Seventeen games. That's four Tanaka starts, beginning tonight - the most important game of the season... until tomorrow... and then the day after... and then...
Seventeen games. That's four starts by Michael Pineda-Jeckyl-Hyde... who must be the good doctor in each. No train of Pinedian gopher balls. No weird body language. Hide the pine tar. Throw inside. God help us all.
Seventeen games. That's maybe three starts by trusty old CC Sabathia - each one rearing back 10 years in time, pushing his 36-year-old inner tube and reconstructed knees to blowout capacity. Sunday night, on national TV, he's got to shut down a RH juggernaut at Fenway.
That's five starts by the rookies, who are now sailing dangerously uncharted waters. We've already lost Chad Green to the unexpected stress of September. Tomorrow, we turn to Luis Cessa. How many more innings can he handle? Then Saturday, it's Bryan Mitchell, his third start of the season. (Last night, the ancient one - Phil Coke - pitched seven strong innings for Scranton in the IL playoffs. By this time next week, in some critical game, he could be our starter. Imagine that.)
Seventeen games, which Aaron Judge will miss, leaving a small-but-wretched sample size to evaluate the most important Yankee prospect since 21-year-old Derek Jeter. For now, the Judge Judgement suggests that he is a slightly larger version of Dave Kingman - enormous power, but he fans in half of his at-bats. No good. He must redeem himself next spring. He didn't win a spot in next year's lineup.
Seventeen games for Gary Sanchez's batting average to tumble, until it probably settles around .270. I understand why Girardi bats him third - hell, we have nobody else - but the manager surely had to know that Sanchez wouldn't hit .350. We are now watching a market correction, and it's starting to throb. When Sanchez arrived, he showed incredible plate discipline. Now, he's lunging hungrily at pitches. He is clearly our future catcher, perhaps a future all-star. But as the average falls, as the truth sets in, we still don't know where he'll settle.
Seventeen games for Eric Young Jr. to steal a base. Right now, he's taking up roster space. Damn, how I wanted him yesterday to bring a karma to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts! In each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings (not that it mattered in the ninth), the Yankees put a runner on first, a perfect opportunity for Young to pinch run, steal second, and bring havoc to a reliever, the way other teams do to Betances. (To be fair, the runners on base were Castro and Gardner, no slow-pokes, but neither steals with abandon anymore. Young does nothing else but steal.) Joe never used him. Not the worst managerial calls, as decisions go. But why have a base-stealing specialist, if you don't use him? Maybe he can bring that Dave Roberts karma to Fenway?
Seventeen games for Billy Butler to fit in. My guess is he'll take at-bats from Tyler Austin and Rob Refsnyder, although somebody has to play RF. The guy batted .276 this year, but only 4 HRs. Does he has a hitting streak in him? Will he even warrant a John Sterling HR call? ("The Butler did it! Oh, Billy, that's a dilly!") Will we ever someday remember he was a Yankee?
Seventeen games. But no... the reality is, there are not 17 games left. There are only four - this weekend. One bad series, and it's hello, Phil Coke. One bad series, and we will smell of tomatoes. Tonight is the most important game of the season. Until tomorrow.