastball does a nifty little dipsy-doo when it crosses the plate… Derek Jeter, for the home run and the inspiring effort on a grounder, hit half-sharply two steps to his left, that somehow managed to elude him.
True Yankee™ waners: Joe Girardi, whose binder now includes the following insert, scrawled murderously in death-black ink: DO NOT USE YOUR 42-YEAR-OLD CLOSER THREE DAYS IN A ROW EVEN IF HE IS AN UNBREAKABLE SUPERROBOT… Eduardo Nunez, who runs the bases like a manic squirrel and fields the ball casually, as if he’s trying to impress the ladies with his imperturbability. There are garden gnomes with better baseball instincts… Alex Rodriguez, for blowing off a mandatory team function at a children’s cancer clinic*.
What’s next: The home opener, headlined by a first pitch from Jorge Posada and the fourth-ever Yankee Stadium appearance by superstar/future luxury-tax albatross Albert Pujols. The Yanks will miss both Dan Haren and Jered “Jared” Weaver, which doesn’t hurt.
True Yankee™ on the spot: Hiroki Kuroda, because you never get a second chance to make a first impression, unless the people upon whom you hope to make that impression are blackout-drunk. Sadly, it’s not looking like vodka weather tomorrow afternoon.
*may not actually have happened