Sometimes it seems the Yankees don't compete against the rest of the American League as much as they compete against themselves.
After gaining a split of a four-game series against the White Sox with Sunday's 4-2 victory, the Yankees improved to 48-30. If they win merely one of three games at Tampa Bay, they will end the first half of the season with 49 wins.
That would put them on a pace to win 98 games, and who could possibly argue with that?
Yet because the Yankees raise the bar so high, so often it seems that their negatives are accentuated more than the positives. The only real negative that stands out is their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees' problem - if one could call it a problem -is that they act like the regular season is a 162-game exhibition season.
The Yankees never are judged by the number of games they win in the regular season but by postseason success, (ie, World Series titles), which is where they have come up short every year since 2001(except for 2009).
It is our opinion that they have failed to win in October because of that aforementioned lack of success in the clutch. The feeling here is that it could once again be their downfall this year because you can't rely on the long ball in the playoffs when the pitching is better.
Still, while we're not guaranteeing anything, the Yankees are virtually assured of making the playoffs for the 17th time in the last 18 years. As frustrating as their situational hitting can be, the lineup is simply too good.
Therefore, what are the Yankees' concerns heading into the second half of the season? We'll list a few:
-- Is it realistic to expect a 40-year-old Andy Pettitte to return from a broken ankle in six weeks and if and when he does come back, how effective will be?
-- A slumping Derek Jeter. After batting .389 in April, the 38-year-old Jeter is starting to show his age as he batted just .232 in June. His bat looks tired.
-- Alex Rodriguez's lack of power. A-Rod has just 22 extra-base hits - 13 homers and nine doubles -- in his first 75 games.
-- Mark Teixeira's low batting average. Teixeira is the unquestioned best defensive first baseman in the game as he seems to make brilliant plays on a daily basis, but it is tough to have your No. 3 hitter batting .242.
-- Brett Gardner's progress. Gardner is taking much longer than expected to return from a strained right elbow that has limited him to only nine games this season.
Understand, these problems are relative to the concerns of most other teams.
When it's said and done, the Yankees will more than survive the absence of Pettitte and CC Sabathia, who will be back after the All-Star, and finish with 95-98 wins.
However, it won't mean much if they get bounced in the first round again.
, which of course won't be good enough for some fans.