Veteran Yankees Dancing in September

Pettitte, homers carry Yankees to win over Twins
Yankees shut out of Baseball America's top 20 GCL prospects
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees’ recent stretch of strong play has propelled them to a two-game lead over the pesky Orioles, giving them some much-needed breathing room against an opponent who has refused to go away.  While there is still plenty of baseball left, the likelihood of the Yankees winning the division title, or at least earning a playoff spot, grows ever larger.  The Yankees have won eight out of their last nine games, and 10 out of their last 12.  This run is all the more impressive because they have not gotten huge contributions from their stars.  Mark Teixeira is still out, and Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano have all underperformed in September.  Despite the offensive struggles of their impact players, the Yankees have solidified their place at the top of the division due in large part to the play of two veterans who appeared washed up at various points in the season.

Since September 6, Ichiro Suzuki seems to have discovered a fountain of youth that transformed him into the dangerous, dynamic Ichiro of old.  Over that stretch he is a ridiculous 24 for 48, good for a .500/.520/.708 line, with two home runs thrown in for good measure.  One could nitpick by saying that he has only walked three times (once intentionally) during that stretch, but honestly, when a guy’s hitting .500, there’s not much to complain about.  Ichiro has also stolen eight bases in his last 16 games, providing a speed element to the Yankee lineup that has been missing for much of the season because of the injury to Brett Gardner.

Like the dark wizard that he physically resembles, Raul Ibanez has demonstrated an incredible ability to bounce back from the most improbable circumstances.  Slow in the field and anemic at the plate for much of August and September, Ibanez has started to show signs of life.  While we are only operating with a tiny sample size here, Ibanez has made a huge impact for the Yankees over the last three games.  In those games, he is a combined 7 for 12, and his two big home runs were key to the Yankees’ comeback win against the A’s on the 22nd.

Fellow geriatric Andy Pettitte has particularly impressed since coming off the DL recently.  While several other Yankee starters have picked up their game of late, Pettitte has showed little rust in his return, tossing 11 scoreless innings in two outings (albeit against weak competition).  While one would worry about a pitcher retaining his command and feel following a long layoff, Andy seems to be back in midseason form.  With at least one more start remaining in the regular season, Pettitte seems to be making a strong case for the #3 spot in the playoff rotation, if the Yankees can make it that far.

It is incredibly improbable, but fantastic, that these players have all managed to turn back the clock and provide some big performances in very important games.  Given the advanced age of this trio, it would be reasonable to expect them to fade at the end of a long season, wearing down physically and overall demonstrating a diminished level of performance.  The fact that Pettitte, Ichiro, and (recently) Ibanez have elevated their game is a testament to the excellent conditioning and great work ethic that these players have maintained over the course of their career.  We could also throw Derek Jeter into this category as well, though he has been pretty strong throughout the season.  It has been a pleasure to see these consummate professionals pick up their more-heralded teammates throughout the stretch run.  Hopefully, the Yankees’ stars can pick things up over the next week and a half as the Yankees look to hold on to their division lead.  It should be a wild ride.

Pettitte, homers carry Yankees to win over Twins
Yankees shut out of Baseball America's top 20 GCL prospects
  • Better off Eddard

    I’ve been a big supporter of Ichiro since we got him. It’s amazing how everyone wanted to bury this guy on the bench and he’s been our best player. Ichiro hitting 2nd lengthens the lineup. Last night Chavy was hitting 9th when he was hitting 4th or 5th during our struggles.

    Getting Teixera back would allow Ibanez to DH. Raul and Ichiro will be big for us in October. Andruw Jones should be left off the playoff roster in favor of Brett Gardner.

    Andy has thrown 11 scoreless innings since returning. I’d still make him the #3 starters because I want him starting Game 7. There’s no other Yankee starter I’d want on the mound in an elimination game.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Normally I’d still want CC, but yeah. I actually have to agree with you. I love Andy.

    • CountryClub

      Ichiro has been their best player for about 10 days. Before that…not so much.

      However, I hope he rides the wave right through the WS.

      • RetroRob

        Exactly. Same with Ibanez. We’ve seen how streaky he can be, and he was so cold over the past month I kept hoping it would lead into one last hot streak that’ll help carry the team through October. Maybe it has.

        BTW The same for Andruw Jones. He’s been horrible, but we know he can also get very hot. He’s running out of time, though, to even get a few ABs to show he’s broken out of it.

        Ichiro gets hot. Ibanez does too. If Cano gets on track within the next week, those three could help carry the Yankees to a championship.

  • Biggie

    Does Andy pitch a one game playoff if needed?

    • MannyGeee

      I think he lines up there. I dont think I’d want anyone not named CC or Andy in that spot, personally.

    • CountryClub

      Yes, he’s lined up on regular rest. And if they won, he’d be lined up to pitch gm 3 of ALDS on regular rest too.

      But they’re winning the division…

  • MannyGeee

    Nothing makes me happier than seeing Vintage Ichiro out there. We should consider ourselves lucky to have seen him do his thing…

    now, if he’d only give A-Rod some of that magic potion, we’d all be able to sleep at night.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Jeter’s keeping it between himself and Ichiro. :-)

  • Darren

    No to nitpick, but Jeter has only been “pretty strong” all year? He flirted with .400 for 2 months, has been one of the league leaders in hits all year and is going to be right up there in average, multi hit games and plate appearances, with a steady SS. Man, I would hope that would garner hime more than just a “pretty strong.”

    How about amazing?

    You’re watching one of The Five Best Yankees of All Time. Show the Man some respect!

    And Pettitte is not making a strong case to be the #3 starter. Pettitte IS, without a doubt, the #3 starter. the only reason he’s not elevated above Kuroda is b/c Girardi values the #3 slot more than #2. If not for CC’s last start, you could easily say Pettitte would be the #1 starter.

    Lol dark wizard reference.

    • Rocky Road Redemption

      You think Jeet goes over Whitey Ford? Or some of the older HOFers?

      I’m not actually calculating it. You may be right, I’m just not sure if it’s so obvious.

      • CUYanks

        Definitely behind Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle. It would be hard to put him above DiMaggio (he obviously played a few years fewer). So, to me that’s at best #5. And you can easily make some arguments for Yogi, Dickey, or some of the pitchers. I’d go with #5 though.

        • RetroRob

          The top four are locks. He’s ahead of Ford to me. The debate comes down to Jeter or Yogi at #5. Both are among the greatest all time at their positions, and both play premium positions. My answer depends on the day.

  • Better off Eddard

    When I made my 1st comment there were two derogatory posts directed toward Mike so I’m guessing Joe’s comment is in response to that troll. The posts are now deleted so Joe’s comment is out of place.

    • MannyGeee

      and now Joe’s is gone… making your post even more out of place…

      mind… BLOWN

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’m assuming there were two Joes at this point. I hope the Joe who seemed to be integrating himself well is able to find a screenname that isn’t that easily repeated.

        A long time ago, I actually went by my first name on here as well….until the same thing happened. Now, I’m a meme-that-never-stuck-past-one-thread.

        • RetroRob

          I used a few names going back, including my first name, which I realized was going to be an issue.

          When Joe started posting a few weeks ago a few people suggested he go with something not quite so generic, but he seemed to be stuck on it in his own mind because he had already registered.

  • Regis

    Old man snakehead!

  • LarryM., Fl.

    Mike, the three players that you highlighted are consummate professionals who combine physical, mental and emotional facets of the game at its top performance levels. Obviously, Jeter belongs in the conversation. The problem with Ibanez and Chavez they were overused do to injuries to key players. Now with the impact of Ichiro and Arod back Chavez and Ibanez should perform better. Andy’s return to the rotation gives us another opportunity at a quality start plus rests the bullpen. Joba apparent full cycle return to healthy has already shown positive gains. But Arod,Cano and Teix. are the key players. If anyone of them get hot it could be a good fall. One will drag the other two along as oppossing pitchers are stuck navigating a difficult lineup which is deep as designed at the beginning of the year. Ichiro complementing Gardner as our steady left fielder and in the batting order pretty much will make us whole for the first time since game 10 of the season.

    The healthier we can get the better our chances for number 28.

  • Travis L

    Does anyone suggest we re-sign Chavez, Ichiro, Pettitte, or Kuroda next year? Anyone on board with taking a cheap Ibanez/Chavez like flyer on Sizemore (I think he is a free agent)?

    • CountryClub

      If they want to come back, I would bring back Chavez, Pettitte and Kuroda. I think I’d pass on Ichiro unless he wanted to come back on a reasonable 1 yr deal.

      • Kosmo

        I´d like all 4 back on reasonable 1 year deals.

        • CountryClub

          The 3 I mentioned seem to be pretty happy on 1 yr deals. We’re not sure what Ichiro is thinking, though.

        • Betty Lizard

          I’ll take all four, please. And pass on Sizemore, because I believe he’s done.

          • Herby

            Ichiro is going to go back to Japan as a conquering hero when some team there gives him insane amounts of money to use him as a marketing draw when no team here is going to give him the contract he wants. I don’t see him coming back to the Yankees on the strength of a ten day performance. If you think you’re going to get what he’s giving you now over a full season I’ve got some beach property in Arizona you might like.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d offer contracts to both Pettitte and Kuroda. My hunch right now is that Andy returns and Kuroda goes back to Japan (that hunch has and will change again, I’m sure.) While I’m a believer in Ichiro’s ability to contribute, I just don’t see him settling for a fourth outfielder spot. Chavez should just go year-by-year with the team until he decides he’s done. I’d part ways with Ibanez, but would continue to exercise the same thought process with what’s available in the FA market which was utilized with him this year.

      While others have screamed for rookies, I scream for veterans this time of year. Stats aside, I am so much more a believer in their ability to rise to the occassion, even when they looked like they’ve a step or three.

      • Darren

        i get the feeling ichiro doesn’t want to become an itinerant former star at this point, that h’e rather settle for a 4th outfielder with the yanks in th espotlight than start for like, kansas city.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    The two game lead is,of course, in the all important loss column. Now if Arod and Cano can hit some, things would be just fine. This and the return of Teixera will surely make the lineup as we envisioned in April. Hoping that we do not lose more than one or two the rest of the way.

  • nsalem

    it’s extremely doubtful and improbable that Ichiro will hit .500 through the end of the season and our probable playoff run. Would another 100 AB’s of hitting about the.320 as he his currently doing with the Yankee’s exceed a SSS and make him a possibility for 2013. Could the FO operate under the belief that 2 more years of Ichiro playing close to his prime have them consider that Ichiro and whoever they could get in return for Gardner would be more beneficial than having the five productive years that a turning 30 Gardner may have left? Considering the offensive potency of our infield is there a chance they would consider retaining two non-power hitters in the outfield who are both excellent defensive assets?

    • Kosmo

      good points. The offensive potency of NYs IF in addition to a productive DH could allow for NY to go with 2 non-power hitters.

      Ichiro since joining NY now has hit 5 HRs at YS3. I think he´s adjusting his swing to the ballpark and it´s not unreasonable to suggest he could hit 15 HRs over the course of a season if he played for NY next year.

    • jim p

      I’ve always been a big Gardner supporter, even back when he was being dismissed here. Still, he does seem to miss an awful lot of time every year. I wonder about his durability. And it’s always wrist/arm injuries. Is he just structurally unable to play a full season? I would think that question factors in.

      • Kramerica Industries

        Gardner played, like, 160 games in both 2010 and 2011.

        • jim p

          And he played them injured.

          2009: Lost 43 games fractured thumb, didn’t hit as well when he came back, not fully recovered.

          Thumb injury 2010:

          I’m pretty sure my memory is right, that he played 2011, after the All-Star break, with wrist/arm trouble, which accounted in large part for his declined offensive figures.

          Mind you, I love Brett. He is a great asset when he’s playing, even when not fully healthy. I’m just saying the front office has to have noticed that the guy gets hurt a lot, and that comes off his hitting effectiveness.

  • jjyank

    Just browsing though some LoHud posts and say this quote from Swisher about Pettitte. Figured it would be appropriate here in the “veteran” thread. I just got a kick out of this one in particular because I like Swish.

    “I love this guy, dude. I absolutely love him, bro. There’s nothing that fazes him. Takes a full year off, comes back, breaks his foot on a crazy play, Has been itching to get back in the (rotation) for a long time, and once he does, he delivers every single time. You can only look at that, and just be like, man, I want to be like that. Every time he takes that mound, he’s locked in out there. I’m not as fierce as he is, man, I know that.”

    Sounds like how we fans might describe him.

    • Betty Lizard

      Andy Pettitte is a man, man. And man, I love that Swish wants to be a man like him, man.

      I adore them both. They bring passion and joy along with skill and hard work. I watch baseball not only to watch talented people do well but also to watch talented people who enjoy doing well and whose love of the game is so apparent.

    • Cuso

      Andy Pettitte is awesome, bro? You know why? Because I hit a home run tonight, man. This team is great and we’re just living the dream because I hit a home run man. Every time I hit a home run you guys should come and talk to me man. Pettitte does great when I hit a home run, man.

      Open your eyes

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I hope you love him enough to sign a team-friendly deal to continue playing with him next season. Wait, Andy who, you said?

  • Nathan

    Dark wizard LOL.

    Someone needs to photoshop the recent picture of him running over the A’s catcher and put a wizard cap on him with some lightning coming from his hands.

  • rek4gehrig

    In a man’s middle years there is scarcely a part of the body he would hesitate to turn over to the proper authorities. ~E.B. White

    The years teach much which the days never knew. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • coolerking101

    We knew Ichiro would get a bump playing at Yankee Stadium…but he’s gone above and beyond. SSS obviously, but he’s hitting .353/.380 with 5hrs in only 115 AB’s at Yankee Stadium.

    Let’s hope Ichiro can keep up the magic for another month.

    • not that mike

      lets hope we can sayonara Swish and sign Ichiro for 1 yr….im afraid of locking Swish in for a long-term contract at real money, and I would think the Yanks could go year-to-year on one of the corner OF positions, picking up a spare-part RH bat, and end up in almost the same place offensively with a defensive edge as well for 2013.

      Unless, of course, Hamilton is interested..

      • Herby

        Not a chance with Hamilton…wouldn’t want him anyway…he’s going to want too much money, too long a deal, and he’ll start leaving body parts all over the field over the next few years…They’ll make a movie out of him…Hamilweenie

  • Cuso

    Conditioning is the answer for those old guys. Ichiro, Ibanez and Pettitte keep themselves in great shape.

    Whereas Andruw Jones never met a doughnut he didn’t like

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Has anyone ever met a doughbut they didn’t like?

      • bpdelia

        actually donuts are just too rich. i probably enjoy one of every 15 donuts i buy. so i might like 2 donuts per year.