This may be one of the the only times you'll ever see this here, but:
Yep, it's time to examine the Yankees. First, the explanation:
The fast rise and fall of a bullpen is a tragic thing to watch. A month of fantastic pitching could just as easily crumble as continue, as anyone knows, but to predict such a fall is divine. Since sportswriters mention bullpens more than they actually talk about them, we've decided to devote a little time to some contenders' bullpens (with little focus on the closer, since they get enough airtime already). This week we've focused on the New York Yankees, currently 5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East at 62-47 and tied for the wildcard lead. We have them finishing second in the division (and out of the playoffs, we know... we know) if you must know.
Let's Get This Guy Out of the Way, Shall We?:
Old man in AL All-Star Hat: OYES, OYES! The Afraid of Joba Chamberlain Society will now hear from the floor! Mr. Leisure?
Business or Leisure: Holy shit, have you seen this guy? Dear LORD.
Members mumble, someone audibly says, "fuck."
Old man in AL All-Star Hat: This meeting is adjourned.
He bangs a gavel.
Late Innings: The aforementioned Chamberlain is joined by Luis Vizcaino and Kyle Farnsworth. I remember the day Farnsworth was signed as if it were my first whiskey and coke on my roof in college (boy was I smiling) and Vizcaino is less than reliable from night to night. It's a wash, except, well, see above commentary. Chamberlain is the future closer and the serious threat the Yanks needed all along. Say what you will about the boys making the decisions, but the shrewdness of the Proctor for Chamberlain (oh, you thought Wilson Betemit was the reason he left?) deal was the best one they've made since they signed Pettite. I know it was just last offseason, but this is a team built on moving and shaking. This was genius.
Middle Innings and Long Relief: Here's where it gets trickier. If Torre was smart (or even not asleep at the wheel), he would use the "best pitcher for the biggest outs" situation. If that means holding a lead when the facsimile of Clemens leaves after 4 1/3, do it. Fuck the later innings, just keep the lead. However, the team now relies on Sean Henn and Ron Villone. They are effective at times, but essentially a step away from disaster. There's a reason this team isn't losing: the lineup. Oh, and if you can name a game in which Edwar Ramirez made a difference, I'll mail you a picture of him.
Long-Term Eye: With Joba fresh armed and the lineup killing the damn ball right now, the Yanks are going to have to hope that the runs keep coming and the bullpen stays rested. Mariano isn't exactly blowing people away right now and the team's hope rests on a much harder schedule than they've faced in the last two weeks or so. If they expect to beat the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels and Mariners down the stretch, they better get production unseen in the Orioles series. They have a lot to do before the playoffs are handed to them (namely, find out if Kyle and Luis are even going to see the 8th inning anymore).
Fun Fact: Did you know that George Steinbrenner is made out of smoke? Entirely? Bet you didn't.
Prediction: I stand by my earlier assumption that this team doesn't make the playoffs. It will be close, as the Mariners and Angels both get head-to-head chances after beating up on the NL Central for a minute first. Plus, Cleveland gets Tampa Bay next. The Yanks have a tough road ahead of them and I don't know if I would trust 5 out of 7 of these guys without having a finger or two crossed that they don't have to face inherited runners. With a staff of old men, a closer alongside them and a crew of possibles, anything could go wrong. As of yet, it hasn't. I say it will, but I feel like I say that every year.