Way back in mid-October, the Yankees decided the status quo of being knocked out of the postseason as early as possible was something they wanted to continue to do as an organization and so they gave Aaron Boone a new contract. A month after that, Boone went on CC Sabathia’s podcast to speak about the 2021 season. Aside from saying the obvious, “As you might imagine, I don’t look at my mentions on my Twitter,” Boone said a lot on the podcast.
Last week, I broke down Boone’s statements of “I make the lineup” and “We’re gonna need a shortstop.” Today, I want to look at Boone uttering the words that should make every Yankees fan question whether or not they want to invest more of their time into this team.
“Do we look largely similar to what we’ve looked like last year?”
That was a real thought the manager of the Yankees had and he had the audacity to actually say in a public forum. That’s not an original or personal thought either. Boone said exactly what the organization is likely considering and has most certainly talked about internally.
It doesn’t matter that Boone followed that question by asking, “Or is there a blockbuster trade or signing that all of a sudden moves this guy out, trades this guy and then that starts affecting everything else?” All that matters is his admission that the 2022 Yankees looking like the 2021 Yankees is a possibility being discussed within Yankee Stadium this offseason.
It’s not a thought any person associated with the Yankees should have. How could any Yankees employee, whether you’re signing checks, making deals, filling out the lineup card, batting third, watering the infield or cold calling prospective ticket buyers think having a nearly identical roster to 2021, which was nearly identical to 2020, which was nearly identical to 2019, and which was nearly identical to 2018 should be an option for 2022?
The 2021 Yankees were the heavy the odds-on favorite to win the American League, and they finished third in their division and fifth in the AL with their postseason lasting nine innings. The 2020 Yankees barely reached the postseason with an eight-team AL field, and were ousted in the ALDS. The 2019 Yankees lost to the Astros in six games after DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres proved you can’t win a seven-game series with two productive postseason hitters. The 2018 Yankees were historically embarrassed and humiliated in four games against the Red Sox, suffering the worst home postseason loss in the history of the franchise.
Boone isn’t the first one to think the Yankees could or should look in 2022 like they did in 2021. Brett Gardner, the last remaining member of the 2009 World Series team and the only Yankee to have ever won anything (even if it was so long ago he likely doesn’t remember what it’s like to win), said nearly the same thing after the team’s wild-card loss to the Red Sox. Wearing his uniform for an extended period of time after what could be his final game as if he were Wayne Gretzky, Gardner used the phrase “run it back,” hoping the Yankees would return the same core and roster in 2022 that has never gotten the job done.
“Running it back” can’t be an option. It can’t be. “Running it back” means an everyday infield of Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela. It means trusting Aaron Hicks to play the first full season of his career at age 32, and knowingly going into another year with Gardner eventually getting everyday at-bats. It means more nonsensical and unnecessary drama on who the starting catcher should be and treating each individual Gary Sanchez at-bat like an audition for his job. It means not having enough starting pitching yet again and it means relying on your bullpen to protect a one-run lead nearly every night.
The Yankees aren’t getting to the World Series and losing because they’re short a starter or adding a big bat to the current roster away from getting over “the hump” Boone likes to refer to. They’re not one player away. They’re a-lot-of-the-roster away. No matter what Boone idiotically says about “how the league has closed the gap on the Yankees” or how “the margin is slim” within the AL, there has always been a gap for his Yankees and the margin isn’t slim.
The problem is while it shouldn’t be an option or a thought, “running it back” is most likely what the Yankees will do. There’s only so much that can change on the roster due to contracts and value, and the easiest route to a 26-man roster in 2022 is staying relatively the same as it was in 2021.
The status quo is the easiest and cheapest route for the Yankees to take and for a team that had the same payroll in 2022 as it did 17 years prior despite exponential growth in their revenue streams, theres’ nothing Hal Steinbrenner likes more than his Yankees looking largely similar to what they looked like the year before.