Almost everyone who has raced cross country in New York has raced the hills in Van Cortlandt Park at some point in their career. Located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx at the end of the 1 train—conveniently just steps from where new Yankees center outfielder Harrison Bader attended high school—the two-and-a-half-mile course has it all. It starts with a sprint across an open field the geese use as a bathroom and ends with a long straight that passes through numerous baseball and softball fields. In between, however, is a brutal gauntlet whose hills were baptized by my high school mates with names that don’t fit in print. It was a nerve-wracking course, even when it wasn’t riddled with downed trees and mudslides after a storm, or even a swarm of bees (true story).
Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball season is a long-distance race, not a sprint. With 162 games on the schedule, his season eclipses the 82 games played by the NBA and NHL, while the NFL’s 17-game season looks downright puny. This length gives the season plenty of time to come and go. Batters have time to come out of a slump, like Aaron Hicks did in July (and then come back, like he did in early August). A team to get out of an early hole, like the 2021 Yankees did after starting the season 6-11 and limping to a 41-41 record on July 4. It also gives a team the opportunity to completely fall apart in the end, as happened for the 2011 Red Sox. The story of the season can change in no time, for better or for worse. worse.
We see that playing out a bit right now with the current Yankees team. After stumbling out of the gate with a 7-6 record, the team decided to leave 2021 in the rearview mirror and made an absolute tear. Thanks in part to an 11-game winning streak, the vibes were immaculate. It was the 2022 Yankees, not last year’s edition, and they were on top of the world. No worthwhile Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks production? No problem, Anthony Rizzo will start hot, and Aaron Judge will be absolutely historic. Gerrit Cole struggling to keep the ball in the park? It’s fine, Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon throw like aces. Comparisons to 1998 started pouring in early and often, as those Yankees became the puppeteers of the American League.
Since the start of July, however, the vibes have been a bit off. First, the three “series” against the Houston Astros that saw the Yankees never hold a lead, as both of their wins were of the Aaron Judge variety. Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks have been mired in deep, deep crises. Injuries to Luis Severino and Michael King have started to take their toll on a pitching staff that’s been prone to slumps of late (even though they’re still well-ranked in most categories). And to top it off, Brian Cashman has eroded most of the positive energy he brought to the team through the additions of Andrew Benintendi, Frankie Montas, Scott Effross and Lou Trivino by returning homegrown starter Jordan Montgomery to the squad. St. Louis Cardinals in trade for outfielder Harrison Bader – who is currently on the IL!
The Yankees clearly need a shock. Luckily, there’s someone currently sitting in Triple-A Scranton who can do just that: Oswald Peraza. After a slow start to the season in which he slashed .193/.268/.318 in his first 23 games, the young shortstop was on fire at the plate. Since early June, he’s posted a .301/.375/.528 slant line with nine home runs, ten doubles and 15 stolen bases, while showing off a slick glove. With Isiah Kiner-Falefa waddling towards an 85 OPS+ and a defense that isn’t consistent enough for a defensive shortstop first, there’s a good chance he’ll be an instant upgrade to the position, however you want to see it (aside from syllables in its name, that is).
More important than his performance on the diamond, however, would be the potential impact on the clubhouse. At this point in a season, on scorching summer days, it’s easy for a team to get into a rut, especially when playing .500 ball – it’s hot, the pennant race isn’t isn’t quite in your face yet, and the minor pains are really starting to set in. Teams need a mid-summer boost.
It could take the form of an impact trade or a group of trades, like the flurry of moves the Atlanta Braves made to reinvent their outfield at last year’s deadline, or the Astros’ addition of Justin Verlander in 2017 and Zack Greinke in 2019. , or even the Yankees’ acquisition of Alfonso Soriano in 2013. It could be from a player coming out of nowhere to become a player impact, like Nestor Cortes did for the Yankees last year when the entire pitching rotation was either on the injured list or the COVID list. Or it could come from promoting a top prospect, whether he’s lighting up the world (like Gary Sánchez did in 2016) or simply electrifying the clubhouse while providing important depth (like Xander Bogaerts did it for Boston in 2013).
With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror – the only major obstacle to promoting Peraza, as you wouldn’t want to risk losing some of his luster as a prospect while he was hanging as trade bait – he is now time to make the move. Peraza’s promotion, even if it doesn’t set the world on fire, gives the fanbase something positive to rally behind after a delay that sucked some of the air out of the fanbase, and it injects a new energy in the clubhouse. The Yankees are currently stuck in a rut in the hills trying to find the finishing straight that takes them to the finish line; a top prospect like Peraza might just be the jolt the team needs to bring back the good vibes.