Off days suck. At least they usually do. Right now, though, the Yankees can use as many off days as possible because a day off means a day of getting healthy for the lengthy injured list, and a day off now means a game later when some of the injured players might be back. For the first time in my life, I would gladly welcome a slew of rainouts and postponements.
The Yankees are a week into the 2019 season and are a painful 3-4, considering their first-week opponents. All seven of their games have been winnable and if not for the team’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position or their manager’s lack of doing everything possible to win, their record would be much better than a .429 winning percentage.
Here are seven thoughts on this off day for the team’s first seven games played.
1. The Yankees are in trouble.When you have Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar out of your lineup, it’s hard enough to overcome. (Even the loss of Troy Tulowitzki is problematic because it means Tyler Wade plays every day.) Couple those injuries with already losing four out of seven “easy” games against the Orioles and Tigers and you have a recipe for disaster. The Yankees’ remaining April schedule is still very favorable as they play the Astros three times and the Red Sox twice, and the rest of the month they will play against very bad to mediocre-at-best teams. That’s good because the current Yankees lineup is mediocre at best, but it’s bad because these are games they are supposed to win and games they need to win for the final standings and they are now anything but sure-wins as we have seen through the first week.
To be completely honest, I would sign up for the first wild card right now. That’s not an overreaction or me giving up on the season. I know we’re seven games into the season, but none of the injured everyday Yankees are expected back any time soon. Gregorius’ best-case scenario is the All-Star break. Hicks just started baseball activities, which means he’s a few weeks away. Stanton is shut down completely for two weeks and Andujar might need season-ending surgery. The Yankees have already exhausted their depth and batting Tyler Wade and Mike Tauchman is basically the equivalent of playing shorthanded in a Central Park softball league and having to take automatic outs at the end of the batting order. Everyone keeps talking about the Yankees’ need to stay afloat until they can get healthy, but they aren’t going to be healthy for a long time. At least if they were guaranteed the first wild card, they would most likely be healthy by then.
2. Everyone keeps talking about how “it’s early” and how the Red Sox are 2-6 and the Astros are 2-5. Thankfully, the Red Sox are 2-6 and not off to their 2018 start or the wild card would actually be the Yankees’ only postseason path, but the Red Sox’ start shouldn’t make the Yankees’ start any less unacceptable. The injuries have played a major role, but they had Stanton and Andujar for the opening series and still played like crap.
The Red Sox are a healthy 2-6 and the Astros are a healthy 2-5, which is embarrassing, but they are both healthy, and they are both about to start playing at home for the first time. A week from now, they will likely both be over .500 for good for the rest of the season. I’m not sure you can say the same for the Yankees given the lineup they will be running out there every day for the foreseeable future.
3. Aaron Judge is the man. He hits for average, hits for power, gets on base, takes the extra base and open steals, makes diving plays in the field and leaping catches at the wall, holds runners with his arm and is a great team leader as seen by his “urgency” quote after the first loss of the season. He’s a true five-tool player, the best player on the team and truly a perfect Yankee.
It’s a pleasure to watch him play every day and considering he’s yet to hit his first home run, there’s a power streak coming (even if Boone doesn’t believe in streaks), and he can carry this team for games at a time, which is something they desperately need right now. The Yankees need a Didi Gregorius April 2018 out of someone and Judge is their best option to provide that type of production.
4. I would once again like to thank the 2016 Yankees for their four-game losing streak right before the trade deadline, which resulted in Gleyber Torres becoming a Yankee.
Torres’ ability to play second and short (he can also play third as he would have taken over for Chase Headley mid-2017 if not for the collision at home plate resulting in season-ending Tommy John surgery) has become a necessity in the absence of Gregorius and now Troy Tulowitzki as well. Without that four-game losing streak in July 2016, there’s a good chance Torres isn’t a Yankee, and games like Thursday don’t happen.
Torres’ 4-for-4 Thursday with a double and two home runs helped the Yankees avoid falling to not only 2-5 overall, but 1-3 against the Orioles. It was his three-run home run which gave the Yankees a one-run lead in the eventual 8-4 win and maybe in a week or two we will look back at that three-run home run as the turning point of the season.
5. Luke Voit’s Opening Day three-run home run made everyone once again laugh at the Cardinals for trading him to the Yankees for essentially nothing. But after struggling through the next four-plus games with some of the ugliest at-bat you will ever see, I was beginning to question whether or not Voit was worthy of hitting in the middle of the order or if he was still the 27-year-old career .240/.307/.432 hitter the Cardinals gave up on. His three-run home run on Thursday put the game out of reach in the ninth inning, and after being 0-for-15 going into that insurance home run, I needed that home run as much as Voit and the Yankees.
Voit most likely wouldn’t have batted fourth on Opening Day if Gregorius and Hicks were healthy. Hicks would have been leading off, followed by Judge then Gregorius because Boone has to separate the righties in Judge and Stanton. At best, I think Voit would have batted fifth, and he would have batted that solely off his short time as a Yankee last season.
Right now, Voit has to hit in the middle of the order because there are no other options. Clint Frazier still looks like a player who lost nearly a full season, Tauchman is barely on the team and Wade is still trying to prove he belongs in the majors. Those three have to hit in the bottom third of the order, leaving the top six places to established major leaguers. When you start to shake it out from there, Voit is one of the only real options to bat third or fourth consistently, but he’s going to have to produce like he did when he initially became a Yankee to hold that spot when the injured list starts to dwindle.
6. The four Gary Sanchez throwing errors in six games played are a bit alarming, though at least one and possibly two of those should have been caught at second base. There is a good portion of the fan base waiting for every Sanchez mistake the way my dog sits next to me praying I drop food while I eat. I don’t get it. Sure, Sanchez has some ugly passed ball history, was awful at the plate last season and has made some errant throws this season, but he’s still a franchise catcher, and the best overall catcher in the majors.
I don’t understand why people are so quick to discount what he did at a young age in 2016 and 2017, but aren’t quick to discount someone like Voit whose career is essentially one month of what Sanchez did for a year and a half. It’s almost as if Sanchez’s horrendous 2018 season is all he has to show for his career on the back of his baseball card.
Sanchez has once again run into some bad luck this season with hard-hit line drives right at fielders this season. However, I’m happy to see him get off to a much better start from a power perspective with a team-leading three home runs in only six games so far.
I believe in Sanchez and everyone should too. (I’m looking at you, Brittni.)
7. Aroldis Chapman’s implosion on Wednesday could be seen from a mile away. Chapman is far from trustworthy in a save situation and when you put him into a tie game, the level of trust drops considerably. So it came as no surprise when a 1-1 game in the ninth turned into a 3-1 loss thanks to Chapman.
Right now, I put the Yankees’ bullpen order of trust as follows:
1. Adam Ottavino
2. Zack Britton
3. Aroldis Chapman
4. Chad Green
5. Jonathan Holder
6. Tommy Kahnle
7. Stephen Tarpley
8. Luis Cessa
(The drop-off from 3 to 4 is big and the drop-off from 5 to 6 is even bigger.)
Dellin Betances throwing means he’s getting closer to a return, which means the Yankees will have two lights-out firemen in Betances and Ottavino. Most teams don’t have one and some teams never have one. I look forward to the team’s strength getting stronger and the chance of holding leads and turning tie games and extra-inning games into wins increasing.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!