It’s starting to look as if the New York Yankees will never get well this season. The announcement that All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira is going back on the disabled list is a very bad omen for the Yanks.
New York surprised everyone by getting off to a solid start despite injuries to several key players. Manager Joe Girardi squeezed every ounce of juice from Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and others, but for the most part they were supposed to be stop-gap replacements. Those were some of the worthy fill-ins for Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Teixeira and others who were injured along the way. The Yankees’ disabled list has more names on it than the Major League roster, it seems.
While the pick-ups performed admirably and New York has a winning record, the waiting for the return of the stars has turned into Waiting For Godot. Granderson got healthy enough to be activated and promptly was reinjured. Same with Teixeira. Not good at all. Rodriguez isn’t ready to return and it’s not clear what his status is going to be because of the Miami Biogenesis Lab scandal which Major League Baseball is eyeing and has tied him to.
And Jeter. He had a health setback after his broken ankle. He figured to be ready to play before this and now we don’t really know what “this” is. The word “help” must come into Girardi’s mind every now and again. Everything seems out of sorts in New York. Andy Pettitte has had his own disabled list issues, though he is back in the rotation.
Not many Yankee regulars have been injury-free and worry-free. Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner leads the team with a .285 average. Robinson Cano is batting .275, though he has 16 home runs and 43 RBIs. Other than that, there is no meat in the New York batting order.
Girardi has been a little bit like a Civil War field surgeon, holding things together with tape, wiring and prayer. He puts the best guys he’s got out there every day, but the lineup is not strong enough to make the Yankees a consistent winner.
New York is lucky that it hasn’t had to be in order to remain in the hunt for the American League East Division crown. Nobody is running away with it. Any little surge could put the Yankees into contention. But if none of the big hitters make it back in top form, it’s not clear what will produce a surge.
One fascinating thing to watch is how Ichiro Suzuki hangs in there seeking to wring every last hit out of his bat before retiring. The 10-time All-Star has 2,668 Major League hits to accompany his accomplishments in Japan. That’s going into Friday play. Ichiro is 39 years old and would dearly love to reach 3,000 big-league hits. That would be in addition to his 1,278 professional hits in Japan.
Right now Ichiro is at 3,941 hits, Japan and majors combined. It’s not clear what that all means, but it is intriguing to watch him close in on 4,000 total hits. Only Pete Rose and Ty Cobb had 4,000 hits in the majors.
Although his pace is much slowed from a few years ago, Suzuki is batting .270. Even a reduced-effective Suzuki is a better hitter than many a young swinger in his prime. Ichiro’s on-base percentage is what is taking a real hit these days. It’s only .310 and that’s got to rise.
Still, every hit counts, for the Yankees, and for Ichiro’s career total.