Note: This is a writing sample for a position as a writer for Pinstripe Alley.
When a team has taken a hot streak and won 16 of their last 17 games en route to erasing a 7.5 game deficit and are now tied for first place in both their division and all of baseball, it becomes challenging to identify what has gone wrong. Still, when you look at the details of the Yankees long stretch of winning, there are still concerns that must be addressed by Aaron Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman. Some of these issues have been more obvious. The injury to sophomore pitcher Jordan Montgomery shined a spotlight on the lack of pitching depth available should the Bombers lose another pitcher for an extended period of time. Gary Sanchez's inconsistency behind the plate allowed the Cleveland Indians to tie the game in the 9th during their last series. What once looked like a crowded outfield is suddenly beginning to appear much smaller with the injuries to Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury, along with Brett Gardner sub Mendoza line offensive performance over a month into the season. Still, all of these issues seemed to have figured themselves out, at least in the short term. Respectively, Domingo German's 6 innings of no hit baseball against the Indians have given the Yankees new found faith in their pitching depth. The walk-off home run by Gleyber Torres allowed Sanchez's struggle behind the plate to be forgiven, and Stanton's turnaround from his miserable start has added consistency to the Yankees injury-laden outfield. The one issue the Yankees have where it seems there is not a clear long term answer is at first base.
If your first reaction to this is, "How could Tyler Austin, who has come up with such big hits this season, and provided a much needed spark to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry be the weakest link in the lineup?" you would be forgiven. Tyler Austin seems to have done his job as a fill in nicely. That is the problems the Yankees face. Tyler Austin is still, in the minds of Cashman, Boone and the rest of the front office, only a stop gap until Greg Bird returns from yet another injury. When Bird was first called up, he showed fans in the Bronx he had enough power to compete with the likes of even Aaron Judge, but his inability to stay healthy has negated the offensive potential he has shown. His injuries last season alone caused the Yankees to use over half a dozen different players at that position, and now he has yet to see any action in 2018. It still may be too soon for the Yankees to give up completely on Bird, but between Austin's moderate success and Neil Walker also having turned around a poor start, it's going to be hard to justify Bird keeping his starting job, at least for now. Should Bird face more setbacks or injury, which his history suggests is possible, the Yankees will need more then what they are getting from Tyler Austin, who has been good, but not great.
If the Yankees truly expect to compete with the Red Sox in what is shaping up to be a back and forth fight for control over the division, the Yankees will need someone to anchor first base for the long haul. Another setback for Bird, and it might be time to start considering moving on from him and seeing who is available in July. Both Chris Davis on the last place Baltimore Orioles and Jose Abreu on the equally terrible Chicago White Sox could both be on the Yankees radar this summer if the front office decides, at long last, that the Bird is no longer the word in New York.