Sometimes I wish I were a casual Yankees fan. The kind of fan who will maybe attend a game or two in a season because it’s something to do. The kind of fan who is surprised to find a mid-week afternoon game on TV and will stop and take in an inning or two before moving on to watch another channel. The kind of fan who knows the names of two or three players on the roster and still asks, “Hey, where is (player’s name)?” five-plus years after they played their final game for the Yankees. The kind of fan who doesn’t let the results of Major League Baseball games affect and impact their mood, emotions, health, happiness and general well-being.
Life would be so much easier if I were one of those fans. It really would. I think about the idea of being a casual fan at the end of any season that ends in failure, and over the last 11 years, every season has ended that way with the exception of 2017, only because that season at least represented a bright and glorious future, like a recently bought, but yet-to-be-developed piece of waterfront property. That piece of undeveloped waterfront property is still sitting there undeveloped and is now home to idle heavy machinery used to build on the land even though the signs and permits on the temporary fence still read: COMING SPRING 2018. That bright and glorious future has led to a four-game, first-round exit, including the worst home postseason loss in franchise history to the team’s hated rival, losing four out of the last five in the ALCS for the team’s fourth ALCS loss in as many tries over 10 years, and another first-round exit, this time to the team with the second-to-last payroll in the league.
This past postseason really bothered me. It still bothers me. Today is 12 weeks since the Yankees were eliminated in Game 5 of the ALDS and there hasn’t been a day in these last 12 weeks when I didn’t spend some part of it reflecting on Game 2 and the pre-planned decision to pull Deivi Garcia after one inning for J.A. Happ. There have been times over these three months when my wife will ask me what’s wrong and I try to play it off as nothing or respond that there isn’t anything bothering me. But something is wrong. I’m thinking about hearing “Happ is warming up in the bullpen” as Garcia delivers his first pitch of Game 2.
We now know the final decision to follow through on that idiotic decision belonged to Aaron Boone. How Boone was allowed to single-handedly ruin the season and how Brian Cashman and his front office staff of baseball lifers and Ivy League graduates sat back and allowed it to happen is something I will never understand. Boone and Cashman’s end-of-the-season press conference defense of the decision made even less sense than their same press conferences two years prior when they had to try to BS their way through questions about how what happened in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS. They somehow survived with runaround answers as to why Luis Severino didn’t know the start time of Game 3, why he was left in to the load the bases with no outs in the third inning of the game, why Boone turned to the last relief option in the bullpen to get out of the bases-loaded jam, why Boone let CC Sabathia pitch for as long as he did in Game 4, and why the Yankees manager lacked simple baseball comprehension and bullpen deployment skills.
A year ago, I decided it would be better for my overall health if I didn’t get so worked up about Boone and his daily disasters, not all of which are even related to in-game moments. Boone has lied to the media about everything from player availability to player injuries only to be outed as a liar within minutes or hours after his lies. He has made irresponsible bullpen decisions and inexcusable lineup choices in three years, and each season when I complain about his managerial ability, I’m told by fellow Yankees fans not to worry because he would never manage the way he does in the regular season in the postseason, and each season, he’s even worse in the postseason, like a managerial Nick Swisher.
This year, I’m doubling down on my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions, all of which revolve around Boone. I can’t control the decisions of the Yankees manager, though I can control how I react to them. They’re not going to be easy to keep up, but in order to prevent me from tossing and turning in the early hours of the morning more than I already do with a three-month-old in the house, I think I have to at least try once again to keep them.
Resolution 1: Don’t Get Upset Over the Lineup
After three full seasons of Boone as manager, we have enough data to know he has no idea how to build the best possible lineup. We now know thanks to Cashman’s end-of-the-season press conference that Boone has full authority and final say on the lineup card delivered to the home plate umpire. We now know it was his decision to play Brett Gardner over Clint Frazier in the postseason and Kyle Higashioka over Gary Sanchez, and it was his decision to twice use Mike Ford as a pinch hitter in October after deeming him not good enough to be a Yankee for all of September.
I need to take a deep breath when I see Gardner (who’s not yet a Yankee for 2021 but will most certainly be) or Aaron Hicks batting in the middle of the order as Boone forces a left-handed bat to separate the team’s right-handed hitters. Boone has been Yankees manager for 384 regular-season games and managed the Yankees for 324 regular-season games and 21 postseason games and I shouldn’t expect him to suddenly create lineups that make sense.
Resolution 2: Don’t Get Upset About Scheduled Off Days
The 2019 Yankees played their last game on October 19. Opening Day 2020 was on July 25. The 2020 regular season was only 60 games. Despite playing no games for nearly nine months and then only playing 60 games in nearly a full calendar year, that didn’t stop Boone from implement his load management nonsense.
After setting the all-time record for most players placed on the injured list in a single season in 2019, the Yankees continued to manage their roster and lineup in 2020 as if they had somehow solved injury prevention. The Yankees’ scheduled days off and extra and unnecessary rest for their position players is out of control, and unfortunately, it’s not going to change. If anything, it’s only going to get worse.
The Yankees aren’t going to go out of their way to win the division or home-field advantage in the postseason. They believe just getting into the postseason is enough and they don’t care about giving away games as long as they just get in. It’s been working well for them for the last 11 seasons.
Resolution 3: Don’t Get Upset About Bullpen Usage
This will be the hardest of them all. I can deal with the lineup decisions (to a degree) and the scheduled off days (to a lesser degree). The bullpen decisions though? This resolution has less of a chance of happening than Giancarlo Stanton does of a playing an injury-free season.
By the final game of the season, the Yankees’ bullpen had three trustworthy arms. The problem was they only had one starter capable of going six innings. In 2021, they will likely enter the season with three trustworthy relivers, and one of those three, the highest-paid reliever in the league has allowed a season-ending home run in both of the last two seasons. The only reason I’m even considering this resolution is because the bullpen might be so fragile that it won’t be Boone’s fault when the lesser arms blow leads and ruin games.
I understand these resolutions are rather meaningless since I can easily see myself breaking at least one or possibly all three within the first week of the season. I’m really going to try to achieve them, but I know Boone will make it impossible.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!