Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The new Yankee tradition: Around Memorial Day, the teams become bad memories

Last year, on May 22, the Yankees managed three hits off Chicago's Chris Sale, losing to the White Sox and falling from their perch atop the AL East. We didn't know it at the time, but the 2014 Yankees would not again be relevant until the tearful pageantry of Derek Jeter's final games. They finished 12 games behind the Orioles.

Last night, the "Bombers" blew a 6-2 lead en route to their first walk-off loss of 2015. They fell into a tie for first, having squandered a three-game lead in one week. Moreover, they will play at least the next two weeks without their best player, Jacoby Ellsbury, who sprained his knee.

If the Yankees can hold first place through Memorial Day, they will also beat the infamous 2013 Yankees - the collapsible tent of Overbay, Wells and Hafner. That team lasted in first  until May 24, then swirled the drain and eventually finished 12 games behind Boston.

Can this year's team survive Memorial Day?

Lately, the official line seems to be that the AL East is so rotten that a mediocre team can win it. It's the old "lowering of the bar" theory: As long as Boston and Baltimore stink, the YES brigade - and the "Driven by Jeep" partnership - swallows their consciences and channel old NY Lotto commercials: "Hey, you never know!" 

Regardless of how this year's model does this week, they will continue to lead all of baseball in self-congratulatory praise. For two months, Yankee fans have constantly heard how smart the Yankee brain trust is for a) building a powerhouse bullpen, b) signing Chris Young, c) keeping Chase Headley, d) not chasing those expensive Cuban free agents... blah, blah, blah...

Sunday, the Yankees will retire Bernie Williams jersey, sparking memories of great teams that are now nearly 20 years in the past. Over that stretch, the franchise never developed a star CF replacement... or a shortstop... or a first-baseman... or a third-baseman... or (gulp) even a catcher - though they assured us for a decade that the farms were stocked behind the plate. What's most amazing is that nobody in the front office ever lost his job.

Praising the Yankee front office is, of course, the real modern Yankee tradition. When the YES team mentions Hal Steinbrenner, they speak with the kind of love and admiration that a moose expresses for its flying squirrel. But the dark side of Memorial Day looms. And this October, there will be no tearful pageants, no forgiveness - and maybe no fannies in the seats - if the Yankees are 12 games out.


I'm Bill White said...

To be fair, I think we did know it at the time.

JM said...

It's scary how you can set your calendar by the Yankees collapse. "Almost Memorial Day? Well, time to get sucking!"

Ellsbury joins the walking wounded on the DL. Miller is not perfect. Eovaldi is no Ivan Nova. Girardi is no anybody.