Winning Because They Can: What's Fueling the 2012 Yankees?
What exactly are the New York Yankees playing for right now? For the Nationals, their eagerness comes naturally through how young they are, how excited they are to be winning in front of 40,000 home fans in a city deprived of baseball for so many years. After two AL Pennants and a Game 7 loss in St. Louis, you can only imagine how much the desire to finish the job is fueling the Texas Rangers this year. The Reds are striving to assert themselves as this season's top team in the ever-fluid NL Central. The Red Sox are trying desperately to erase a bad taste, the Tigers and Angel's are trying to get their freshly-spent money's worth, the Dodgers have risen an esteemed franchise from the dead. The Yankees, fresh off a 6-game sweep of their road trip, riding a 9-game win-streak, have no motive nearly as compelling. It seems they are winning just for the sake of winning.
They are still within earshot of their last championship in 2009. Their veterans are beyond proven. The likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez seems to pass somebody in all-time hits, RBIs, respectively, with each successful trip to the plate. Of their regular starting lineup, only Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, and Andruw Jones are without rings, and I don't think it's stretch to say Jones closed the book on his career as an accomplished 18-year-old home run hitter in the '96 World Series.
They have brushed off injuries to their projected number two starter in Michael Pineda, their starting left fielder in Brett Gardner, their hall of fame closer in Mariano Rivera, and the most logical choice for his successor, David Robertson. They have erased an average start by going 13-2 in June, all under the steady guidance of their calculating yet unremarkable skipper, Joe Girardi. Where, then, is all this inspiration coming from? This isn't the kind of team that is so loaded with talent that winning just happens. Those days have been over for some time, confirmed by Prince and Pujols' relocation the the American league and supported by the emergence of teams built solely on first round draft picks, such as the Rays and Nationals. In fact, if the Yankees were just flat out bad this season, nobody would be too surprised. They would point to the injuries, the age, the misstep of trading away top prospect slugger Jesus Montero and the lack of anything to prove.