It sounds odd to say just days after Friday afternoon's debacle, but when one takes a step back and looks the the 2008 New York Yankees after 81 games (44-37) they are much improved compared to the 2007 version (40-41) at this point. Which not to slight Torre, but makes me wonder with the kind of talent he had if Buck Showalter wouldn't have done as good if not better or if Don Zimmer really was the "man behind the curtain" whom Torre had little post-season success without from 2004-2007. In any event the Joe Girardi Yankees aren't perfect but they are better.
Jorge Posada (A): I know Jorge hasn't had a huge sample given injuries, but he can still flat out hit and his presence alone on this team really shows.
Jason Giambi (B+): Who says the ghosts don't still come alive at Yankee Stadium? This guy was dead in April, but now leads the team in homers and is in the top five in the American League and probably should be an All-Star. Contract year sure, but Girardi really cracked the whip on him in Spring Training and it shows.
Robinson Cano (F): I know that Robbie has picked it up the last two weeks or so, but given his new contract he has just looked lethargic this season. Terrible on base percentage.
Derek Jeter (B-): Ok its a bit of a pass but Jeter is a gamer, coming back quickly from a strained quad and playing regularly after getting hit on the hand. Jeter like Cano has picked it up in the average department the last couple of weeks, but it would be nice to see some more power output.
Alex Rodriguez (A): Sure Mike Lowell would've plugged in nicely, but like with Posada and Kobe and Shaq, the Yankees couldn't do without A-Rod. A-Rod has been blazing a trail since his return and is still near the top of the A.L. with 15 homers and a .327 batting average.
Johnny Damon (A): Another guy who looked almost completely lost but has been burning up the basepaths of late. Damon has been the consumate table setter, leading the team in hits with 93, doubles with 20, steals with 13 and is sporting a .322 batting average.
Melky Cabrera: (C): Melky got off to a hot start which really raised expectations in a hurry. No he's not Bernie Williams yet (if ever) but he does give the Yankees a plethora of contributions either in the field or on the bases even when he's not hitting.
Bobby Abreu (A): Probably the most consistent of all Yankees hitters to date. Abreu leads the team with 53 RBI, is second in hits and third with 10 homers.
Hideki Matsui (A): Was tearing it up, now his knee might be torn up, again. Helped to carry the team in the early going, but with all of these knee injuries I really have to start wondering about steroids with this guy.
Bench (D): The bench pretty much gets a D. Duncan didn't play enough, Betemit was hurt too much and Ensberg was a Josh Phelps-esque bust. Moeller and Molina have provided some stout defense as well as Gonzalez but this group just can't hack it. Bring back Bernie anyone?
Mike Mussina (A): Speaking of those ghosts at Yankee Stadium, Mussina has been flying around New York but instead with a super-hero's cape. Moose was being counted on as a 4th/5th starter to win 10-11 games. In order to keep the Yankees in the race he's had to pitch like a 3rd starter and has already won 10 to lead the staff before the All-Star break. He would've probably tied last year's total had the Yankees game in Pittsburgh not been rained out. Who would've thunk Mussina would be the leader in wins and Giambi the leader in homers at this point?
Andy Pettitte (B+): After a rocky start Andy looked a little tired from all of the off-season circus that was the Mitchell Report. But with 9 wins and a recently concluded 20.2 scoreless innings streak, Pettitte looks primed for another huge 2nd half. Pettitte is the best 2nd half pitcher in baseball and who wouldn't rather have him at $16 million for this year than Johan Santana for $150 million minus your best prospects?
Chien-Ming Wang (B+): Wang looked as if he'd put those doubters to bed with a rapid 6-0 start. He tailed off a tad and was just starting to get back into a groove before his freak injury.
Darrell Rasner (C): Some of his early starts Rasner got no run support. In some of his more recent starts he's gotten knocked around. But Rasner is what he is, an adequate back of the rotation guy who can eat up innings and keep you in the game.
Phil Hughes & Ian Kennedy (F): It should probably be an incomplete because of injuries but a combined record of 0-7 doesn't cut it boys.
Joba Chamberlain (A): Last year contrary to popular belief, he not Roger Clemens spurred this team onto the post-season. Joba was lights out again in the pen and will try to save the Yankees bacon again, this time as a starter. One can tell already just how mentally tough those late inning situations out of the pen have helped in Joba's progression.
Mariano Rivera (A+): You can tell I don't throw around A+'s lightly. Think the Yankees may have wanted to give MO a 4th year on that contract? Rivera an ERA under 1.00 and perfect in saves with 22, enough said.
Kyle Farnsworth (C+): Has been better than most in the Yanks pen which isn't saying a lot, but he does seem a little more confident with Girardi at the helm.
LaTroy Hawkins (F): I'm sorry but did anyone mention to Brian Cashman that this guy has the worst ERA of any pitcher at Yankee Stadium? Forget O'Neill or Clemente, why does this guy have anyone's jersey number?
Ross Ohlendorf (F): Maybe the Yankees should groom his as a starter because his confidence looks shot.
Edwar Ramirez (C+): If this guy could learn a pitch to compliment his change-up he might really turn out to be something good.
Jose Veras (B-): Sometimes he's lights out, sometimes he's lit up. Effectively wild with some great velocity.
Bullpen etc: Bruney and Albaladejo were solid early before getting hurt, Giese was decent in long relief, but Traber and Igawa have looked like flops as lefties out of the pen.
All in all Joe Girardi has navigated this group fairly well in the early going. He's done a much better job of balancing the bullpen and seems to have instilled more aggressiveness into this squad. Given injuries to A-Rod, Posada, Wang, Jeter, Matsui, Hughes, Kennedy, Bruney and Albaladejo, considering the Yankees are only four games back in the loss column to Boston speaks volumes about Girardi. No Girardi hasn't been as "rah-rah" in public as say Billy Martin, and sometimes he does look like a 2nd year manager still learning the ropes, but he does know and uphold the principle of the "Yankee-way" of the late 1990's.
This Yankees squad, somewhat in transition is in almost the same place as another pioneer Yankee team. The 1993 Yankees under 2nd year manager Buck Showlater posted a record of 46-35 after 81 games. That was the last Yankees team in a non-strike year to miss the playoffs, however had there been a Wild Card back then they would've made it. This Yankees squad is better than that one talent wise and this time around there is a Wild Card, but the division is still very much within reach.