So the Yankees enter the All-Star break with a record of 53–35 — good for the second-best record in the A.L. East and the third-best record in all of baseball. They’ve lost just one series in the last month, and they closed out the first half with quite the feel-good weekend. On Saturday, Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit somehow lived up to all of the hype surrounding it, what with the five-hit day, including a homer for hit No. 3,000 and the game-winning hit later in the afternoon. (That day, more than anything else, was why there was no chance that the Yankees would have let Jeter sign with another team over the winter, no matter how much above market value they’d have to pay. The Steinbrenners would have sooner sold the team to Ben Affleck than let Jeter reach that milestone in another uniform.)
Then yesterday — on a day the offense managed just one bizarre, unearned run — Bahamas-bound All-Star CC Sabathia outdualed James Shields for a complete-game, four-hit shutout, culminating in a strikeout of Elliot Johnson just two hours and eleven minutes after the game began. The Yankees end the first half a game out of first — Boston sits atop the division, having won six straight, including an eventful four-game sweep of Baltimore — but the Yankees’ series win over Tampa extended their lead in the Wild Card standings to five games. Considering all the questions surrounding the Yankees entering the season, that’s not a bad place to be at mid-season. (Well, not exactly mid-season: The Yankees are 54.3 percent of the way through their schedule.)
Having said all that, this weekend also brought a new reason to worry: It was made official yesterday that Alex Rodriguez will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery today and is expected to miss four to six weeks. The Yankees have dealt with injuries up and down their roster this year, from the lineup to the rotation and especially to the bullpen, but now they’ll play without their clean-up hitter (albeit one who’d been sapped of his power as he played through this injury) for at least a month. (This, by the way, is the fourth consecutive year that A-Rod has landed on the disabled list. That’s not encouraging for someone who is signed through 2017.)
In the meantime, Eduardo Nunez, who’d been filling in for Jeter until last week, will likely become an everyday player again. (One hopes, after yesterday, that someone will tell Nunez not to slide into first base. They can’t really afford another injury to an infielder.) Meanwhile, Robinson Cano, who will attempt to take his dad deep many, many times tonight, will likely slide into the clean-up spot. Now that the Jeter chase is behind us, the focus will return to wins and losses beginning Thursday in Toronto. Considering the talent at the top of the A.L. East, we could be in for a fun second half.