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Five Reasons the New York Yankees Are World Series Contenders

Despite Injuries, Team Has Experience, Star Power Necessary to Make a Run

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | As of this writing, the New York Yankees are lurking in the thick of yet another pennant race, going into play Thursday, Sept. 12 trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by just a game for the final wild-card spot in the American League.

All things considered, that's shocking. The Yankees have bestowed 454 plate appearances this season upon Lyle Overbay, whose career was basically on a milk carton in March when he was released by the Boston Red Sox. Chris Stewart, the light-hitting (.215/.292/.278) catcher has gone to the plate 311 times. Eduardo Nunez has 284 PAs, Jayson Nix 303, Travis Hafner 293 and Vernon Wells 423.

Meanwhile, longtime stars and stalwarts such as Derek Jeter (73 plate appearances), Mark Teixeira (63), Curtis Granderson (178) and Alex Rodriguez (133) have been basically missing in action. Granderson and Rodriguez are back in the lineup, but Jeter was placed on the disabled list Tuesday and Teixeira's been out since June and won't be back in 2013.

It's the worst-hitting Yankees team in a generation and that's with Robinson Cano having another Robinson Cano-type of year, hitting .309/.383/.516 with 27 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Alfonso Soriano has been a major power threat since returning to pinstripes five days before the non-waiver trade deadline in July, mashing 15 homers and driving in 47 runs in just 44 games. For some perspective on how non-productive the New York lineup has been this year, those 47 RBIs place Soriano fourth on the club behind Cano (100), Overbay (57) and Brett Gardner (52) and ahead of the guy who previously manned left field, Vernon Wells, who has 45 RBIs in a couple of more plate appearances than Soriano -- like 235 more.

But here are five reasons the Yankees could still make their annual push into October and contend for world championship No. 28:

1. Robinson Cano: Were it not for Miguel Cabrera's continued other-worldliness and Chris Davis' breakout year, Cano would be in the thick of the MVP discussion. And Cano has something to prove should New York make it to October. He had a nightmarish postseason in 2012, going just 3-for-40, including 1-for-18 in the ignominious four-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.

2. Mariano Rivera: Is there a more fitting way to send out the greatest closer ever than with another run deep into autumn? Rivera, 43, is retiring at the end of the season, but he's still been about as good as ever. He has 43 saves and a 2.34 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 57.2 innings this season and his 42 postseason saves are more than twice as many as any other human in history. So there's that. The first time Rivera got the final out of a World Series for the Yankees, Kansas City Royals All-Star closer Greg Holland was 12 years old. There's something to be said for experience this time of year.

3. Alex Rodriguez: Public Enemy No. 1 doesn't seem to care what we think anymore. He's hitting .299 with six home runs in 32 games since returning from hip surgery and record-setting suspension be damned, he seems to be fairly intent on making life as uncomfortable as possible for the guys in the suits in the executive suites at Yankee Stadium and at MLB headquarters. What better way to do that than to keep showing up on national television in late October?

4. Joe Girardi: If the manager of the Yankees hasn't proved he's got game with what he's done with the paperclips and duct tape he's been handed this season, he never will. Having this team, with these injuries and this cast of no-names, I mean, it's basically a replacement-level team plus Cano and Gardner for the bargain price of roughly a quarter of a billion. Ten games above .500 and one game out of a playoff spot on Sept. 12 isn't just a minor miracle. No, it's a pretty large one.

5. The mystique: They're still the Yankees, the team everyone outside the five boroughs loves to hate. There's a reason for that ... 27 of them, actually.

Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.

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