Making Sense of the Yankees this October



Yankees’ outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has helped pace the offense as the Yanks try and hold the NL East. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)


Yankees’ outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has helped pace the offense as the Yanks try and hold the NL East. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

At $197 million in total team salary for 2012, the Yankees stand alone atop the financial tyrants in major league baseball. With that in mind, they are expected to compete every year for a world championship. For the bombers, the season legitimately kicks into a different gear once the playoffs roll around.

As the season winds down, the Yankees find themselves in a very tight race with the Baltimore Orioles, a team that was considered by many to be behind the pack in the east division when it came to choosing playoff contenders at the beginning of the season.

The O’s have looked strong in the latter part of the season and their pitching, hitting and coaching has all been solid throughout the year. Perhaps most notably, as opposed to the Yankees, they are at $81 million, 18th in MLB, a number which is high after giving an extension to talented outfielder Adam Jones just this year. It is relatively certain that the O’s will hold their ground and give themselves a playoff berth, something that has been much anticipated for the franchise, dating back to the Cal Ripken days.

Other than their particular playoff seeding, concerns surround the Yankees that may bring Manager Joe Girardi major headaches when the postseason begins.

With a mixture of veterans and young pitchers, CC Sabathia is the key component for the Yankees to make it back to the World Series. As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting,” and this is exactly what the playoffs are all about. A stud arm can dominate a line up and put their team in a position to win. It’s gut-check time for Ivan Nova, Hughes and Mr. Dependable for the Yankees in 2012, Hiroki Kuroda. The bullpen is expected to be as dominant as they have been all year. Rafael Soriano has now proven himself after he didn’t back down from the challenge of being a replacement for the best closer in major league baseball history.

Does a batting average of .218 with runners in scoring position and only 18 home runs equal $32 million a year? Most would likely say not, but that’s what Alex Rodriguez continues to be paid. As Rodriguez’s play lately has been disappointing, key hitter Robinson Cano must be the run producer they know he can be. Cano is one of the most talented players on the team and can certainly elevate his status amongst the elite players in the game if he steps up his performance on the field this postseason. Derek Jeter, a .300 plus hitter all year, and Ichiro Suzuki, who has been scorching hot lately, need to get on base in order to give Cano, Mark Texiera and Rodriguez a chance to drive them in. The success of the offense will come down to fundamental baseball, which Jeter and Ichiro can easily do well.

Outfielder Brett Gardner, who was activated on Sept. 25 from the disable list, will be a player to watch. Even though he has been unable to hit, his speed and defensive prowess are a key weapon in any postseason run. Stealing bases can lead to a manufactured run and great defense can save a run from scoring.

Another post-season berth is on the horizon for the Yankees, but the question is worth asking: Does this team filled with future Hall of Fame-ers have another run left in the tank?