FIFTY THOUSAND MOONS

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tonight, the 2015 season - maybe the future of the Yankees - hinges on Tanaka's elbow

On April 23, the last time Masahiro Tanaka wore certified pinstripes, he pitched into the seventh inning against Detroit, allowing one run on three hits. He'd thrown two solid games, back to back, and the Yankiverse glowed with drunken hope. The notion of Tanaka pitching next to the reconfigured Michael Pineda gave the Retrieval Empire a one-two punch and a clear shot at the AL East. Damn... back then, we were legit.

A lifetime ago, eh?

Tonight, we learn if Tanaka can return, if he can still excel, if the hope is real, and if - as old Mad Max finds out in Fury Road - there really is "a green place" waiting for us, somewhere out there beyond the desert. At stake is not just the 2015 season, but maybe the decade.

OK, yeah, I'm overstating this. It's called "dramatic flair," dammit. That's what fan blogs do. We live, and we die on hope. But listen: Every time Tanaka pitches - especially after missing a month - we must hold our breaths like debutantes posing for the prom photo. The future is far more than tomorrow's hangover.

If Tanaka pitches pain-free and well, the Yankees will be all in on the 2015 race. Hal Steinbrenner will unleash the Cashmanic trade machine, and the front office will troll for spare parts the way a sperm whale takes in plankton. We will trade prospects, not on the basis of this team's strength, but betting on the supreme weakness of the AL East. Prospect-huggers can mourn these trades - let's face it; they keep us perpetually old, slow and bloated - but the Yankees won't forego a pennant race while waiting for Jake Cave and Eric Jagiello. They never did. They never will.

But if Tanaka's elbow barks, both the short and long-term future changes. The rotation moves to Plan B, somewhere between Adam Warren (tick... tick... tick...) and Chris Capuano (Ka-BOOM.). Moreover, the team's most glaring weakness - its looming exposure to injuries - again takes Center Stage with Michael Kay. If Tanaka needs surgery, he will miss the rest of this season and all of 2016. He will return for 2017 at age 28 with an op-out clause in his pocket. If he pitches well, who knows... he could jump to the Dodgers. I'm not sure the Yankees would have the gonads to re-sign him.

Regardless of what happens tonight, Cashman will still scour the scrap heaps for this year's waiver wire wonders. But it could be the difference between chasing Chase Utley and Dan Uggla. The chances for 2015 could take a huge hit. For all of their malaise, the scumbag Redsocks are only four games out, and the Cuban enigma, Rusney Castillo, won last night's outing with a hit. If he emerges, or if they get pitching, or any of their high-touted prospects come of age, watch out. They - or even Buck's O's - could go on a June tear, and come the July trade deadline, we might have a hard time even remembering back when we held great hopes.

Which could be tonight.

12 comments:

John M said...

Drew, Wilson and Jones.

If I had to pick heroes in our first come-from-behind-in-the-ninth-and-then-win game, it wouldn't have been any of them.

Still wouldn't, even after this game. But appreciate it nonetheless.

KD said...

If not this next game, Tanaka's elbow will start barking again, and soon. Yankee fans will have fun for generations to come playing "If only..." when it comes to Tanaka and his fragile elbow.

Anonymous said...

Tonight, at the top of the 7th inning, I will reveal that I, Anonymous, am in reality KO . . . .

Anonymous said...

Well, this afternoon, really. When you are a Baseball Critic God, time & space have no relevance. Incidentally, I (Anonymous) am the only human capable of surgically repairing Tanaka's elbow. But I won't do it because I love being petulant and want the Yankees to fail.

Donald Trump said...

Anonymous, that's my schtick use it again and I will sue!!

Anonymous said...

Try as you will, Trumpster, there is no one as loathsome as yours truly. You are a mere amateur compared with Nasty Anonymous. Excuse me now whilst I go urinate on some impoverished children.

Anonymous said...

Egad! Verbosity! Please delete "go", as that is unnecessary verbiage. Associating with you unwashed illiterates begins to infect my masterful prose style.

Anonymous said...

Try as you will, Trumpster, there is no one as loathsome as yours truly. You are a mere amateur compared with Nasty Anonymous. Excuse me now whilst I urinate on some impoverished children.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Maybe "some" should be edited out. My writing is like Girardi perusing one of his cherished notebooks. No detail too small.

el duque said...

Anonymous,

Don't ever change.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Welcome back Anonymous!
Or hello new Anonymous channeling our cherished know it all Anonymous ( who was 99% of the time correct)!
We've missed you,,,,,

Anonymous said...

Missing a comma, Ken. Do try to improve.