I thought the Yankees might have turned their season around when they won three straight against the Mets. But that was followed by losing to the Rays. Then I thought the Yankees might have turned their season around when they finally beat the Rays. But that was followed by another loss to the Rays. Then I thought the Yankees might have turned their season around when they won the first game of a doubleheader against the Orioles. But that was followed by three straight losses to the Orioles.
When Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks went back-to-back on Monday night against the Blue Jays, I thought, “This is when the Yankees turn their season around.” And when the Yankees led 6-2 after five, and after Jonathan Holder of all pitchers was able to pitch a scoreless inning, I knew this was the game the Yankees would turn their season around. They had a four-run lead and their “elite” relievers were fully rested and ready in Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman. The game was set up perfectly for them to win and not even Aaron Boone could screw it up.
Green entered for the sixth, and for the third time in two weeks, he didn’t have it. After two walks, a single and a Voit error, the Blue Jays had cut the Yankees’ lead to 6-3 and had the bases loaded and one out. Boone pulled Green and turned to Ottavino, and he didn’t have it either. Ottavino faced six batters and didn’t retire any of them. Three singles, two walks and a grand slam later against Ottavino and the Blue Jays had a 12-6 lead in what was a 10-run inning. Green and Ottavino combined to produce this line: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. The Blue Jays didn’t swing-and-miss at any of their 58 pitches.
To Boone’s credit, the Yankees didn’t lose because of him on Monday night, which isn’t something you can often say. But his evaluation of the game and his team continues to be a major cause for concern. Boone was asked after the game about Ottavino’s performance, and he answered the question in typical Boone fashion, saying, “I thought his stuff was actually good.” Boone thought a pitcher who allowed six earned runs without retiring a batter had “good stuff” the same way he said he saw “good things” from the Yankees this past week after losses to the Rays, Mets and Orioles.
The Yankees moved on from Joe Girardi, claiming he was too tense and it made the clubhouse and players tense. Boone was hired for his communication and coddling skills and his ability to be everyone’s friend rather than their manager, but his buddy-buddy, everything-is-sunshine-and-rainbows, Southern California approach has done nothing other than make losing acceptable. If you think a team that was once 10 games over .500 and is now one game over .500 has done any “good things” of late, and if you think a pitcher who allowed six earned runs without retiring a batter had “good stuff,” then you clearly find losing acceptable. Brett Gardner is the only Yankee who has been part of a championship team. The rest of the team has never won anything. All they know is losing, and their manager, who has also never won anything, has made losing tolerable.
When I think about this season, I think about looking for something to do on March 26 when the Yankees were supposed to open 2020 in Baltimore. I think about the four months of baseball in spring and summer that were canceled, leaving me to watch re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens every night on TV Land. Back then, I would have agreed to watch Nick Swisher’s postseason at-bats on a three-hour loop every day if it meant real, meaningful baseball would return. Now I wish I was back to watching Ray Romano and Kevin James every night instead of real, meaningful baseball. I’m very close to going back to that time and substituting YES with TV Land each night.
This season has been painful to watch in the way the 2013 season was. The lineups featuring Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix, Vernon Wells, David Adams and Reid Brignac have only slightly been upgraded by the lineups featuring Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, Erik Kratz and Jordy Mercer. The days of replacment players like Tauchman, Ford and Cameron Maybin playing at an All-Star level are gone. Injuries have forced Season 2 of “Next Man Up” and it’s been a flop as Tauchman has looked like a player the Rockies gave up on, Ford’s lost power has him slugging .282 and Wade has managed to remain a major leaguer despite a .189 average and .550 OPS in 306 career plate appearances.
The Yankees chose to do nothing at the trade deadline. They chose not to upgrade the offense, instead hoping Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton would get healthy. They chose not to upgrade the rotation, hoping Jordan Montgomery would show some level of consistency and that maybe J.A. Happ could turn back the clock for a month. They chose not to upgrade the bullpen, hoping what was expected to be the team’s strength would in fact be that. So far the only thing that has worked out is that Torres has returned. Judge and Stanton are still nowhere close to returning. Montgomery has lost two games since the deadline, recording two outs in one and 10 in the other. Happ lost his only start since the deadline, blowing a four-run lead to the Mets. Instead of becoming the team’s biggest strength, the bullpen has become the team’s biggest weakness. The Yankees have lost seven of nine since the deadline with the bullpen losing four of those games, capped off by Monday’s disgusting performance.
Monday ended up being another failed attempt by the Yankees to turn their season around. The team is now one game over .500, which was unthinkable three weeks ago when they were 16-6. They are two games behind the Blue Jays for second place in the AL East and they only have a one-game lead in the loss column on the Orioles for the eighth and final postseason spot. The Orioles! The eighth and final postseason spot! Maybe Tuesday will be the day the Yankees turn their season around. They’re running out of days and games and chances to turn it around. Maybe they won’t turn it around.
After Monday’s loss, Boone said the Yankees will continue to “say the right things.” No Yankees fan wants to hear the right things. They want to see the right things. They want to see wins. Something this team no longer gives them.
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