I really didn’t think I would care at the inevitable outcome of this baseball season. After 108 regular-season wins and their postseason run, I thought I would be able to shrug off the Red Sox winning the World Series, but I was wrong. I was very wrong.
The Yankees failed to stop the Red Sox in the postseason after failing to beat them in the regular season. Ownership stood pat, worrying about the luxury tax and not actual wins and losses, while the Red Sox did everything they could to win a championship and they did. The Yankees came within one win of the World Series in 2017, and in 2018, Hal Steinbrenner decided to cut his team’s payroll by roughly $50 million because he was worried about money, something his family’s Yankees have never worried about. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Dodgers came on spending, trying to improve their team in every possible way, and to no surprise, the two met in the World Series. I miss the Yankees not being worried about every penny and not caring about the luxury tax.
It’s not that the Red Sox won the World Series, well, OK, it is that. But it’s more of how they won. And I don’t mean by Aaron Boone, A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts doing everything they could to roll out a red carpet and escort them right to a championship. I mean how they won with former Yankee letdowns Eduardo Nunez, Nathan Eovaldi and World Series MVP Steve Pearce serving as heroes in October.
The trio of former Yankees couldn’t have been more disappointing during their time in pinstripes. Nunez was an overhyped prospect who Brian Cashman who hung on to for too long before letting go for nothing. Eovaldi was a hard-throwing 25-year-old who couldn’t strike anyone out when they traded Martin Prado and David Phelps for him and he left the Yankees as a hard-throwing 26-year-old who couldn’t strike anyone out and who needed another Tommy John surgery. Pearce had one of the shortest and worst stints as a Yankee when he played for the team six years ago.
That’s the general overview of how each of the three were complete letdowns for the Yankees, but it goes much deeper than that. Much deeper.
I don’t know if I will ever hate a player more than Nunez. Well, it’s not so much him I hate because it’s not his fault he’s not very good, it’s Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ fault for thinking he was going to be the heir to Derek Jeter at shortstop. Instead, Nunez couldn’t play shortstop, couldn’t play any infield position really, and was eventually moved to the outfield before being let go by the Yankees for absolutely nothing. In 2014, the Yankees were willing to give Nunez’s job to Yangervis Solarte, who at the time had never played in the majors, rather than go through another season with Nunez.
It was Cashman’s awful evaluation of Nunez that cost the Yankees back-to-back World Series appearances and possibly back-to-back championships. Had Cashman been willing to part with Nunez, Cliff Lee would have been a Yankee. If Lee is a Yankee, he isn’t a Ranger and doesn’t beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS, and the Yankees don’t lost the pennant in six games. Cashman kept hanging on to the bad-ball hitter waiting for him to figure how to field a ground ball or show any semblance of discipline at the plate, and it never happened.
Sure enough, it was Nunez coming up like a Gold Glove winner in the ALDS, and sure enough, it was Nunez connecting with a ball at his laces to hit for a three-run home run in Game 1 of the World Series. As hard as it is to accept the Red Sox winning another World Series, it’s even harder to know Nunez was a part of it. “Eduardo Nunez is a champion” is something I never thought I would write.
Here are a couple tweets of mine from Pearce’s Yankees tenure.
Steve Pearce is the worst Yankee ever.
— Neil Keefe (@NeilKeefe) September 5, 2012
I always thought people sitting on oil were the luckiest people in the world, but I was wrong. It's Steve Pearce.
— Neil Keefe (@NeilKeefe) September 7, 2012
Once Pearce left the Yankees, he played for every other AL East team and shoved it right up the Yankees’ ass.
Pearce was an awful Yankee. Yes, his time with the Yankees was a very small sample size of 12 games and 30 plate appearances, but in those plate appearances, he hit .160/.300/.280 with one home run and four RBIs. That was back in 2012 when the Yankees were trying to win the division and avoid the first year of the wild-card format, so his at-bats were going at a crucial time. Since then, Pearce has gone on to play for the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox moving around the AL East and destroying the Yankees at every opportunity. Here is how he has done against the Yankees since they removed him from the team.
2013: 2-for-6, .333/.333/.500, 2B
2014: 14-for-47, .298/.411/.553, 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs
2015: 5-for-34, .147/.256/.294, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs
2016: 13-for-47, .333/.447/.590, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs
2017: 10-for-28, .357/.406/.750, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs
2018: 11-for-37, .297/.395/.757, 2 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBIs
Aside from 2015, Pearce has essentially been David Ortiz 2.0 against the Yankees.
It didn’t surprise me at all when Pearce single-handedly put the Yankees away in the division race back in August and it was business as usual when he went 4-for-12 against the Yankees in the ALDS. It was just the icing on the cake when he hit three home runs and drove in eight in five games in the World Series en route to being named World Series MVP.
I don’t care what team Pearce is on next season, but if the Yankees face him, he needs to be hit on the first pitch he sees against them. I don’t care who the pitcher is, what the score is, what the situation is or how important the game is. Pearce needs to be hit.
Never trust a pitcher who throws triple-digit fastballs and can’t strike anyone out and that’s exactly what Eovaldi is. The Dodgers gave up on him and the Marlins gave up on him despite him being 24 years old with incredible velocity because he didn’t have an out pitch and he didn’t know where the ball was going. So the Yankees gave up Martin Prado and David Phelps because of the glamour of Eovaldi’s fastball, thinking they would be the ones who could fix him. They weren’t.
Eovaldi pitched to a 14-3 record in 2015, so every idiot that relies on wins and losses to determine a pitcher’s success thought he had a great season. It didn’t matter that he received 5.75 runs of support per game or that he routinely struggled to get through five innings and qualify for a win because he needs 20-plus pitches per inning. In 2016, it was more of the same. Eovaldi pitched to a 4.76 ERA over 21 starts and 24 games before being shut down for another Tommy John surgery, ending his time with the Yankees as they let him leave at the end of the season.
When Eovaldi returned to baseball this season and pitched well with the Rays, many Yankees fans started to think about a reunion, having not learned their lesson from the last time Eovaldi was a Yankee. When he was traded to the Red Sox, I laughed with excitement, envisioning him destroying the Red Sox’ chances at winning the division. Instead, he shut out the Yankees in the all-important August series (even if faced a JV lineup) and then shut them out against in September. I never thought he would be able to beat the Yankees in October in the Bronx, but sure enough he did, after getting more run support than any other pitcher against the Yankees in the team’s history.
Eovaldi beat the Yankees and the Astros in the playoffs, mixed in a few relief appearances and then became a hero for his bullpen work in Game 3 of the World Series, even though he took the loss after giving up a walk-off home run. (Only in Boston could a losing pitcher become a “hero”.) Now Eovaldi is a World Series champion and some dumbass team is going to give him an incredible free-agent contract after this stretch run in the regular season and postseason performance.
It doesn’t bother me that the Red Sox played “New York, New York” after they won or that they keep referring to the Yankees every chance they get in their offseason victory lap. It only bothers me that they won and that the Yankees didn’t because they didn’t play well against them and didn’t do everything possible to put the best team on the field.
I don’t want to hear Hal Steinbrenner talk about how angry he is that the Red Sox won and his Yankees didn’t. Steinbrenner has the ability to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s time this Steinbrenner acted like the real Steinbrenner and didn’t worry about money, only winning.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!
The book details my life as a Yankees fan, growing up watching Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams through my childhood and early adulthood and the shift to now watching Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and others become the latest generation of Yankees baseball. It’s a journey through the 2017 postseason with flashbacks to games and moments from the Brian Cashman era.
Click here to purchase the book through Amazon as an ebook. You can read it on any Apple device by downloading the free Kindle app.