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The Series–and you know what I’m talking about: The Series–is
over. Throughout the New York/Boston media axis, sportswriters are
returning to their blissful slumber, and as we enter the month of June, the
New York Yankees find themselves in unfamiliar territory: second place.

It’s really fairly incredible that a three-game series in late May can
generate such hoopla. Individual ballgames and series are becoming more and
more relevant as the contenders and also-rans slowly separate themselves,
but this series generated more ink than

  • the Pirates’ run of bad luck in the 1990-92 NLCS

  • Randy Smith lovingly shaping the Detroit Tigers into a group that a
    Taiwanese little league team could crush

  • Saint Rey Ordonez of the crosstown Mets hitting the DL with a
    broken arm

(I know what you’re thinking. If New Yorkers are more interested in the
series than they are in extolling the virtues of Ordonez’s defense, that’s
a big deal.)

According to said sportswriters, the series loss to the Red Sox has given
Boss Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman happier feet than Steve Young.
Steinbrenner wants to acquire Matt Stairs, Jose Canseco,
Ozzie Canseco or your kid brother who just took someone deep in Pony
League play. Well, provided he can pass a drug test and doesn’t ask for
directions from streetwalkers. The Yanks haven’t been scoring runs, and
Ricky Ledee is catching a lot of heat for that failure.

The Yankees aren’t an unbeatable force this year, but do they really need
anything they don’t already have? The rotation has been the bulwark of the
franchise for years, and Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez,
Andy Pettitte and Ramiro Mendoza have all been solid.
David Cone, who started the year terribly, appears to have
straightened out: he’s sporting a perfectly respectable 4.24 ERA in May.
With a pedigree like his, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The bullpen has been excellent.

Everyone is talking about the offense, and yes, it has been
uncharacteristically poor: the Yanks currently rank 13th in the AL in runs
scored. But the team also ranks 13th–in the majors–in Equivalent
Average
.

One explanation for this disparity is that the top of the lineup has been
toxic, but Chuck Knoblauch is slowly shaking his terrible start off
and Derek Jeter just returned from a stint on the DL, so there’s
hope. It is also telling that Jorge Posada, by far the team’s best
hitter this season, spends most of his time batting sixth.

Thirteenth in the majors in EqA isn’t the standard the Yankees normally
hold themselves to, but it’s still the best mark in the division. Let’s
take a look at the current EqAs of the core players, as well as Clay
Davenport’s Wilton projections for them in 2000:

Name              EqA    Proj   Diff

Scott Brosius .221 .239 -18 Derek Jeter .280 .314 -34 Chuck Knoblauch .221 .279 -58 Ricky Ledee .236 .249 -13 Tino Martinez .245 .286 -41 Paul O'Neill .268 .278 -10 Jorge Posada .338 .256 +78 Shane Spencer .245 .249 -4 Bernie Williams .294 .319 -25

The Yankees are building up some serious karmic reserves with their bad
luck so far, and the odds say they’ll be cashing in soon.

The New York bench is pathetic. Shane Spencer needs a platoon
partner more than Richie Phillips needs a personality transplant. These are
obvious problems that can be fixed without an expensive shopping spree and
a big-ticket outfielder. This team has many promising young
players–Alfonso Soriano, D’Angelo Jimenez, Eddie
Yarnall
, Nick "The Stick" Johnson–and it would be a
shame to burn off part of that future for a bat the team might not really
need.

Notes

  • Not that anyone is paying attention, but the Blue Jays are just five games
    in back of the Red Sox in the division. Their rotation, while still
    performing below expectations, has been better in May than it was in April.
    Peter Munro‘s first two starts have been promising, so if Roy
    Halladay
    can get straightened out at Syracuse, the team can look
    forward to a second half without Frank Castillo. The Jays are even
    making happy noises about Joey Hamilton, which is unrealistic, but
    could keep them from doing something silly with Vernon Wells in an
    effort to get a pitcher.

  • The Orioles have followed up their 2-15 stretch by winning six of seven.
    Don’t be fooled: a dead, but still warm, body occasionally twitches. The
    worst thing the Os can do is play well enough to fool Papa Angelos into
    thinking they have a chance to play into October. They need to rebuild, the
    sooner, the better, even if it means trading Mike Mussina to show
    that they’re serious.

Dave Pease can be reached at dpease@baseballprospectus.com.

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