It’s been a while since I put out the All-Animosity Team and because of it, this year’s team is full of new names.
I’ll always remember the teams which featured David Wright, Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Chone Figgins, Kevin Youkilis, Robert Andino, Carl Crawford, Manny Ramirez, Matt Wieters, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton (when he went by B.J.), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jose Bautista, Magglio Ordonez and many others. But I also like having a new generation of players to have animosity for.
The standards to be considered for the team are simple and only one of the following three requirements needs to be met:
1. The player crushes the Yankees.
2. The player plays for the Red Sox or Mets.
3. I don’t like the person. (When I say, “I don’t like the person” or if I say, “I hate someone” I mean I don’t like the person who wears a uniform and plays or manages for a Major League Baseball team and not the actual person away from the game. I’m sure some of the people on this list are nice people. I’m glad we got that out of the way since I can already see Player X’s fan base in an uproar about me hating someone who does so much for the community.)
Here is the 2019 All-Animosity Team.
C: Brian McCann
After having Jorge Posada and Russell Martin for 14 years, sitting through a second straight season of Chris Stewart (.211/.293/.272), Austin Romine (.207/.255/.296) and John Ryan Murphy (.154/.185/.192) wasn’t going to happen again. Francisco Cervelli had been good for the Yankees in 2013 (.269/.377/.500), but once again, injuries ruined his season and he played in just 17 games. The Yankees couldn’t sit around and wait for the 27-year-old to prove he could stay healthy and be a starting catcher in the league, and I didn’t blame them. So the Yankees went out and gave Brian McCann a five-year, $85 million deal.
There wasn’t a Yankees fan who was against the signing of McCann, including me. Sure, the Yankees were essentially handing out a five-year, $85 million deal to a position they had the strongest organizational depth at, but after the catching woes of 2013, every Yankees fan wanted the All-Star as their catcher. I didn’t want to sit through another season of the team playing with no power and an automatic out at the position.
Unfortunately, McCann’s tenure with the Yankees didn’t go as planned. In three seasons, he averaged 23 home runs, but he also batted .235/.313/.418, becoming yet another Yankees left-handed hitter who couldn’t beat the shift. The emergence of Gary Sanchez in the final months of the 2016 season relegated McCann to the bench, and for as popular as the decision was to sign McCann, the decisions to bench him for Sanchez and trade him were even more popular. The Yankees traded McCann to the Astros after the season for a pair of minor-league pitchers. They also agreed to cover $5.5 million of his salary in 2017 and again in 2018, paying McCann $11 million to not play for them.
Sure enough, the Yankees faced McCann in the 2017 ALCS, paying him to play against them for a trip to the World Series. And sure enough, in Game 6, McCann delivered a huge RBI double against Luis Severino after going 0-for-10 with four strikeouts to begin the series.
1B: Steve Pearce
Steve Pearce had one of the shortest and worst stints as a Yankee when he played for the team seven years ago. Once Pearce left the Yankees, he played for every other AL East team and shoved it right up the Yankees’ ass.
Pearce was an awful Yankee. Yes, his time with the Yankees was a very small sample size of 12 games and 30 plate appearances, but in those plate appearances, he hit .160/.300/.280 with one home run and four RBIs. That was back in 2012 when the Yankees were trying to win the division and avoid the first year of the wild-card format, so his at-bats were coming at a crucial time. Since then, Pearce has gone on to play for the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox moving around the AL East and destroying the Yankees at every opportunity. Here is how he has done against the Yankees since they removed him from the team.
2013: 2-for-6, .333/.333/.500, 2B
2014: 14-for-47, .298/.411/.553, 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs
2015: 5-for-34, .147/.256/.294, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs
2016: 13-for-47, .333/.447/.590, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs
2017: 10-for-28, .357/.406/.750, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs
2018: 11-for-37, .297/.395/.757, 2 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBIs
Aside from 2015, Pearce has essentially been David Ortiz 2.0 against the Yankees.
It didn’t surprise me at all when Pearce single-handedly put the Yankees away in the division race back in August and it was business as usual when he went 4-for-12 against the Yankees in the ALDS. It was just the icing on the cake when he hit three home runs and drove in eight in five games in the World Series en route to being named World Series MVP.
2B: Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve is my favorite non-Yankees player and there aren’t many of those. But when he plays against the Yankees, he’s a .291 hitter and that’s enough to put him on this team.
Altuve went 8-for-25 (.320) with two home runs, four walks and a stolen base in the 2017 ALCS with all of his hits coming at home and both of his home runs coming in Games 6 and 7. In Games 3, 4 and 5 at Yankee Stadium, Altuve went 0-for-10 with three walks as the Astros couldn’t solve playing in New York, and if the two teams meet again in the 2019 ALCS, the Yankees are going to want to have home-field advantage.
It’s weird to have a player I actually like, enjoy watching and admire on this team. I thought about replacing him with someone else at second base and then I remembered his four home runs in the Astros’ three-game sweep of the Yankees in April and decided his production against the Yankees has been too much to leave him off.
3B: Rafael Devers
The moment Rafael Devers hit that two-strike, opposite-field home run off Aroldis Chapman in 2017, I knew I had a problem. I also knew the All-Animosity Team had a third baseman for the next decade.
After his impressive 58-game rookie season, Devers looked lost last season batting .240/.298/.433 in 121 games and I got ahead of myself thinking the 21-year-old might be a bust. This season, he has a .923 OPS and is on pace for 30 home runs and 47 doubles.
I don’t get scared when Devers is at the plate the way I do when Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi or J.D. Martinez, but we’re getting there, and within two years, there’s a good chance he will be the scariest of them all.
SS: Eduardo Nunez
I don’t know if I will ever hate a player more than Nunez. Well, it’s not so much him I hate because it’s not his fault he’s not very good, it’s Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ fault for thinking he was going to be the heir to Derek Jeter at shortstop. Instead, Nunez couldn’t play shortstop, couldn’t play any infield position really, and was eventually moved to the outfield before being let go by the Yankees for absolutely nothing. In 2014, the Yankees were willing to give Nunez’s job to Yangervis Solarte, who at the time had never played in the majors, rather than go through another season with Nunez.
It was Cashman’s awful evaluation of Nunez that cost the Yankees back-to-back World Series appearances and possibly back-to-back championships. Had Cashman been willing to part with Nunez, Cliff Lee would have been a Yankee. If Lee is a Yankee, he isn’t a Ranger and doesn’t beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS, and the Yankees don’t lose the pennant in six games. Cashman kept hanging on to the bad-ball hitter waiting for him to figure how to field a ground ball or show any semblance of discipline at the plate, and it never happened.
Sure enough, it was Nunez coming up like a Gold Glove winner in the ALDS, and sure enough, it was Nunez connecting with a ball at his laces to hit for a three-run home run in Game 1 of the World Series. As hard as it is to accept the Red Sox winning another World Series, it’s even harder to know Nunez was a part of it. “Eduardo Nunez is a champion” is something I never thought I would write.
LF: Trey Mancini
Trey Mancini is the last actual major leaguer playing for the Orioles, and for some reason when the Yankees play the Orioles, they still let him beat them. Mancini is batting .271/.321/.521 with three home runs and six extra-base hits against the Yankees this season. The numbers aren’t at a Steve Pearce level, but they are built around timely hits in unfortunate situations.
I hope the Orioles finish the selloff they have been conducting since last season and send Mancini to the National League at the trade deadline. It will be one less bat to worry about in the division and will leave the Orioles with no bats to worry about for the foreseeable future.
CF: Kevin Kiemaier
I was at my parents’ house over the holiday weekend, watching the Yankees-Rays series with my dad when Kevin Kiemaier came up. My dad commented how Kiemaier always plays well against the Yankees and I agreed by explaining how he sucks, yet he seems to always hit against them. On the very next pitch, Kiermaier hit a line-drive single with two strikes, winning the left-on-left matchup against CC Sabathia,
The thing about Kiermaier is that he isn’t good offensively. He’s a career .254/.311/.423 hitter who plays Gold Glove defense in center field. Against the Yankees, he’s even worse than his career numbers, batting .237/.289/.385, but for some reason there’s this perception he crushes the Yankees even if it couldn’t be less true. Maybe it’s because 14 percent of his 64 career home runs have come against the Yankees or maybe all those bloop singles of his have come in big moments. I know my dad and I aren’t alone in thinking this and we’re going to be thinking it through at least 2022 when his contract ends or 2023 if his team option is picked up.
RF: Randal Grichuk
How did Randal Grichuk end up on this team full of All-Stars, award-winning players and ex-Yankees? Well, in six games this season, Grichuk is batting .400/.444/.800 with a double, three home runs and 5 RBIs against the Yankees. Add in the five home runs he hit against the Yankees in 16 games last season and you know why he’s on this team.
Grichuk is barely a major leaguer when he plays against the 28 other teams not named the Yankees and he’s a Hall of Famer against the Yankees. He essentially hits against the Yankees the way Ortiz, Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Manny Machado used to.
DH: Pete Alonso
Pete Alonso is good for baseball, but he’s also good for the Mets, and that’s why he’s on the team.
I’m upset Alonso is serving as a bright spot in another lost and disastrous Mets season, I’m disappointed Alonso beat Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Home Run Derby and I’m worried he might beat Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record of 52. With Michael Conforto turning out to be nothing special, I thought it might be a while until the Mets had a new face of the franchise from a position player standpoint and then Alonso had to come along and be one of the game’s elite power hitters. I have a feeling Alonso is going to be on this team for a long, long time.
SP: Justin Verlander
I haven’t liked Justin Verlander since Game 2 of the 2006 ALDS. The Yankees’ decision to not trade for his enormous contract at the 2017 August deadline, letting him go to the Astros and single-handedly decide the ALCS, made me like him less (though it made me like the Yankees’ financial decisions even less).
It pains me that Verlander was finally able to get over the championship hump in 2017 after years of losing in the ALCS and World Series and it pains me even more that his championship came after he won both Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees. Unfortunately, Verlander’s championship can never be taken away from him, and the only thing that will make it hurt less is if the Yankees beat the outspoken right-hander in the ALCS en route to their own championship. The way things are going for both teams, the Yankees could have a chance to do that this season.
RP: Nathan Eovaldi
Nathan Eovaldi isn’t a relief pitcher … yet. He’s supposedly going to pitch out of the bullpen when he returns to the Red Sox, and that’s enough to make him eligibile to be teh relief pitcher on this team.
Never trust a pitcher who throws triple-digit fastballs and can’t strike anyone out and that’s exactly what Eovaldi is. The Dodgers gave up on him and the Marlins gave up on him despite him being 24 years old with incredible velocity because he didn’t have an out pitch and he didn’t know where the ball was going. So the Yankees gave up Martin Prado and David Phelps because of the glamour of Eovaldi’s fastball, thinking they would be the ones who could fix him. They weren’t.
Eovaldi pitched to a 14-3 record in 2015, so every idiot who relies on wins and losses to determine a pitcher’s success thought he had a great season. It didn’t matter that he received 5.75 runs of support per game or that he routinely struggled to get through five innings and qualify for a win because he needs 20-plus pitches per inning. In 2016, it was more of the same. Eovaldi pitched to a 4.76 ERA over 21 starts and 24 games before being shut down for another Tommy John surgery, ending his time with the Yankees as they let him leave at the end of the season.
When Eovaldi returned to baseball last season and pitched well with the Rays, many Yankees fans started to think about a reunion, having not learned their lesson from the last time Eovaldi was a Yankee. When he was traded to the Red Sox, I laughed with excitement, envisioning him destroying the Red Sox’ chances at winning the division. Instead, he shut out the Yankees in the all-important August series (even if faced a JV lineup) and then shut them out against in September. I never thought he would be able to beat the Yankees in October in the Bronx, but he did, after getting more run support than any other pitcher against the Yankees in the team’s history.
Eovaldi beat the Yankees and the Astros in the playoffs, mixed in a few relief appearances and then became a hero for his bullpen work in Game 3 of the World Series, even though he took the loss after giving up a walk-off home run. (Only in Boston could a losing pitcher become a “hero”.) Now Eovaldi is a World Series champion and I’ll never get over it.
Manager: Dave Roberts
If Dave Roberts is unsuccessful in his attempt to steal second base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees win that series and most likely the World Series, and who knows, maybe the Red Sox still haven’t won a championship since 1918. Without that steal, Roberts isn’t a household name in the baseball world and he most likely isn’t the manager of the Dodgers.
It was Roberts’s bullpen decisions in the 2018 World Series which led to another Red Sox championship as he continually gave the ball to Ryan Madson, forgetting it was 2019 and not 2009. The right-handed reliever somehow appeared in four of the five games in the series despite allowing all seven of his inherited runners to score. It was also Roberts who decided not to start Cody Bellinger in Games 1, 2 and 5 and Max Muncy in Games 1 and 2, choosing to not have arguably his best two hitters in the lineup for the entire game. Roberts is now responsible for two Red Sox championships.
I dream about the Yankees playing the Dodgers in the 2019 World Series and the Yankees handing Roberts his third straight World Series loss. But if the Yankees and Dodgers do play in the World Series, I won’t have to dream about the Yankees winning, Roberts’s managing will take care of it for me.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!