The Yankees have spent the majority of the season on top of the American League East, but a steady stream of injuries the last few months are making things difficult for New York as they look to secure a postseason berth. While winning the division seemed looked like a forgone conclusion at the All-Star break, the chances of the Yankees missing the postseason are at the very least worthy of discussion. While the entire division has been blugeoned with visits to the disabled list this season, it's New York that has recently been kicked in the gut with key losses that may impact the stretch run.
After losing the first two games of a four-game series in Detroit last week, the Yankees were scuffling, having dropped 12 of 19 since going a season-high 23 games over .500. Not only were they losing games, but players as well, having shelved Alex Rodriguez in late July and C.C. Sabathia just this past weekend. With Mariano Rivera blowing out his knee and Andy Pettite suffering a broken ankle, it is entirely possible that injuries and age are starting to take a toll on this team like never before.
Earlier this week, Lane Kiffin was asked about whether he voted his Trojans No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll. He said that he wouldn't do something like that, even though new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez suggested that he did. After hearing Kiffin's comments, USA Today chose to respond by releasing the vote in question, thereby confirming the story Rodriguez had earlier laid out. Kiffin was exposed, then had to backtrack and even explain his reasoning behind putting USC at the top, even though he really shouldn't have had to.
The poll is a sham already since these coaches don't spend time watching other teams. The majority of their time is spent preparing throughly for the schools they will be facing. This idea that they find occasion to sit in front of a television and analyze other college football games is ridiculous. For someone to come out and wave a finger in Kiffin's direction is laughable, especially when you have a coach in Rodriguez who has often had fingers pointed at him.
* While younger players like Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes have led the A's into the thick of the wild-card chase, it's easy to overlook the contributions of a couple of veterans on the club. Bartolo Colon, 7-8 with a 3.78 ERA, has resurrected his career the last two seasons, with the Yankees last year, and now in his work with the A's. Brandon Inge has hit 11 HR with 47 RBI's in his 64 games played for Oakland. While struggling with the average (.220), Inge has nevertheless provided some pop for a team that ranks last in the American League in hitting (.229). Colon, whose career appeared over on several occasions these past few seasons, has provided a steady presence to a pitching staff that boasts three starters under 25. Inge chips in to solidify the infield, providing a trustworthy glove for a defense that borders on shaky.
The Cincinnati Reds have been contending all year, but their recent seven-game winning streak has catapulted them closer to the National League's best record. On the morning of July 6, the Reds were sitting at 44-38 and two games behind the Pirates in the NL Central. Winners of 14 of their last 16 games, they own first place, and sit just a game back of the league-lead Nationals. They're doing it with pitching, led by staff ace Johnny Cueto (12-5, 2.23 ERA). The Reds have allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of the 13 games since the break, adding up to a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star game. Those type of performances have helped Cincinnati offset the absense of Joey Votto's bat, out since mid-July with a torn meniscus.
Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster pulled off an interesting manuever this week. The right-hander, who has the right to veto any trade because of the 10-5 rule, appeared indecisive regarding a possible move to Atlanta. The Braves, who were set to send starting pitcher Randall Delgado to the Cubs for Dempster on Monday, have seemed to have run out of patience, and are prepared to move on from this trade.
If he had his druthers, Dempster would stay right where is. He doesn't want to leave Chicago, and has made no secret that his desire is to stay with the Cubs. While there's little doubt that other deals will surface over the coming week, there does seem to be a measure of uncertainty regarding Dempster's intentions. There is some conversation surrounding the possibility that even if dealt, the veteran righty could wind right back up with Chicago when the offseason convenes.