05/22/12 10:54 PM ET
Give them time, Yankees will be fine
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
Manager Joe Girardi worked it hard like it was Game 7 of the World Series. When things are going bad in the Bronx, that's probably how it feels.
His guys squeezed out three runs against a starting pitcher -- Luke Hochevar -- who entered the game with a 7.02 ERA. Girardi got six solid innings from Phil Hughes, then went through five relievers to get the final nine outs of a 3-2 victory over the Royals.
Robinson Cano hit his fifth home run, but the rest of the Yanks' offense consisted of five singles, three walks and an Alex Rodriguez stolen base.
Girardi will take it. The Yankees have been decimated by injuries and slumps, but he shouldn't bother checking his mail for sympathy cards.
All that matters is the bottom line, and the Yanks managed to break a tie with the Red Sox and get themselves alone in fourth place at the end of the day.
OK, now the good news.
There's hope, plenty of it. Even though the American League East looks different than it was supposed to look at this time, the Yankees are still positioned to make the playoffs.
That's not the gold standard for success in the Bronx, but it's a start. If you're inclined to see the glass as half-full -- and isn't that how those fun-loving Yanks fans see the world? -- it's because Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has done a tremendous job accumulating Minor League talent, which is the most valuable currency to have at the Trade Deadline.
In addition, Cashman has money to spend. In a perfect world, he'd love to get through the season without taking on any big-ticket acquisitions as he prepares for a toughening of the luxury tax in 2014.
But if it comes down to saving a few million bucks or making the postseason, the Steinbrenner family will come down on the side of winning.
So if Wandy Rodriguez or Brett Myers or Kevin Correia become available, the Yankees have the assets to be at the front of the line.
I pulled those three names out of the air because their teams -- the Astros and Pirates -- may not be in contention in late July.
I also came up with those three names, because they're among the few players capable of making a difference who could be shopped.
Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn and Cole Hamels are all approaching free agency, but they're all playing for teams with a legitimate shot at winning the World Series.
As for Cashman, he would like to let his club play a while longer, get some of the injured players back on the field and hope that his needs become more narrowly defined.
If David Robertson and Brett Gardner return from the disabled list to contribute the rest of the way, they may be better than any two players Cashman can acquire by trade.
If he looks at the Yankees from a certain angle, he can see Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes creating a formidable rotation, and Robertson, Rafael Soriano, who earned his third save on Tuesday, and David Phelps forming a solid back of the bullpen.
Not many teams could survive the loss of Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda and Joba Chamberlain, but doing so would be a reaffirmation of everything Cashman has preached the past six months about building depth to weather tough times.
His Trade Deadline focus may be on offense. (The Yanks are 20-5 when scoring at least four runs. They've been shut out four times already.) Mark Teixeira's season has turned into a nightmare of poor health and frustration at the plate. Rodriguez's slugging percentage has declined for four straight years.
Some of what's wrong with the Yankees smacks of bad luck. To play a stretch of games and go 8-for-79 with runners in scoring position probably is not a reflection of anything more than randomness.
Winning is cyclical or is supposed to be. The Yanks have avoided the cycles by spending big in free agency and the Draft. Although it's the splashy free-agent signings that have gained most of the attention, Cashman worked tirelessly in building depth to win from within.
He hoped his depth wouldn't be tested this summer, but that's life. The Yankees haven't had many really bad stretches the last couple of decades, and they've won so much that there's a sense of calm even in bad times.
With almost every victory, it's easy to see that they'll take off the way they usually do. For now, they're still waiting.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.