I wish the 2021 Yankees had just gone away. There were many times this season when they could have. When they started the season 5-10. When they finished April 12-14. When they got swept by the Tigers at the end of May. When they lost the first seven games to the Red Sox. When they fell to .500 on July 4. Rather than let their season unravel in a year in which they were expected to reach the World Series for the first time in 12 years, they fought back each time, doing just enough to stay mathematically in the postseason picture even as their playoff odds fell off like the final season of The OC.
Then came the July run, and the post-All-Star break run and the post-trade deadline run and the 13-game winning streak. The Yankees came all the way back to pass Seattle and Toronto and Oakland and Boston in the wild-card race, and after their 8-2 win over the A’s on August 27, they were 24 games over .500 and just four games behind the Rays in the AL East.
Then the wheels came off. And the doors. And the transmission and engine dropped, and now the Yankees are sitting on the side of the road having watched the Red Sox pass them on Wednesday night with the Blue Jays about to pass them and no help in sight. No help from the offense. No help from the starting pitching and no help from the bullpen.
The offense has turned back the clock to April, May and June. With four runs in three games against the Blue Jays this week, the Yankees have scored 36 runs in their last 11 games, losing nine of them. Things have gotten so bad Aaron Boone has had to bench Joey Gallo for striking out in half of his plate appearances as a Yankee, sit down Gleyber Torres for being a liability on both sides of the ball and move DJ LeMahieu down in the order for only hitting weak ground balls to the left side. Boone’s all-time favorite Brett Gardner found himself batting leadoff for the Yankees on Wednesday against the Blue Jays … in a playoff race … in 2021 … four years removed from the last time he should have been batting leadoff for the Yankees. Sadly, Gardner provided the Yankees’ only offense in Wednesday’s loss and what was the Yankees’ first extra-base hit since Sunday.
Aaron Judge is 1-for-his-last-21, Stanton is 3-for-his-last-19, the baseball looks like the size of a golf ball to Gallo, Anthony Rizzo has one home run since August 4, it’s startling when LeMahieu doesn’t hit the ball on the ground, Gary Sanchez already provided his production for the month with his two-homer, six-RBI day on Sunday, Torres is doing everything he can to play himself out of the organization, Gio Urshela looks like the player the Indians and Blue Jays gave up on, Luke Voit’s first half was ruined by injuries and his second half has been ruined by his own manager and Rougned Odor is 2-for-his-last 37 with only one home run in nearly a month.
Gerrit Cole’s hamstring injury has left a gaping hole in the rotation and with Jameson Taillon’s regression and Corey Kluber’s lack of knowing where his pitches will end up, there’s a lot of trust being placed with Jordan Montgomery and Nestor Cortes.
Clay Holmes is suddenly the Yankees’ best reliever as Aroldis Chapman continues to pitch like Nick Nelson and Chad Green continues to poop his pants in big spots. Somehow Andrew Heaney keeps getting chances and even Brooks Kriske made an appearance this week, as Boone manages like it’s mid-March in Tampa.
The Yankees’ current five-game losing streak comes a week after a four-game losing streak. In their last 11 games, they have lost two to the A’s, who are chasing them, lost a pair to the Angels, who were responsible for ending the Orioles’ 19-game losing streak, lost a series to the Orioles, who are 48 games under .500, and have now lost three straight to the Blue Jays, who are only two back of the Yankees in the loss column.
The Yankees could have gone away and saved me many hours of my life, hours I wasted watching them get no-hit through the first four of five innings of about half their games. They cold have gone away and saved me the heartache and aggravation of watching the bullpen blow late lead after late lead. They could have gone away and let me peacefully go to bed many nights this summer instead of regretting my decision to voluntarily stay up knowing the baby would be up in only a few hours. But they didn’t. They did just enough to stay relevant and alive, and now after 139 games they might go away anyway.
Two weeks ago, the Yankees had a 97.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. Today, that number is down to 68.6 percent. They have dropped nearly 30 percent in two weeks! Seemingly impossible. While at the same time, the Blue Jays chances have gone from 4.6 percent to 42.5 percent.
I have been rightfully upset with the Yankees for being headed to the one-game playoff for the third time in the last four years the one-game playoff has taken place since it would mean using Cole in that game and not having him for the first two games of the ALDS. Well, I don’t have to worry about that scenario anymore, because if the Yankees are even able to qualify for the one-game playoff, at this point, they won’t be able to line Cole up for it. They will likely have to fight this thing out all the way to Game 162 now as just three losses separate the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Mariners and A’s. So not only are the Yankees embarrassingly headed to the one-game playoff for the third time instances of the game, they’re likely to be without Cole it in what is one final parting gift from the 2021 Yankees to their fans.
This season has been miserable. Even when the Yankees have won, they have done so in the most excruciating fashion, always winning by one or two runs, frequently needing a wild pitch to get a runner in from third with less than two ours and often praying the highest-paid closer in history can throw a single strike.
Nothing has come easy for the 2021 Yankees. Not even during their 13-game winning streak in which they won eight of the games by one or two runs, and only won two of the games by more than four runs. Nothing is coming easy now as they try avoid getting swept in four games at home to the team chasing them.
The Yankees have 23 games left to turn their season around one last time. If not, they will finish it the way they started it: as a huge disappointment. Either way, I won’t be surprised. That’s who the 2021 Yankees are.
Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episode after every game during the season.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!