The New York Yankees are generating some historically significant stats of late, and I never saw it coming. Even Joe Girardi said he feels the team clicked rather quickly. The Yankees just won their 9th straight today, finishing off their third series sweep in a row. I’d say right now, these 2012 Yankees have some good company: the last time they had three consecutive series sweeps was in the magical championship season of 1998.
It was stunning to hear that. Never did I expect the 2012 Yankees to be compared to the 1998 Yankees in any way. Maybe they do have that spark.
You don’t win 9 games in a row against three solid teams for no reason – it means you’re good. The Yankees have the best record in baseball since May 22nd. They’ve been playing solid baseball for about as long as they were playing poor baseball – time for me to seriously believe in these guys. So they started slow? No biggie. Maybe everything went bad then, so it could only improve as the season progressed.
Losing Mariano Rivera seemed like the most devastating, depressing catastrophe that could happen to the Yankees. Of course I miss his smiling face, but I have to give credit where credit is due: Rafael Soriano. Just wow. I remember hating on him for awhile too. He and I have had a rocky relationship throughout his short Yankee career. I remember feelings of elation when they signed him, because I knew he was one of the top closers in baseball with the Rays, second probably only to my Mo. Then I saw how much money he was making just to be a setup man. I subsequently discovered the contractual opt-outs, which I felt was a lose/lose situation for the Yankees, because either he would be great and then just opt out for more money, or he would be awful and we’d be stuck with him. Well, he was awful to start the 2011 season, posting a frightening 7.84 ERA over his first month in pinstripes.
He finished up strong though, and after Mo went down this year, he really stepped up. You can tell he has that fearless closer mentality, but without all the antics like some other closers around the game. He’s emotionless on the hill – sometimes it looks like he doesn’t even care – and he maintains his cool with that same blank expression even when the situations get sticky. Sure, he may not always get the opposition down 1-2-3 like Mariano, but the bottom line is that he is getting the job done at a time where the Yankees need him most.
So despite my feelings for the guy in the past, I definitely appreciate Rafael Soriano now, and I know the Yankees are blessed to have him. Since he’s closing now, maybe he is worth all that money. Hopefully he decides to stay in the Bronx.
In my last post, I apologized for hating on Mark Teixeira. He proved to me again in the middle game against the Nationals that I should believe in him. In a game that I thought would go on forever, it was Teixeira who was the hero, coming through in the clutch for what would ultimately be the game winner for the Yanks: a go-ahead 2-run double in the 14th inning. Soriano then closed it down.
But isn’t it ironic: I mentioned in my last post how I complained about Teixeira and whined about wanting rookies (in that post, it was the Angels phenom Mike Trout who I fawned over), but in the second game against the Nationals, their rookie phenom Bryce Harper had an awful day at the plate, going 0-7 and looking horrible. And it was the Yankees veteran with a giant contract, Mark Teixeira, who won the game. I feel bad for doubting him. Rookies may be cute and exciting, but winning is pretty fun, too. Thanks Teix!
Another note about that game two against the Nats: Rafael Soriano closed out the game in the 14th inning, which means that there were a whole lot of innings before that where he didn’t pitch. The Yankee bullpen, which is composed of a bunch of guys no one’s ever heard of, has been absolutely shut-down dominant. They’ve all stepped up and have done way more than I ever could have hoped. To go out there and hold the Nats down to just 1 run from the 8th onwards is incredible. Not to mention, it was at their ballpark, where the pressure is even greater due to the fear of a walkoff loss. Guys like Cody Eppley, Boone Logan, Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, and even the recently-bullpen demoted Freddy Garcia, deserve huge pats on the backs.
It’s crazy. Early on, from the outside looking in, these 2012 Yankees looked like a mess. Ravished by injuries and showing their age, they found themselves in the cellar of the AL East standings. But I guess it really was just “early.” Because right now, on June 18th, the Yankees are 40-25 – 15 games over .500 – and are sitting proudly atop the standings in the AL East. And they show no signs of stopping now.
I hoped that things would only get better for the Yankees after the disappointing start. Maybe that tide began to turn in the right direction for the Yankees a long time ago, but maybe only now do I actually believe that the success I’m seeing is here to stay.