No team has breathed life into the New York Yankees this season like the Toronto Blue Jays. And here they come – all walkers and gurneys and I.V. bags; no place else where they’d rather be for the next three days but the Rogers Centre.
The Yankees will either leave Toronto girded for a final push at a time of the season they have owned for the better part of 15 years – nobody has a better September-October winning record since 2001 – or with a few more embers snuffed out.
The Yankees are 13-3 against the Blue Jays in 2013 (a club record for wins in a year against Toronto) and it’s no exaggeration to say the Jays have kept the Yankees in the American League postseason race. The odds became longer last weekend, when the Boston Red Sox swept the Yankees at a time when teams ahead of the Yanks in the wild-card chase were losing – but write off this team at your own peril.
The Yankees are hurting. But what else is new?
Alex Rodriguez left last Sunday’s 9-2 loss to the Red Sox with soreness in his right calf and might have to settle for playing three games at designated hitter in Toronto. Derek Jeter is done for the year with an ankle injury (after missing 60 games in the previous five years, he has now missed 133 this season). Brett Gardner is out for at least 10 more games with an oblique injury. Alfonso Soriano hit clean-up last Sunday with a sprained right thumb.
When left-hander Mike Zagurski pitched in last Sunday’s blow-out loss, he became the 56th player used by the Yankees in 2013. The Yankees are one of 21 teams in history to have used at least 55 players, and 18 of those teams finished below .500. None, so far, made playoffs.
According to The New York Post, the 27 different moves via the disabled list made by the Yankees is the most in Major League Baseball, well ahead of the major-league average of 17. The Yankees’ home runs have come courtesy of 23 players – a club record.
We won’t see this group again. Not in these parts, at least. Mariano Rivera is retiring, needing one more save to set a record for most saves in the last season of a career. (He has 43, tied with Robb Nen of the 2002 San Francisco Giants and erstwhile Montreal Expos reliever Jeff Shaw, who rode a nasty forkball to 43 saves in 2001.) Robinson Cano is eligible for free agency; so, too, is manager Joe Girardi, who is in the final year of a three-year contract.
Strange. Just last week, Jayson Stark of ESPN had a little fun with a survey done for the all-sports U.S. cable giant by Turnkey Intelligence in which 22 per cent of respondents chose Rodriguez as “The Face of Baseball,” far and away the highest percentage of any player – and you could hear the trashing of furniture in the office of baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Further investigation, of course, revealed there were variables (closeness to a major-league stadium and engagement with the game, among them) but the results do reinforce how bizarre this Yankees season has been and the role Rodriguez has, and is, playing.
It has caused no shortage of angst in some quarters – such as Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s office – that Rodriguez’s decision to appeal a 211-game doping suspension handed down by the commissioner’s office for his involvement in the Biogenesis clinic scandal has helped keep the Yankees in the race.
He’s tough to get rid of, our A-Rod, and while that might not make him the face of baseball, in some ways he has become the face of the 2013 Yankees. Or at least a familiar face.