You know what I’m really opposed to right about now? ESPN games that start at 8 p.m. on nights before 6:30 a.m. flights to Dallas (with a connection). This is going to be a day fueled by coffee, and here are some random thoughts as I make my way south.
• As has been the case ever since that offseason MRI, anything seems possible with Alex Rodriguez at this point. I don’t think there’s nearly enough evidence to suggest some insurance scam is in the works, but would anything defy expectations with this guy? It’s all on the table, all seemingly possible and plausible. Rodriguez could be playing in two weeks or he could never play again; neither scenario would leave me stunned.
• Well all know Derek Jeter’s not going to want to go back on a rehab assignment, but I can’t help wondering if it might make sense to send him to some minor league affiliate this weekend, then give him next Monday’s off day to rest before joining the Yankees on the West Coast. He’s barely played this year, and after another two weeks off, is he really going to be major league ready in terms of seeing pitchers and fielding hard grounders? Maybe experience makes up for a lot, but Brian Cashman certainly didn’t sound on Friday as if he were ruling out the idea of some more minor league games for his shortstop.
• If Mariano Rivera is getting standing ovations at Fenway Park and a Boston steakhouse, what’s his final game at Yankee Stadium going to be like? How do the Yankees possibly come up with a proper sendoff for this guy? His final season has been even more memorable than I could have predicted when the Yankees broke camp.
• Amazing how quickly CC Sabathia’s starts take a turn now that he’s allowing so many home runs. I always think he has the potential to put together a terrific stretch, but that new home run tendency has really changed who he is. He was always a guy who could grind through a start without his best stuff, but now he’s extremely susceptible to a huge mistake. Must be harder to grind through a game that way.
• I have to assume the Yankees thought either Melky Mesa or Thomas Neal — Mesa would be my guess — was going to be a two-day call-up, quickly replaced by Rodriguez’s activation from the disabled list. Without Rodriguez, is there a better alternative waiting in Triple-A? Is Dan Johnson a good enough third baseman to play there against right-handers? He’s been hitting for a few months now, and he could get a sort of trying to see if he’s a better DH option than Travis Hafner at this point.
• Let’s say the current roster stays at it is except for players coming off the disabled list. I guess you’d have to figure something like this: Jeter replaces Mesa, Nix replaces Lillibridge, Granderson replaces Neal, Cervelli replaces Romine, and Rodriguez replaces Cruz. Amazing that the Yankees could get five players off the DL and not lose a single player who looks like anything more than an easily dismissed role player. You’d think someone would have emerged from all of this available playing time to prove himself as a hard-to-cut alternative, but that just hasn’t happened. It was that way when Granderson and Mark Teixeira came off the DL earlier this season — Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay had emerged — but now, it seems every position except second base and center field is up for grabs.
• That said… Overbay really has been a terrific addition. He was brutal last night and beat himself up for going after bad pitches that were inside and out of the strike zone, but at this point, he’s the Yankees most reliable source of power outside of Robinson Cano. He could use a right-handed platoon partner, but he’s been a nice player. It’s not his fault the rest of the lineup is forcing him to be a cleanup hitter.
• Brett Gardner had five hits in 11 games leading into the All-Star break. He’s now had six hits in his past two games leading into this Texas series. He also stole three bases this weekend. That’s exactly as many steals as he had from June 11 to July 13.
• Have the Yankees ever signed a short-term rental who’s worked out better than Hiroki Kuroda? He was supposed to plug a hole last year, and that’s turned into two seasons — so far — of him being the best starting pitcher on the staff. This guy should be fading away, and instead he’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate. How much would you offer him this winter, and how would you feel about a rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Nova and Phelps heading into spring training?
• Remember when Wells had that game-winning, pinch-hit double against the Rays on June 22? That was a month ago, and Wells has hit over .300 ever since. He’s been much better than the previous two months, but it’s also worth noting that since that game-winning double Wells has had just two other extra-base hits. He’s hitting the ball, just not hitting it for extra bases like you’d expect a middle-of-the-order hitter to do. He’s certainly not the Yankees biggest problem these days, but the Yankees still need more from him. If Hafner could hit the ball again, that would be okay too.
• What am I expecting at the trade deadline? Honestly, not much. I’m not sure this team is close enough to contention for it to be worth sacrificing a massive prospect package to land a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, and I can’t imagine Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain bringing back that sort of hitter. At the same time, I think it would take a complete collapse — something like losing seven of the next eight — for the Yankees to completely sell at the deadline. They have basically no hope of dumping the contracts they’d like to dump.
Associated Press photos