The All-Star break is here, which means the season is “half” over. For the Yankees, it’s actually 55 percent over with 73 games left, and they likely need to win 50 of those 73 games to have a chance at the division and might need to win that many just to play in the one-game, wild card game. Don’t tell Aaron Boone that though. He thinks the season is endless without a finite number of games to be played. At least that’s the way he talks after each loss, and there have been a lot of them.
Another All-Star break means another All-Animosity Team. I’ll always remember the teams which featured David Wright, Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Chone Figgins, Kevin Youkilis, Robert Andino, Carl Crawford, Manny Ramirez, Matt Wieters, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton (when he went by B.J.), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jose Bautista, Magglio Ordonez and many others. But I also like having a new generation of players to have animosity for.
The standards to be considered for the team are simple and only one of the following three requirements needs to be met:
1. The player crushes the Yankees.
2. The player plays for the Red Sox or Mets.
3. I don’t like the person. (When I say, “I don’t like the person” or if I say, “I hate someone” I mean I don’t like the person who wears a uniform and plays or manages for a Major League Baseball team and not the actual person away from the game. I’m sure some of the people on this list are nice people. I’m glad we got that out of the way since I can already see Player X’s fan base in an uproar about me hating someone who does so much for the community.)
Here is the 2021 All-Animosity Team.
C: Danny Jansen
If you’re wondering who Danny Jansen is, you’re not alone. Jansen is the Blue Jays’ catcher with the career .201 batting average, .290 on-base percentage and .358 slugging percentage. He’s as light of a hitter as you can be in the majors and still be in the majors. So why is that no Yankees pitcher can get him out?
In 228 career games, Jansen is a .201/.290/.358 hitter with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs. In 25 games against the Yankees, he’s a .316/.416/.605 hitter with six home runs and 15 RBIs. On a team with Vladimir Gurrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Cavan Biggio and Rowdy Tellez, I would rather have any of those players up in a big spot against the Yankees than Jansen.
1B: Pete Alonso
I will never get over Pete Alonso breaking Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record in a season in which the actual baseball was manufactured so differently that Brett Gardner hit 28 home runs. Alonso never should have hit 53 home runs and never should have broken Judge’s record of 52.
To be honest, I like Alonso. I like his personality, I like how he loves competing in the Home Run Derby, and I like how he won the 2021 Home Run Derby when I had him at +600 to win. I just don’t like that he plays for the Mets.
2B: Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve used to be my favorite non-Yankees player. That was before October 2019 and the uncovering of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
After hitting .320/.414/.560 with two home runs, four walks and a stolen base in the Astros’ 2017 ALCS win over the Yankees, Altuve hit .348/.444/1.097 with a double, two home runs, four walks and a stolen base in the Astros’ 2019 ALCS win over the Yankees. He’s also responsible for ending the Yankees’ season with a walk-off, pennant-winning home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS.
I used to enjoy watching Altuve play (when not playing the Yankees) and admired his ability for his stature. Now I watch him hoping he will fail, though he rarely does, and certainly doesn’t against the Yankees, as his two three-run home runs this season of Chad Green are responsible for the Yankees’ only two losses to the Astros.
3B: Rafael Devers
The moment Rafael Devers hit that two-strike, opposite-field home run off Aroldis Chapman in 2017, I knew I had a problem. I also knew the All-Animosity Team had a third baseman for the next decade.
After his impressive 58-game rookie season in 2017, Devers looked lost last in 2018, batting .240/.298/.433 in 121 games and I got ahead of myself thinking the 21-year-old might be a bust. In 2019, he hit .311/.361/.555 with a league-leading 54 doubles to go along with 32 home runs 115 RBIs. He already has 10 career home runs against the Yankees in only 58 games, and has driven in nine runs against them in six games this season.
Devers is going to be on this team for a long, long time. That is, until he’s set to free agency and the Red Sox cry poor and trade him like they did Mookie Betts. I can only dream that will happen.
SS: Carlos Correa
While Altuve and Alex Bregman were hiding behind their prepared statements and vague responses to questions about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal following the 2019 season, Correa was busy talking to anyone who would listen. The only problem was a lot of what he said was outrageous.
Add in his ridiculous .939 career OPS against the Yankees in the regular season, his .913 OPS against them in the 2017 ALCS and his two home runs in the 2019 ALCS, including his walk-off in Game 2, and Correa is an easy fit to pencil in at short on this team.
LF: Trey Mancini
After being left off the 2020 roster, so he could beat cancer rather than play baseball, it’s good to have Mancini back on this team because it means he’s healthy and it means he’s playing baseball again.
Since the Manny Machado trade and until the emergence of Cedric Mullins, Mancini was the only actual major leaguer playing for the Orioles. Despite this, the Yankees would still allow Mancini to beat them. He’s the last person I want up in a big spot when the Yankees play the Orioles as he always seems to find a gap at the most inopportune times.
CF: Kevin Kiermaier
Kiermaier is a career .247/.306/.408 hitter, but against the Yankees it seems like he’s Ken Griffey Jr. Thirteen of his 73 career home runs (18 percent) have come against the Yankees, and in 2020, Kiermaier drew game-changing walks, hit big home runs against Masahiro Tanaka and Gerrit Cole and continued to play Gold Glove defense to help the Rays easily win the division.
Normally, I want Yankees pitching to face as many hitters with Kiermaier’s numbers as possible, but not Kiermaier. I’m looking forward to his contract with the Rays ending in 2022, and hopefully the team option for 2023 isn’t picked up.
RF: Randal Grichuk
How, for a second straight year, did Randal Grichuk end up on this team full of All-Stars, award-winning players and ex-Yankees? Well, in 2018, he hit five home runs in 16 games against the Yankees. In 2019, he had two doubles, eight home runs, 15 RBIs and a .938 OPS in 19 games against the Yankees. This season, he’s added another two home runs and four total extra-base hits, including his 10th inning double on Opening Day to give the Blue Jays the lead in a game they would win to launch arguably the worst Yankees’ season in nearly 30 years.
Grichuk is barely a major leaguer when he plays against the 28 other teams not named the Yankees, but a Hall of Famer against the Yankees. He essentially hits against the Yankees the way Ortiz, Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Manny Machado used to.
DH: Alex Bregman
The first thing I used to think about when thinking about Bregman was how hard it is to retire him at the plate. Now when I think of him, I think of him standing there at the Astros’ fan fest after the 2019 season and giving the same rehearsed answer over and over about the team’s sign-stealing scandal with that smirk on his face and the sarcastic laugh he kept giving the media. The easiest of players to root against.
SP: Nathan Eovaldi
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 then the Marlins gave up on him as a 24-year-old with incredible velocity because he didn’t have an out pitch and 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 who 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 to get through each 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 in 2018 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 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, continues to beat the Yankees’ poorly-designed, all-right-handed lineup and I’ll never get over it.
RP: Adam Ottavino
I actually like Ottavino. I don’t like what him being on the Red Sox symbolizes, and him being on the Red Sox symbolizes the Hal Steinbrenner Yankees, who are so petrified of the luxury tax they would rather pay players to play for their rival than exceed the luxury.
I have enjoyed watching Ottavino embarrass the Yankees all-right-handed lineup this season, while being paid by the Yankees to do so. Rather than keep Ottavino in the last year of this three-year contract, re-sign the reliable Tanaka and sign Darren O’Day, Justin Wilson, Brett Gardner and Corey Kluber, the Yankees chose only to sign the latter players. In return, they have received 10 2/3 innings from O’Day, 14 2/3 innings from Wilson, a .614 OPS from Gardner and 10 starts from Kluber.
Manager: Aaron Boone
No Yankees player is allowed to be on the All-Animosity Team, even though there have been a lot of players over the years who have been deserving of a roster spot. A manager on the other hand …
Boone doesn’t play for the Yankees, and since I have often said Boone is the Yankees’ most difficult obstacle to winning the World Series, moreso than any other team, why shouldn’t he be on the team?
It’s hard to envision the Yankees ever winning a championship with Boone as manager. He has managed the team to one division title in three seasons, two first-round exits and an ALCS loss, in which the Yankees won one of the last five games of that ALCS. He has the Yankees buried in the division standings this season and needing to pass two teams in the wild card standings just to be the first team outside the postseason picture.
With each mounting loss, Boone talks about needing to overcome adversity, even though the word “adversity” means “misfortune” and the Yankees haven’t experienced any misfortune. They have been healthier than they have been in four years, are greatly underachieving and being managed like a dive bar that needs to be shut down, rebuilt and rebranded by Jon Taffer. The Yankees haven’t experienced any adversity.
Either the Yankees go 50-23 and reach the postseason or Boone is no longer the manager of the Yankees and I’ll need a new manager for the 2022 All-Animosity Team. Either way, the result is a good one. (Unless the Yankees don’t reach the postseason and the team keeps him as manager, in which case I will no longer watch baseball.)
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