I’ve never really liked the mid-season report card thing. I think it makes for interesting, discussion-worthy copy — it’s the kind of thing that’s fun to sit around and debate for no good reason — but what does it really mean to say Lyle Overbay is having a “B-” season? Is a “B-” season from Overbay the same as a “B-” season from Jayson Nix or Robinson Cano or Preston Claiborne?
Playing time is different for different players. Roles are different. Expectations are different. Performance evaluation requires something a little more nuanced than a single letter grade.
So how to evaluate the Yankees first half?
“I think we’ve achieved a little more than outsiders would have thought,” Vernon Wells said. “I think we still could have positioned ourselves a little better. I think this has been a season that’s been very unique when it comes to this uniform, the amount of injuries we’ve had, and the guys that have been in and out. I give it a passing grade, but there’s still a lot more work to do.”
Keep in mind that the Yankees entered spring training already answering questions about their offense. They’d lost a ton of power in the offseason, and there was considerable uncertainty about whether they’d be able to score enough to live up to their lofty standards.
That was before Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis were hurt. That was also before Derek Jeter suffered a setback, then another setback, and before both Shortstop Plan B and Shortstop Plan C landed on the disabled list.
“I’m proud of this team,” CC Sabathia said. “No matter what, we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity, and to still be right there in the middle of this thing I think is an accomplishment in itself. You’re just never satisfied.”
Pride without satisfaction. Maybe that counts as an evaluation. Things could certainly be worse, but there’s no satisfaction in a 51-44 record. No satisfaction in being a fourth-place team, six games out of first place. No satisfaction in waiting for Jeter or Granderson or Alex Rodriguez to come back and save the day.
The Yankees pitching staff has been, for the most part, satisfactory. The Yankees have the third-best ERA in the American League, and that’s despite several aging pitchers, a handful of inconsistent starters, and a sluggish first half from Sabathia.
The lineup has gotten good production out of Cano and Brett Gardner, their only hitters who are both in their prime and supposed to be playing every day. Overbay and Vernon Wells held down the fort brilliantly until Teixeira and Granderson returned from the DL, but filling in for those two for another month and a half has proven difficult.
“I think our guys have done probably about as well as we could do,” manager Joe Girardi said. “There’s some games I felt we had a chance to win, and a hit here and a hit there we might have won some games, but I’m very appreciative of what they’ve given us, and we’ll continue to try to press on.”
But Girardi also said this (it’s in that video up top):
“It’s not where I want to be. I said, I think these guys have done a pretty good job. We’ve had a lot of change over here. We’ve had a lot of guys asked to do things that they weren’t expected to do when the winter started and we got into January, but it’s not where we want to be, so I don’t think anyone should be satisfied with where we’re at.”
I don’t know what the letter grade is for something like that. If the team isn’t where it wants to be (and the Yankees certainly are not) then it should be an “F.” If the team is dealing with massive adversity and still in the hunt (which the Yankees certainly are) then it deserves an “A.”
But these things are always more complicated than a letter grade. An “A” for effort doesn’t mean much in the standings, and if the Yankees are an “F,” then what’s a team like the Blue Jays? And what does a mid-season grade mean, anyway?
“I think there’s urgency no matter what,” Wells said. “The good thing is we have several games left against Boston, against the teams ahead of us. You control your destiny in the second half. You play well, you give yourself a chance.”
Associated Press photos