It is High, It is Far...
Flickr :: jvdalton
These Yankees didn’t seem like the ones of years past. No big boppers, no home run slugging machines like we’re so used to seeing. At least it didn’t look like it. But yet here we are at the end of April and the Bronx Bombers are just that- Bombers. The team has hit the second most home runs in all of baseball. They stand just one home run behind Justin Upton and the Atlanta Braves.
How did this happen? How did the team with one opening day starter who had more than 15 home runs in 2012 find themselves near the top of the home run list in the first month of the season? There really isn’t an obvious reason, but here are a few educated guesses.
- Guys Getting Hot at the Right time
Travis Hafner started the season on an absolute tear. He hit safely in his first seven games, although he only had two home runs. Since then, he’s had four more long balls and they’ve come in some big spots in games. The most obvious example is the man who has quickly become the face and the future of the franchise, Robinson Cano. Robby took some time to get going, which had a lot of fans worried given the fact he was the biggest offensive threat on the team on opening day. He’s picked up the pace, and now leads the club with seven dingers. Vernon Wells is another guy that has been riding some momentum since coming over from the Angels during spring training. There’s no doubt that he started the season with a chip on his shoulder after LA didn’t figure him to be a part of their plans for a younger outfield this season.
- Newcomers with a track record
The general mood among Yankee fans when the season started was gloomy because the team looked old on paper. Nobody cared that Travis Hafner hit 42 home runs in 2006, or even that Wells had 31 just three seasons ago. The team looked old and washed up, a group of has-beens just thankful to still be wearing a uniform. What fans didn’t see was a group of veterans who simply know how to play the game. That’s not to take anything away from Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter, three players beloved by fans for what they have been able to do since coming to New York. However, those guys weren’t (and in some cases still aren’t) close to coming back. So it’s been guys like Hafner and Wells who have filled in, albeit quietly. The two have, after all, combined for twelve 20-plus home run seasons. I’m not saying we should expect that this year, but I am saying that these guys aren’t scrubs.
- They’re Staying Healthy
I know this probably sounds weird because of the full plate of Yankee regulars that have been out for a while (you can now add Fransisco Cervelli to that list). Keeping with the theme of Hafner and Wells, these are two players who have had major health problems in the past. The Yankees definitely took a chance on Vernon, who missed two months of the 2012 season with a thumb injury. He did spike himself on a freak catch earlier in the season in Tampa, but didn’t miss a game. Hafner has only played 100 games in a season once since 2008, but has been a mainstay as the team’s lefty DH.
- Everyone’s Contributing
The Yanks may not have the hearty middle of the order that they’ve boasted for what seems like decades, but the home runs have been there thanks to the emergence of some unlikely suspects. Fransisco Cervelli is probably the most unlikely of those suspects, as the righty catcher showed some power early in the year before recently going down with a broken hand. This is a position the team desperately needed any production from after they let Russell Martin and his twenty home runs walk in free agency. Another unlikely bat off the bench has been Lyle Overbay. He only has 3 home runs this season, but consider the fact that he was one of 7 Yankees to homer over the course of the team’s recent four game sweep of the Blue Jays.
It may not look pretty, and believe me it doesn’t, but with the help of some veterans who have been there and done that, the Yankees are second in baseball home runs through the first month of the season. The biggest question is, how long will the guys who are producing remain healthy? If Joe Girardi continues to mix and match with the oldest team in baseball, it shouldn’t be a problem until Granderson and Teixeira get back.
Mack Rosenberg covers the Yankees for WFUV Sports.