By Lenn Robbins
This isn’t what Yankees fans want to hear and, quite frankly, we hope it doesn’t come to be. Because there is no city in the world that does a hero’s parade better than the Big Apple.
Who else has a ‘Canyon of Heroes?”
When the U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup (again!), they came here for a parade on Broadway. Their locks were littered with ticker tape, just as Brian Leetch and Derek Jeter and Eli Manning and Neil Armstrong and Nelson Mandela and the Mets, who got a parade in 1962 just for entering the National League!
So believe us when we say we want an October parade.
But if it doesn’t happen, if the Yankees don’t fulfill their 2019 destiny and come up short in their quest for a 28th World Series title, this still has been a ridiculously amazing season.
That fact came into clarity this weekend when the Yankees became the first team to reach the 90-win total. They did it in the most riveting of fashions.
Trailing the Oakland A’s 4-0 going into the bottom of the eighth on Sunday, the Yankees rallied for a 5-4 triumph when Mike Ford became the first rookie in franchise history to smack a pinch-hit, walk-off home run.
We are talking about the Yankees, who have more remarkable history than any team in baseball. Ford, the former Princeton hurler and career minor leaguer, has added to that history.
“I didn’t hear anything, which is crazy,” Ford told reporters about his historic homer. “Just a whole rush of emotion.”
That’s what has made this Yankees season special. The emotion. Because the men in that clubhouse know how hard they’ve had to grind, how many obstacles they’ve had to overcome.
The day before Ford got lost in emotion, DJ LeMahieu hit a walk-off homer in a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Oakland.
These heroics came the day after the Yankees set a more dubious record. They placed Gio Urshela on the injured list with a groin injury. Urshela became the 29th Yankee make it onto that list, which is a Major League record.
Despite this staggering procession of injuries, the Yankees own a 90-49 record and have all but mathematically won their 19th AL East title, the first since 2012.
Urshela is one of the most fantastic stories in baseball with a slash line of .331/.370/.555 with 32 doubles and 18 home runs in 414 plate appearances.
LeMahieu’s numbers make him the second most fantastic story on the Yankees (Domingo German, noted). David John has a slash line of .335./.382/.920 with 24 home runs and 90 RBI.
If the season ended today, LeMahieu and Urshela would be 1-2 choices for team MVP, which is flat out mind-boggling when you consider this is a team with guys named Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Aroldis Chapman, et al.
The Yankees have epitomized the “next man up,” mantra.
“Our guys have been great at it all year,’’ manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “Whoever we brought up has controlled situations and moments really well and beyond, maybe, their experience. Ford has been one of those guys, but the list is long.’’
It has been a long and astonishing list, but here’s the rub. We’re still not sold on the starting pitching. Hold the paper shredding.
If one needed a reminder of the importance of starting pitching, it came yesterday like the downpour that marked the day. The Yankees were shutout for the first time this season, losing 7-0 to the Rangers.
Masahiro Tanaka (10-8; 4.42 ERA) was solid, surrendering two runs on seven hits over six innings. Mike Minor (12-8; 3.12) was better, allowing just five hits through seven and one-third innings.
Considering this marked the first time in 220 games that the Yankees had been blanked, one can safely label this an anomaly. Or a warning. Regardless, the Yankees starting pitching remains an abstract picture.
J.A. Happ was brilliant against Oakland, tossing one-hit ball over six innings. But that was the first time he’d gone six since July 30th. Tanaka has been a workhorse. German has been terrific. But Happ and CC Sabathia, who’s lost five straight, have not.
James Paxton has won six straight since losing five in a row so that jury is out. He’s been streaky all season, which is not comforting entering the playoffs.
When one considers the pitching in Cleveland, Houston, Oakland and Tampa, the Yankees are going to be tested – big time – which is the way it should be.
They already have been tested more than any team in baseball history. Without Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and the other members of the injured list, it’s astonishing what the Bombers have done.
A 21st 100-win season would be sensational. A ticker tape parade would be better.