Shut out. Again. That’s what happened to the Yankees on Monday night at the Stadium in a 4-0 loss to the Rays. It was their second straight game being shut out and their fourth in their last nine. Since the third inning on Friday night against the Red Sox (a span of now 34 innings), the only Yankee to have driven in a run is Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Since June 19, the Yankees are 23-28. They are 8-16 since the All-Star break and 2-10 since in their last 12 games. They are in a free fall. Not the kind of free fall that will find completely blowing what was once a 15 1/2-game lead in the division (it’s now at 10), but a free fall that will inevitably end in an early postseason exit.
Despite playing like the Nationals (who traded away their 23-year-old generational star) for the last three-plus weeks and like the Rangers (who fired their manager earlier this week) for the last two months, Aaron Boone doesn’t view his team like one that is extremely fortunate no other team in their division has capitalized on their eight-week slide. He said as much in his postgame press conference after Monday night’s shutout loss to the Rays.
“When we are right, and we are hole. We are going to be a very good offense.”
What exactly is “right” and what is “hole?” Because if being “right” and “hole” is having every possible available player healthy then the Yankees will likely never be “right” or “hole” again this season.
DJ LeMahieu has missed the last two games with a foot issue that has reportedly been bothering him for a good amount of the season. Giancarlo Stanton has missed one third of the season with various injuries and still hasn’t played in rehab games. Everything has to go exactly right in Matt Carpenter’s healing from his broken foot for him to return this season. The Yankees need to get all three of those players healthy and back and producing to meet Boone’s promise that the “offense will be very good” again. (I didn’t include Harrison Bader since I expect as much out of him offensively as Aaron Hicks has provided.) What Boone isn’t considering is that more players could get injured even if any of those three return.
Every team deals with injuries and the Yankees have dealt with seemingly more injuries than every other team over the last four seasons. This might be in terms of the Yankees’ lineup though since you can’t count on injured players to return and be productive and you can’t count on other players not getting injured. With the Yankees’ unwillingness to give any player in either Triple-A or Double-A a chance at the major-league level over players like Kiner-Falefa, Hicks and Josh Donaldson, there will be more shutouts over the next six weeks.
“Big picture, there are some good things happening. We just gotta get some guys on track offensively right now.”
The starting pitching has been better of late and the bullpen has gone from completely untrusworthy to just untrustworthy. That’s about the only positives I can see that Boone could possibly be referring to.
Who are the guys that need to get on track? The only offensive players to be consistent all season are LeMahieu, Carpenter, Aaron Judge and Jose Trevino. With LeMahieu and Carpenter out, that leaves Judge and Trevino as the only consistent available bats, and no one should be counting on the best defensive catcher in the league to be an important bat for the Yankees. That leaves Judge.
Anthony Rizzo has had his moments this season, but he’s been bad since returning to play last week and has been up and down all year. He’s the only other “healthy” possibility at the moment you can maybe rely on.
The players Boone is referring to are clearly Hicks, Donaldson and Gleyber Torres.
When Hicks homered in three of four games from July 6 through July 9 there was this perception his power (or whatever power he has ever had) had returned and he was going to turn his season around. Since that home run on July 9 (38 days ago), he hasn’t homered again, and hasn’t even had an extra-base hit. He’s hitting .159/.289/.159 since and on Monday single-handedly helped the Yankees to a loss.
Last Monday in Seattle, for the third time this season, people thought Donaldson was finally going to turn his season around after going 4-for-5 with three RBIs. Since then he’s yet another slump, going 2-for-21 with 11 strikeouts. (I guess it’s not technically a slump since it’s really just been one atrocious season.) His OPS is back down under .700 at .692. The lowest full-season OPS of his career.
Torres had a pair of singles on Monday night, which were his first hits in exactly a week. He has one home run in nearly four weeks and the early-season idea he was returning to the 2018-19 version of himself was always as ridiculous as thinking the 2022 Yankees could achieve what the 1998 Yankees did.
There’s no getting these three “on track.” This is who they are. Hicks is a 32-year-old outfielder who spent his entire 20s on the injured list and is now playing with a surgically-repaired elbow and wrist to go along with all of the ailments he has had in his career. Donaldson is a 36-year-old, washed-up and overpaid shell of his former self who the Yankees foolishly owe $48 million to. Torres is a former star who was on his way to a Monument Park-like career before coming to 2020 spring training out of shape and never recovering. It’s no surprise post-deadline reports have come out that the Yankees were trying to trade all three two weeks ago.
“We’re good. We’re going to get a little more whole as we move forward here.”
You’re not “good.” You were good in late April, May and early June. Now you’re a team that is living off what they accomplished two-plus months ago and seems to be destined for another ALDS exit. And again, you may get “whole,” but there’s no assurance you will.
“We’re going to recover.”
I don’t know that the Yankees will recover. And recover to me means to play like a championship team, which it seemed like they were earlier in the season, but last were on June 18. Back then it was the Yankees and Astros in the American League and everyone else. Now in the AL? It’s the Astros and everyone else.
The Yankees may have a bye to the ALDS, but that doesn’t mean they will survive the ALDS. If they play the Mariners, who will feel confident, considering the Mariners just won four of six against the Yankees and boast Luis Castillo, who the Yankees failed to acquire. What Yankees fan would feel good about a matchup with the Rays or Blue Jays? No Yankees fan that has seen how they have played against either of those teams in the last few years.
By claiming the Yankees will recover, Boone opened himself up to a potential disaster if they don’t.
“It’s not great right now.”
No, it’s not.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!