Bronx Blackout

by Cecilio Rosario

The New York Yankees are picking up where they left off in last year’s final game.

In their American League Wild Card showdown with the Houston Astros, the Yankees were blanked 3-0. Granted, they faced 20-game winner and 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel; but that season-ending loss now looks like a harbinger of this season’s rocky start.

Starlin Castro has been one of the few bright spots in a dimming Yankees lineup.
Starlin Castro has been one of the few bright spots in a dimming Yankees lineup.

After scoring eight runs of more three times in the opening week of the season, the Yankees began to struggle to score runs. They lost 7 of 8 in mid-April, then 6 straight at the end of April before showing signs of life in a 7-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on May 4th. They’ve won three of their last four games, including two against their eternal arch-rivals the Boston Red Sox; one of these wins included an 8-run outburst, six of which came against the Sox’ ace, David Price. But the Yankees’ mini-resurgence only leaves them at a disappointing 11-17, and the Bronx Bombers are still looking for answers. General Manager Brian Cashman recently voiced his disappointment with a lineup he personally put together and expects to produce–but so far, Cashman’s lineup has mostly inspired Bronx cheers, as shown by their lackluster team rankings on offense:

26th in the major leagues in runs scored, and 27th in RBI;
26th in team batting average, at .235;
26th in home runs;
27th in team OPS, with a measly .666

These numbers point to where the Yankees currently reside: at the bottom of the American League East. The only positive here is that they’re only 6 games out of first place; with a lot of season left, there’s time to close the gap.

The offense isn’t solely to blame; the Yankees’ team ERA is 4.22, 19th in the majors, and their .261 BAA ranks 22nd. But their fairly young starting pitching is expected to be solid, with veteran C.C. Sabathia holding down the back of the rotation–as long as they stay healthy. A bullpen featuring the world-class triple threat of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and newly acquired Aroldis Chapman is reunited as of tomorrow, and expected to maintain even the slimmest of leads from the seventh inning on. But it’s hard to pinpoint who will wake up the slumbering lumber.

Once a perennial All-Star and now a stalwart veteran with flashes of former brilliance, Alex Rodriguez is starting to show his age again. A-Rod is batting under .200–which hurts just to type, but not as much as it must hurt to experience for one of our generation’s greatest hitters–and he’s starting a 15-day stint on the disabled list due to a hamstring strain. Carlos Beltran had a surprisingly solid 2015 and seems to be sustaining last year’s form, but it won’t be anywhere near enough given the rest of the lineup’s struggles. Mark Teixiera is off to a slow start, and while the good news is that he usually starts off slowly even in his better years, Tex has been plagued by injury in recent seasons. His battle with the injury bug included a season-ending break to his right leg that took his home run potential out of the Yankee lineup for last year’s stretch run. Brian McCann is off to a decent start, and Starlin Castro, a great acquisition via an offseason trade with the Chicago Cubs, is off to an even stronger start. Unfortunately, the lineup isn’t getting much help from speedsters Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Didi Gregorius thus far.

Brett Gardner hasn't consistently played like the leadoff presence Yankee fans once hoped for.
Brett Gardner hasn’t consistently played like the leadoff presence Yankee fans once hoped for.

Last year, Gardner finally seemed to blossom into the kind of hitter Yankees fans have hoped for at the top of the order; and Gregorius’ work at the plate was a nice surprise to complement his fielding prowess. But Gardner and Gregorius have yet to repeat last year’s performances, and Ellsbury, who’s been quite injury prone, has yet to return to the form that made him seem like a steal from the Boston Red Sox.

With a roster full young players trying to develop some consistency and veterans past their prime, this awful start may be the sign that Yankee faithful may have to get used to that dreaded r-word: rebuilding. But it’s still early May, and the Yankees are still within striking distance. There’s plenty of time left to see if the lights will come back on in the Bronx.

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