Memorial Day is the first pit-stop of the baseball season, where we can check in and have some sense of storylines that will illuminate the season. The Yankees go into June tied with the Red Sox for first place. The Devil Rays beat the Yanks 7-6 on Sunday afternoon. The Yanks were down 6-0 going into the eighth. The Bombers end their longest road trip of the year, 8-4. The Sox and Yanks are tied for the best record in the game. I think that the best is yet to come for the Yankees, and of course the Red Sox will improve when Trot Nixon and Nomar return. Either team could also make a significant trade this summer too. The Yanks started off slowly, but have played very well since bottoming out against the Red Sox in Fenway Park. The greatest concern with the Yanks is keeping the team healthy, but that’s the greatest concern with every team, isn’t it? If they stay healthy, they will be rough on the opposition.
I’ve enjoyed watching the team a lot. I prefer them to the 2002 or 2003 editions. I loved Soriano and Nick Johnson, but I like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield better. I like Kevin Brown better than Roger Clemens and I love Javier Vazquez. Not only that, but I like seeing Willie Randolph next to Joe Torre instead of Popeye Zimmer. And it’s great to see Roy White, uncle Luis, and Don Mattingly on the coaching staff too.
Here are some my loose impressions of the team so far…
Behind the Plate:
We are seeing Jorge Posada (.295/.440/.591) at his best. Posada hit for more power in April but reached base more often in May and for the second straight season, has been the most consistent bat in Joe Torreís line up. Itís not likely that Posada will play at a higher level than heís been playing right now. If he does, itís nothing but gravy for Yankee fans. When Posada called out his teammates after the Angels ambushed the Bombers in the 2002 playoffs, I thought Posada was really putting the pressure on himself to be like one of the old Yankees. To that point, Posada was known more for having the red ass than for being a team leader like Mike Stanton or Cone. But he put his money where his mouth was last year and it turns out he is one of those old time Yankees. As Jay Jaffe observed in his profile on Posada earlier this season, the Yankee catcher was wholly deserving of MVP consideration last year. So far this season, heís picked up right where he left off. I donít know how much longer Posada will play at this level, but enjoy it while it lasts: this is his prime.
Iíve long been one of Jason Giambiís biggest supporters. I desperately wanted George to sign him after they lost the World Serious against Arizona, and was grateful when they did. Giambi got what he wanted, so everything should be peachy, right? Giambiís had two good seasons, in spite of being hurt last year. Heís off to a good start this year (.270/.406/.540), but heís not so much fun to watch.
Walk to whiff: 24/27
His body language is rigid and tense. You see him on the bench and he looks coiled, uptight. The only time he appears relaxed is when he’s talking with Mattingly, but I donít get a sense of comfort with his teammates. This is especially disappointing because Giambi was such a team leader with the Aís. I donít know what you can chalk it up to. Playing in New York? I canít call it. But heís not the same player. He doesnít look like heís enjoying himself much. Still, I want to like him, and I miss watching him hit.
Tony Clark (.260/.376/.494 in 77 at bats) is my girlfriend Emilyís favorite player this year. (splits) She is drawn to slow, patient guys. When we first stared watching games together in 2002, Giambi was her boy. Then came Posada