Another step forward, another two steps backs for the Yankees. It’s now a pattern and a pattern of a losing team.
Yes, the injuries are the main reason for the Yankees’ disappointing start against the worst teams in the American League, but injuries aren’t the only reason. Poor managing, an inability to hit with runners in scoring position, bad starting pitching, unacceptable defense and an inconsistent bullpen have helped.
There’s only been three games since the last Yankees off day, which I’m sure upset the front office and Aaron Boone as they were hoping to give the few remaining regulars a scheduled off day in between.
Here are seven thoughts on the Yankees on this off day.
1. How would you feel if you were the manager of the Yankees in the middle of their championship window, and regardless of injuries, your team was 6-9, 0-3 in home series against the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox and despite having the lead in 14 of your team’s 15 games, you were three games under .500? I can’t imagine anyone would feel remotely good about all of that, let alone trying to spin it into a positive at every available opportunity. But when it comes to Aaron Boone, everything is sunshine, rainbows and butterflies for the 2019 Yankees.
“I really do think we’re in a sound place as far as our focus, our energy, our expectation when we walk through those doors.”
That’s what Boone said following Sunday’s atrocious 5-2 loss to the White Sox, in which the Yankees blew yet another lead. Meanwhile, both the Rays (who most Yankees fans are foolishly not worried about) and the Red Sox (who most Yankees fans are laughing at even though they beat the Yankees in the ALDS, won the World Series and basically have the same record as the Yankees right now) both won.
It might be time for Boone to realize 6-9, three games under .500 and getting shut down by mediocre starting pitching isn’t a “sound place” and his team might want to change their “focus” and “energy” since I have no idea what their “expectation” is each game.
2. For as bad as Boone sounded after Sunday’s loss, he might have sounded worse after Friday’s disaster.
Friday’s game began in the rain and with the weather only expected to get worse, there was a good chance a lead after five innings would mean a win. The Yankees had a 4-1 lead through three and a 5-3 lead to begin the fifth.
Through four innings, Happ had allowed four three earned runs on five hits and two walks. Three of those hits had been doubles. And to finish the fourth inning, he went walk, strikeout, walk, double, flyout. The Yankees had just had the day prior off and with a downpour on the way to the Stadium, it made all the sense in the world to try to protect the two-run lead in the fifth.
Boone stayed with Happ. Jose Abreu singled and Yonder Alonso homered to begin the inning. 5-5. Tie game. But the back-to-back line drives weren’t enough to convince Boone to remove Happ, so he let him stay in the game to give up another single to Yoan Moncada. It was that single from Moncada, which finally forced Boone to take his laboring starter out of the game.
Rather than give Jonathan Holder, Boone’s first choice out of the bullpen, a two-run lead to work with or even a clean inning, Boone brings him into the rainy game to face top prospect Eloy Jimenez, who quickly greeted Holder with his first career home run. 7-5, game over.
After the game, Boone was asked if he thought about treating the fifth inning like the end of the game and going to his elite arms. Boone admitted he “thought about” it. However, he talked to Ted Barrett, who said he thought the rain was letting up, so he decided against it.
Who is Barrett, you might ask? A meteorologist? A weather expert? The head groundskeeper? Someone the Yankees employ to strictly advise them on the weather? Nope. Barrett is an umpire. Boone let the umpire’s feel for the weather determine how to manage a game anyone with a weather app or access to the Internet knew would be rain-shortened.
3. Happ better fix whatever is wrong and fast. He has yet to pitch five full innings in three starts with all three of those starts coming against what will be last-place teams. He’s hasn’t just been, he’s been unwatchable, allowed 19 hits, 12 earned runs and four home runs in 12 1/3 innings. Happ’s next start is against the Red Sox — the team he historically dominated leading to the Yankees signing of him. The last time Happ pitched against Boston, he was getting pulled early in Game 1 of the ALDS after giving up a three-run home run in the first inning to J.D. Martinez.
I wish Happ didn’t pitch well for the Yankees after the midseason trade last year. If he doesn’t pitch well, the Yankees either fall to the second wild card or miss the playoffs completely. If they become the second wild card, they have to go to Oakland and most likely lose to the A’s and don’t face the Red Sox in the ALDS. Or they miss the playoffs completely and don’t play the Red Sox in the playoffs. Falling to the second wild card or missing the playoffs would have caused more fans to turn on Boone, potentially putting him on the hot seat for 2019, and the ALDS embarrassment never happens. Then if the Happ experiment in New York had been a failure, they wouldn’t have signed him to a three-year deal this offseason.
It was never the best idea to give a 36-year-old who relies on his fastball a three-year contract, but the Yankees did, and now they are stuck with him. He better turn it around.
4. The Yankees skipped Domingo German’s most recent start because of the off days and CC Sabathia’s return to the rotation. Outside of Tanaka (prior to Sunday), German has been the team’s best starter. Maybe skip J.A. Happ’s start? The 36-year-old could use the extra rest and time to prepare, so he can get more than 13 outs against the Orioles and White Sox. Let German pitch. He’s earned it. Small sample size or not. Then again, I forgot money owed and seniority are more important to playing time than actual performance for the Yankees. It’s been that way forever.
5. Former frustrating Yankee Ivan Nova started for the White Sox on Saturday, and prior to the game, I tweeted the following:
Ivan Nova is starting today. Ivan Nova is an ex-Yankee. What does that mean?
6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
What was Nova’s final line? 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
How did I know Nova would pitch so well? Sadly, I know the Yankees too well, and unfortunately, ever ex-Yankee performs well against them. Just look at Hideki Matsui, Russell Martin, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce, Nathan Eovaldi and the list goes on and on and on.
The Yankees did win Saturday’s game, keeping the White Sox off the board until Nova was removed and they could score against the bullpen. The win was exhausting, like all but one Yankees wins have been this season. I felt like I just worked out for nearly three hours and I was only watching the game.
6. Tyler Wade physically looks like Jacoby Ellsbury. He swings like Ellsbury. He grounds out to the right side like Ellsbury. He runs like Ellsbury. He sucks like Ellsbury.
It’s laughable to think back a few weeks ago when Wade complained about not being on the Opening Day roster and getting sent down to begin the season. Maybe get a hit once in a while or do anything productive at the plate more than once a month and fans will accept your complaint when you aren’t part of the team.
7. I’m a little worried Aaron Hicks isn’t going to be ready for his April 1 return date. That’s not a typo. The Yankees said during spring training, Hicks might be ready for Opening Day, but would most likely be held out until the first game of the second series of the season against the Tigers on April 1. That game was two weeks ago.
Prior to the season, in my individual Yankees over/under blog, I set the amount of games Hicks would play this season at 145, allowing him to miss 17 games. He has already missed 15. Unless he’s in the lineup on Wednesday night against the Red Sox, the under will already be clinched.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!