- Last Updated: 5:44 AM, May 25, 2012
- Posted: 1:37 AM, May 25, 2012
This past week’s Yankees power outage prompted discussion of toughness and grit and heart concerning your favorite $198-million ballclub, and more often than not, it’s all a bunch of garbage.
They’re baseball players. Sometimes they come through, sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes, however, a team does have to capitalize on what’s in front of it, and that’s why this three-city, nine-game road trip, starting tonight in Oakland, ranks as a noteworthy one for the Yankees.
At some point, the most expensive team in baseball has to find its inner bully. This portion of the schedule, avoiding teams from the ultra-competitive American League East, seems like an opportune time.
The Athletics (22-23), Angels (21-25) and Tigers (20-24) all own losing records, which makes them worse than the AL East’s current cellar-dweller, Boston (22-22). Yes, you probably know by now that Bobby Valentine’s Red Sox have awakened from their early-season slumber and appear poised to hang around the race.
You definitely know that the Orioles, situated in first place, have shaken up the division already regarded as baseball’s best. The Yankees own a 5-3 record against Baltimore, putting them on pace to go 11-7 — which is perfectly fine, except when you consider they went 13-5 against the O’s last year, and 13-5 in 2010, and 13-5 in 2009.
Doubts persist throughout the industry about the Orioles’ ability to sustain what they’re doing; look to this space in Monday’s Post for a more thorough discussion of Baltimore and other surprise teams. So maybe this will prove to be an overblown issue for the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays.
Opponent fades can’t be part of a team’s plan, though. When you see how strong the AL East appears relative to its league neighbors (the AL Central and AL West had just one team each with a winning record entering play yesterday, compared to the AL East’s four), you can’t help but conclude the Yankees have arrived at an oasis in their schedule.
They took two of three from the young but raw Royals, giving them a 12-8 record (.600 winning percentage) against teams with losing records, 9-13 (.409) against clubs with winning records and 2-0 against the even-Steven Red Sox. Last year, the Yankees went 53-27 (.663) against losers, 33-31 (.516) against winners and 11-7 versus the .500 Blue Jays.
The A’s look like the same low-payroll weaklings that have posted a 7-27 record against the Yankees in the four prior seasons. They haven’t possessed the offensive firepower to keep up with their playoff rivals of 2000 and 2001.
Then come the Angels and Tigers, two teams that, like the Yankees, field ultra-expensive teams, only they look more out of whack than the Yankees.
You want to see a group of individual parts that fail to mesh? Check out the Angels, whose best two hitters, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, don’t even play every day because of a roster logjam. You want organizational chaos? Look back to the Angels, whose venerable manager, Mike Scioscia, has seen his power base shrink with the arrival of new general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Oh, and you want an aging icon with an albatross contract? Say hello to Albert Pujols, who has five home runs — two fewer than the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez — and is in the first year of a 10-year agreement.
Moving back to our time zone, the Tigers’ problem has been the unsurprising regression of 2011 stars like Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch and Jhonny Peralta on offense and disappointing steps backward for pitchers Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.
The Angels and Tigers enjoy their own oases before welcoming the Yankees: The Angels started a four-game set in Seattle last night, and Detroit kicks off a three-game set in Minneapolis tonight before heading to Boston for four games. Moods around teams can shift quickly, as we just witnessed with the Yankees.
Yet if the concept of toughness is rooted partly in mythology, there’s nothing mythological about wins. They appear ripe for the picking for the Yankees, all the more so when you see who will be greeting them upon their return home: The AL East, in the form of the dangerous Rays.Follow @NYPostsports