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Keeler: Yankees proving me wrong

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

I'll admit it -- I was completely wrong.

Don't get too used to that, it doesn't happen that often. However, in this case I've never been happier to be so wrong.

A few months ago, I wrote a column about how I was becoming more of a die-hard Washington Nationals fan. I wrote that since my New York Yankees were too injured, too old they would not have a strong season, so I was jumping ship to the Nationals.

If you take a good hard look at the current standings, it appears I had no clue what I was talking about.

I'll admit I listened too much to the so-called experts (the one's that I usually can't stand) who said the Yankees had no chance this year.

The Yankees have certainly proven all the so-called experts, and me, wrong. They are currently in first place in the AL East, with those pesky Batlimore Orioles right there with them. It's starting to feel like last year all over again.

Not only are they in first in the East, but they have the third best record in the Major Leagues. I guess the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

What's most impressive about the Yankees so far is how they've done it. There's no Derek Jeter, or Mark Teixeira or Curtis Granderson, although he just returned from the DL, and yet they haven't missed a beat. Guys like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, who just went on the DL, and Lyle Overbay have stepped in and done enough on offense. Of course, it helps having guys like Robinson Cano and Ichiro Suzuki still around.

On offense, the Yankees are ninth in slugging percentage, 13th in batting average and 14th in runs scored. For some teams those would be OK numbers, but for the Yankees those numbers normally wouldn't get it done. The Yankees typically have one of the best offenses in all of baseball.

This year they're not the Bronx Bombers. It's the pitching that's carrying the team. The Yankees are sixth in ERA and seventh in quality starts.

C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have been stellar as starters. The big question is can they keep it up for an entire season? I think they can.

It also helps that they have a great bullpen behind them. David Robertson has been solid with eight holds this year. And once we get to the ninth there's still nobody better than Mariano Rivera. He has 15 saves in 17 appearances. Does he really need to retire after this season?

The bottom line is the Yankees are still the Yankees, and this season is proving to me just how good Joe Girardi is as manager. Sure, he's always had a lot of talent, but this year he's shown what he can do when some of that talent is gone.

The best part is that I have no doubt the likes of Granderson, Jeter and Teixeira will only make this team better once they return.

I'm starting to think this team just might have one more title run in them. Granderson, Jeter and Teixeira should be fresh when the postseason rolls around and may be in peak form. Cano is showing the kind of star he can be, and I think the pitching will continue to shine throughout the year.

I remember some of the down years of the Yankees, when they spend to get big money players only to come up short year after year. Then in 1996 things finally changed, led by a young trio of Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera. Those three are my favorites, maybe it's because they are actually close to my age, or maybe it's having watched them stay with the Yankees for so many years (I'm trying to forget Pettitte's awful decision to play with the Astros for a few years).

I would love to see those guys get one more ring, before being able to ride off into the sunset, if they choose to. Maybe the storybook ending can actually happen, either way I'm definitely back on board and along for the ride.

The Nationals are still doing all right, and I would love to see a Yankees-Nationals World Series. However, if there's one thing I've learned from this baseball season it's that you never count out the Yankees.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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