Could the 2011 Yankees be the least impressive 100 win team in league history?
Sure, the Yankees are a good team, clearly in the top tier with the Phillies and the Red Sox, which is to say head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
Currently on pace for 99 wins, and with a Pythag record 4 games better (Rivera's recent struggles have hurt), the Yankees are there despite the many question marks around the team: their 25 year All Star started the season unable to record an out, their short stop can't move to his left or hit the ball with authority, they've carried a DH who's hit like a defense-first catcher and a defense-first catcher whose hit even worse, their 35 year old reclamation project pitched like a champ until he hit the DL, and the centaur at the heart of the offense had mid-season hip surgery.
If the Yankees top 100 wins this season, it will be only the 20th time in team history they've reached that mark, and if the Red Sox stay ahead of them in the standings, it will be the second time the Yankees have top 100 wins and still finished second: the first being 1954 when the Yankees couldn't get out from under the Indians and writers wondered if Mickey Mantle would ever live up to the hype.
GM Brian Cashman minces no words defending AJ Burnett:
"He’s being treated differently publicly because he has money attached," said Cashman, who spiced his remarks with a profanity. "So forgive him for saying yes to a contract. If you want to blame someone for his contract, blame me. But the man can still pitch."
"I think the stuff on A. J. is well overblown," Cashman said. "A. J. has been solid for us this year. I just think that the way it’s playing doesn’t necessarily reflect how he’s pitched. The public outcry recently is all emotion rather than actual."
I'm glad to hear it, since I think AJ belongs in the rotation over Nova, Hughes or Garcia. I also wonder if we can't change the tenor of the conversation: why is a move to the bullpen, so long as it's a move to a key role in the bullpen, a demotion? Doesn't Mariano Rivera make enough money? Wasn't Phil Hughes crucial to the Yankees' success in 2009? Why do we talk of a shift to the bullpen as a step down?