Left-handed power, the hope of the Yankees

There was another season during which the Yankees decided they needed more left-handed power hitters in the lineup … but they made that decision in late June, not July, back in 2000. By then, they were 38-35. . They were tied with the Blue Jays on the loss column but 3.0 games off the top of the AL East, just half a game ahead of the Red Sox. In that moment, Brian Cashman made one of the best changes he’s made in his career, acquiring David Justice from Cleveland.

That ended up being the kind of mid-season trade GMs dream of. Justice hit 20 home runs for the Yankees in 78 games that year, culminating in a three-run homerun to the top floor of old Yankee Stadium in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Mariners that sent the Yankees out. to the World Series.

The Yankees faced the Mets in that Subway World Series, winning it in five games. The Yankees had won the AL East with just 87 wins that year. But they still won it. And they wouldn’t have done it without Justice.

Let us now put ourselves in the present. Cashman didn’t just go looking for a left-handed bat before the trade deadline. Got two: Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. Gallo was supposed to be the big home run threat, especially with the short right field of the new Yankee Stadium. But it’s Rizzo who hit home runs in two of his first three games with the Yankees, all wins in Miami over the Marlins.

A week after losing three of four to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Yankees woke up Monday in this situation:

His record is 55-48 before facing the Orioles in the Bronx on Monday. Suddenly, they are 5.0 games away from the Red Sox – who are having a rough time – in the loss column and six from the Rays. There was a lot of talk last week about how much the Yankees would be willing to give up (and in the end they ended up giving up a half dozen prospects for Rizzo and Gallo) to fight for a Wild Card spot.

I don’t think Cashman sees it that way, especially with the Red Sox pitching situation and the fact that Tyler Glasnow is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery this week. Cashman wasn’t going to drop that many prospects if he didn’t think his team could win the division.

The Yankees are not too far behind. It’s not like they’re trying to overcome a 14.0-game deficit in July like they did in 1978 against the Patirrojos.

And the Yankees don’t have to look back 20 years to cheer up. They just need to remember what happened just two years ago, in the National League East, with the Washington Nationals. The Yankees were five games over .500 last Friday when the deadline to make changes passed. Two years ago, the Nationals had six games over .500 (57-51), 6.5 over the Braves and only half a game over the Phillies. That was after being at a 19-30 time. They didn’t end up winning the division, but they went 36-18 in the last two months and ended up starring in one of the great comebacks in Major League history, winning the World Series.

These Yankees are not those Nationals, starting with the starters. The Yankees have a real ace, Gerrit Cole. The 2019 Nationals had Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, two horses that loaded them up to the crown like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for the D-backs in 2001. Of course that stood out as much in October as Anthony’s hits. Rendón and the Dominican Juan José Soto.

But the Yankees’ lineup is not just better, it’s deeper. They were the ones who finished off Rizzo, not the Red Sox. For whatever reason, the Yankees started the season thinking they didn’t need a balance between lefties and righties, especially at Yankee Stadium. Now they have it.

Cashman expressed this the other day:

“When I spoke to the frustrations about the way the season was going, I said, ‘It’s up to me to do everything in our power to fix that. Me, my team and the owners. ‘ That was our commitment. That is what we are trying to do and we are going to see how things turn out for us ”.

So far, it’s just a three-game sweep against the Marlins. Cole, however, was rocked by the Rays on Thursday. Those two wild cards are still in the American League if the Yankees don’t win the division. But Cashman saw a long time ago, when he landed Justice, all the difference a left-handed bat can make in such a close fight. Now he has two.