Cashman - "You and your love of defensive catc..." Girardi - "He'll come around!" (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Can I help it if the first thing I think of when I hear the words "halfway there" is Bon Jovi screaming Livin' on a Prayer? I grew up with it in the 80's and I hear it every time I go into a bar. Every time. Same with Don't Stop Believing. I'm not even a huge fan of the song or Bon Jovi either. To quote Dean from the underrated TV show Supernatural, "Bon Jovi rocks, on occasion." I prefer Wanted Dead or Alive. Now I want some good, greasy bar food. An order of waffle fries and mozzarella sticks would serve my needs nicely. Nachos are another favorite. There's nothing quite like good bar food while watching a Yankees game. I think the food tastes a whole lot better when they win.
So far the 2012 Yankees season has been pretty damn delicious in terms of bar food-winning tastiness ratio. We just passed the halfway point and their 52-33 W/L record is currently the best in baseball. It's break time now. It's time for the team to rest and relax a bit. It's time for the fans to stop shoveling waffle fries in their face. It's time for many a sports writer to assess the Yankees season thus far. The classic grading and report cards will all be there. They won't be here though. High school made me hate report cards. Also, I'm not that fond of grading players because my own bias might get in the way and even if I gave a person an F there's really nothing I can do about it. I can't send Russell Martin to summer school for failing hitting and fielding class. It's already summer and he apparently has friends in high places.
Instead of grading the Yankees and dishing out A-Bomb's like A-Rod and F-Bomb's like Samuel L. Jackson, I'd just like to take a quick look back at the first half of the season and discuss what we're most likely going to hear about as the trade deadline approaches. Will it be a trade season of panic and prospect dumping based on how doomed the Yankees will be in the second half? Will the Yankees just make a few patches here and there due to their pretty decent record thus far? Mike Trout for Raul Ibanez and Chris Stewart? Make that phone call, Cashman.
The main talking point for the majority of the first half has been the lack of production with runners in scoring position. The bases were being left loaded no matter the number of outs. The no outs one hurt after a while. Someone ripped out the clutch on Jeter's Edge. It can be frustrating because there's really nothing you can do about it except hope that it will turn around. You cannot just tell a player to hit with someone on base like how Mr. Burns told Strawberry to hit a home run on The Simpsons. The RISP situation has gotten better towards the end of the first half. Perhaps our hope that it will turn around is finally paying off. That or the whole "law of averages" thing. Time will continue to tell. If it does not the talking heads will probably start discussing trades for more potent bench players. Raul Ibanez, DeWayne Wise, Andruw Jones, and possibly even Chris Stewart are not irreplaceable. When Brett Gardner returns, the subject I am personally interested in more than any other, could be what determines the necessity of these trades. The Yankees usually play better during the second half of the season. This gives me that hope. What dwindles my hope is Russell Martin.
Martin's hitting has been as insulting as those "Let's have a BBQ" Burger King commercials. He supposedly makes up for it with his defense and pitch framing. The defense has not even impressed me that much of late, Saturday's night game notwithstanding. Steve brings up the question of his unacceptable hitting vs. his defense in a recent article and you just have to wonder if they'd be better off. As Tanya points out in her article, they really don't have much choice at this point in time. It doesn't look like any of the trade deadline sellers have catchers we might be interested in. Maybe Martin will at least take more walks during the second half. Maybe the Red Sox might be willing to part with Kelly Shoppach and give him to us for cash and prizes. Make that phone call, Cashman. There are little to no trades regarding the rest of the offense though. We all know which players are not leaving the team and I cannot see them trading the potentially good future contract extension players like Granderson or Swisher. The firestorm that would be caused by trading Granderson would be a thing of both beauty and abject horror to behold though.
The next, last, and most obvious talk of the trade season will be the pitching. The injuries to Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia have already started the discussion. Thus far it has not been that major of a discussion. It will hopefully remain minor throughout the trade season. Sabathia's stint on the DL will supposedly be over with this Sunday. Pettitte is another story. A dark, gloomy, almost unfair story like that of Eddard Stark. I don't think pitching has been a major concern since his heroic return. Before his return it was a concern with Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes unable to go the distance due to lack of control, discipline, moral support, Game of Thrones on HBO, etc. Hughes has hopefully turned it around. He still needs to learn to eat his meatballs instead of playing with his food. Garcia's mechanics look acceptable after exiting the long relief role in the bullpen to cover Pettitte's spot. If this hold true then our rotation should be fine for the second half. Major prospects need not be lost to the evils of superstar rental pitchers. Do you hear me, talking heads? No. Cole. Hamels. That goes for you as well, Cashman!
What about the bullpen? Quite frankly, what about the bullpen? Except for the recent month long Cory Wade malfunction it has easily been our greatest strength. I really hope Cody Wade can be fixed. It's not that I do not like Chad Qualls so much that I don't trust him or many people named Chad. Cashman will probably look for more bullpen help since tradin' season is also DFA'in season. It's also possibly Duck Season but the signs were just changed. Whomever Cash gets could just be holding a spot until Joba Chamberlain's potential return as well as, dare I say, Pedro Feliciano's? It was a struggle to finish that last sentence. Who am I to argue Cashman's bullpen choices lately though? Except the Mitre decisions, of course.
What all this amounts to is the fact that the Yankees are going into the second half of the season with less holes, problems, or issues than every other team in the AL East; an AL East we will see a whole lot of. It does not guarantee a postseason birth due to intangibles and unpredictability. It just gives us the great potential of maximizing our present without sacrificing our future. The Yankees do not have to be aggressive this trade season. I hope the Yankees just patch some things up with either internal moves or minor pickups/trades and be done with the trade season. The 2012 Yankees season has been excellent thus far and with that silly "they play better in the second half" hope, I feel very confident that the rest of the year will be enjoyable.
If nothing else, the Red Sox cannot stay in the slums long enough to make me happy.