Four facts about the team with the best record in baseball.
1. Plenty of critics were ready to give up
It’s been exactly seven weeks since the Yankees lost the game that dumped them to last place in the division. At that time, the team didn’t look so good. For a while their rotation was a disappointment. There was a long stretch when their bullpen was short-handed. It seemed like a month went by with daily questions about failure to produce with runners in scoring position. That whole time, the Yankees asked for patience.
“The beginning of the season, we struggled,” Andruw Jones said. “Everybody was saying that we’re old, we’re not getting the job done, but this is not a sprint. This is a marathon. We kept battling and kept playing – plug here, plug that (player) in – until we got in a groove. We’re on a really good groove right now. We’ll take this break, take the time off, and come back in the second half and get the job done.”
It wasn’t only this four-game series in Boston. The Yankees have been playing well for the better part of two months, going 31-12 ever since they hit that low point in the middle of May. Their defense is reliable, their lineup is powerful and their pitching staff is beginning to look like one of the very best in baseball. Taking three out of four in Boston only highlighted what’s been going on for several weeks now.
“We wanted to finish strong with four days off (this week),” Derek Jeter said. “We’ve been playing good. We’ve been playing good for it seems like quite a long time. There’s a lot more attention paid when we play Boston, but I think we’ve been playing good regardless of who the opposition has been. It definitely feels good. We had four games here (at Fenway Park) in three days, it feels like we never left the place, but it definitely feels good to win.”
3. They could be better
If you’re looking for perfection, you’ve come to the wrong sport. Of course the Yankees could be better. Every team in baseball could be better, but the Yankees have some specific gripes. They’ve lost key pieces to injury, and some of their big bats are playing a little too small. If things go to plan with some of their disabled list guys — particularly CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte — they Yankees could add real difference makers along the way in the second half. If those additions are coupled with a few improvements — particularly Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin — this team could really make some noise.
“We’ve been through a lot this first half,” Teixeira said. “(But) I don’t think any of us would say that we’ve played our best baseball. Hopefully there’s better baseball to be played. That being said, you’ve got to feel good about your position right now.”
4. The bottom line hasn’t changed
Pick it apart any way you want, the goal is always the same. The Yankees are supposed to win. They don’t have to win pretty. They don’t have to win with big names. They don’t have to beat the Red Sox and no one else. Being the best team in baseball at the All-Star break is great. It’s undeniable proof that this team has played well through the first half, but there’s another half to play, and the Yankees are going to have to do this all over again.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Joe Girardi said. “Because not only have we had injuries, we’ve had situations where things haven’t went our way. We struggled with some pitching early on, then we struggled with runners in scoring position, but the one thing that this group has found a way to do is win games. And I’m proud of them.”
Associated Press photos