Today isn’t a great day to be a Yankees fan. Despite the team’s first-place standing and enormous division lead, their direct competition to win the American League went out and did everything possible to be the best team in the league. The Yankees? They added a 20-year-old minor-league pitcher.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees on this off day as usual.
1. I feel the way I do when the Yankees’ season ends. The way I feel when the Yankees are depressingly walking off the field while another team celebrates around them. The way I feel when the postgame scene in the Yankees clubhouse is silence aside from players giving interviews about how they didn’t get the job done, while the postgame scene in the opposing clubhouse is victory music, champagne and beer. The way I feel when there’s no baseball for the next six months.
I realize I shouldn’t feel that since the season is far from over and the Yankees are still a first-place team with a chance to win a championship, but how can you not feel that way after the team the Astros built? Had both the Yankees and Astros done nothing, like we all initially thought at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, I would have been upset the Yankees didn’t improve their starting pitching, but I wouldn’t be distraught.
It was always going to be hard to come out of the American League in the postseason and represent the league in the World Series. Now, it seems impossible.
2. The Astros aren’t messing around. They know they’re in the middle of a championship window and they’re trying to build a dynasty, clearly not content with sitting back and having 2017 be their only championship. Over the last three seasons, they have acted like the Yankees once acted, taking on Justin Verlander’s salary, trading for Gerrit Cole, signing Michael Brantley and now trading for Zack Greinke. I’m jealous of the Astros. They’re going for it, and not just talking about going for it like the Yankees do, they’re really going for it, for the third straight season.
3. The Yankees half-assed their way to building a roster once again. They put together the best run-producing lineup in baseball and the deepest and most vaunted bullpen as well. But when it comes to their rotation, they were cheap before Luis Severino got hurt and remained cheap as James Paxton got hurt and struggled, CC Sabathia got hurt and struggled and J.A. Happ struggled. Knowing. Domingo German (who also got hurt) would be pitching this season with an innings limit also did nothing to open their wallet.
The Yankees could have addressed their rotation in the offseason by signing Patrick Corbin or Charlie Morton or once draft pick compensation was no longer attached to Dallas Keuchel. They chose not to each time, forcing themselves into a corner on deadline day. And with Marcus Stroman having been traded to the Mets and Trevor Bauer going to the Reds, the viable options dried up. The Yankees mishandled the offseason, misread the trade market and mismanaged the days leading up to and on deadline day.
4. What has been the Yankees’ goal this entire time? What has been their plan? Was it to hope Severino will eventually come back healthy sometime in August or September and be healthy enough and good enough to be the team’s No. 1 starter again for the postseason? Was it to think Paxton would eventually find himself for the first time since mid-April? Was it to pray Sabathia, in his final season, and Happ, in his age 36 season, would get better as the season progressed and the pitches and innings piled up on their veteran arms?
Brian Cashman has said countless times in his tenure as general manager that starting pitching is “the keys to the kingdom” in terms of winning a championship. But if he truly believes that (which he should) then why does he rarely construct a rotation capable of holding the keys to the kingdom? Why does he think the current Yankees rotation gives the team the best possible chance to win a championship in their current championship window? How could he feel comfortable pitting this rotation against the Astros, Twins or Red Sox in a short series?
5. The starting rotation has always been the 2019 Yankees’ glaring weakness. It was even after they traded for Paxton and brought back Sabathia and Happ. It was even more so when Severino went down in spring training and when Paxton, Sabathia and German all spent time on the injured list, and when Paxton struggled, and when Sabathia and Happ weren’t any good.
Signing Corbin, Morton or Keuchel and trading for someone prior to July 31 wasn’t going to guarantee the Yankees a championship, but it would have put them in a better position to win one. There was a time when the Yankees gave themselves every chance to put together the best possible roster. We are far removed from that time.
6. Supposedly, the Yankees were trying to add relievers in the hour leading up to the deadline when it became apparent the starting pitching market wasn’t going to work out. This was another way of the Yankees admitting their starting pitching is unreliable as they tried to acquire bullpen help to potentially further shorten postseason games. But all the elite relievers and bullpen help in the world doesn’t matter when the team manager’s doesn’t have the slightest idea on how to manage a bullpen during a game.
7. Unless Luis Severino comes back and pitches like he did in the first half of 2018 or James Paxton magically becomes the pitcher the Yankees thought they were trading for, Masahiro Tanaka is getting the ball in Game 1 of the ALDS. I have no problem with Tanaka getting the ball in Game 1, and currently want him to, because I trust him more than anyone in the postseason. It’s a problem when Aaron Boone doesn’t even trust him to go five innings against the Diamondbacks in July.
8. It’s OK to be a Cashman fan, but it’s another thing to be on board with every decision ownership or the front office makes, thinking they are never wrong. If you find yourself today defending the organization’s decision to do nothing for months to improve the starting rotation, go take a lap. Take a few laps. Maybe just keep running until the postseason starts when we can all evaluate their decision to not completely go for it in a championship window.
9. There’s a good chance both Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton (if he ever resumes baseball activities) will return to the team with only a couple weeks left in the regular season to get at-bats. By then, the division will be officially clinched, so the results of the games might not matter, but there’s not going to be a lot of time for two middle-of-the-order bats to get back to their normal everyday routine and comfort level at the plate. I pray the Yankees will recognize this and not bat them in the Top 5 in the lineup in the postseason if they’re not their usual selves because of their career resumes or recent resumes.
10. My expected record for the Yankees for July (by expected record, I mean a record I would be content with them having) was 13-12 and they went 14-11, one game better. In August, the Yankees have a chance to get fat again in the win column with a rather easy schedule, including 14 games against the Orioles, Blue Jays and Mariners.
My expected record for the Yankees in August is 17-13, which would give them a 85-52 with one month to play.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!