On Tuesday night, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead over the Rays in the fifth inning, and it seemed like maybe this would be the game the Yankees would finally stop their losing streak against their only division competition. Instead, Kevin Kiermaier hit a game-tying, two-run home run off Masahiro Tanaka, a night after putting a Gerrit Cole pitch in the second deck at Yankee Stadium. On the light-hitting Rays, Kiermaier might be the lighest hitter, but not against the Yankees. In seven games against the Yankees this season, Kiermaier has two doubles, two home runs, four walks and a 1.150 OPS.
In a normal year, I would put out the All-Animosity Team to coincide with the All-Star Game. But this isn’t a normal year and there’s no All-Star Game, and after Kiermaier’s latest big hit against the Yankees, I decided now is as good a time as any to announce the 2020 MLB All-Animosity Team.
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, and this year there are a few new names on the list.
Here is the 2020 All-Animosity Team.
C: Christian Vazquez
There were reports of the Red Sox possibly trading Vazquez prior to Monday’s deadline and I couldn’t have been happier about what I was hearing. Unfortunately, Vazquez wasn’t traded and remains a Red Sox and remains in the AL East where he will undoubtedly hurt the Yankees.
Vazquez only has a .633 career OPS against the Yankees, but it seems like the times he does get a hit, it’s a big one. None bigger than the opposite-field home run he hit off Zack Britton in Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS, which ended up being the difference in the game.
1B: Pete Alonso
I will never get over Pete Alonso breaking Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record in a season in which the actual baseball was manufactured so differently that Brett Gardner hit 28 home runs. Alonso never should have hit 53 home runs and never should have broken Judge’s record of 52.
Alonso has been terrible this season, which has made last season hurt less, and has also made it obvious that his record-setting power was a product of the baseball. Alonso is on a 28-home run pace with six and is batting .213/.333/.385 this year. He has been demoted from in the top-third of the Mets’ order and has mostly batted sixth over the last few weeks, which hasn’t been hard to watch.
2B: Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve used to be my favorite non-Yankees player. That was before this past October and offseason.
After hitting .320/.414/.560 with two home runs, four walks and a stolen base in the 2017 ALCS, Altuve hit .348/.444/1.097 with a double, two home runs, four walks and a stolen base in the 2019 ALCS. He also is responsible for ending the Yankees’ season with a walk-off, pennant-winning home run in Game 6.
A career .291 hitter against the Yankees, I used to enjoy watching Altuve play (when not playing the Yankees) and admired his ability for his stature. Now I watch him hoping he will fail, and this season he has, hitting .211/.276/.316 in 32 games. A .592 OPS? Now that’s enjoyable.
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 in 2017, Devers looked lost last in 2018, batting .240/.298/.433 in 121 games and I got ahead of myself thinking the 21-year-old might be a bust. Last season, he hit .311/.361/.555 with a league-leading 54 doubles to go along with 32 home runs 115 RBIs.
Devers is going to be on this team for a long, long time. That is, until he’s set to free agency and the Red Sox cry poor and trade him. I can only dream that will happen.
SS: Carlos Correa
While Altuve and Alex Bregman were hiding behind their prepared statemetns and vague responses to questions about the Astro’s sign-stealing scandal, Correa was busy talking to anyone who would listen. The only problem was a lot of what he said was outrageous.
Add in his ridiculous 1.040 career OPS against the Yankees, his .913 OPS against them in the 2017 ALCS and his two home runs in the 2019 ALCS, including his walk-off in Game 2, and Correa is an easy fit to pencil in at short on this team.
LF: Anthony Santander
This spot went to Trey Mancini last season, but unfortunately Mancini isn’t playing this season. I do wish him a healthy and speedy recovery, so he can get back on the field and back on this team and I can get back to watching him torment Yankees pitching.
In Mancini’s place, I thought it only made sense to fill the spot with an Oriole. And like Mancini, Santander is seemingly the only hitter to truly worry about in the Orioles’ lineup and not let beat you, and the Yankees consistently let him beat them. No, they don’t let the Orioles actually beat them and win a game, they let Santander beat them in his at-bats. Even as the Yankees won 17 straight games against the Orioles in 2019, Santander kept on hitting against them with three home runs and a .900 OPS. He currently leads the league in doubles (13) and RBIs (32), so not having to worry about him isn’t going to end anytime soon.
CF: Kevin Kiemaier
Kiermaier is a career .249/.308/.382 hitter, but against the Yankees he might as well be Ken Griffey Jr. This season, Kiermaier has drawn game-changing walks, hit big home runs against Tanaka and Gerrit Cole and has continued to play Gold Glove defense, up until his ill-advised dive on Tuesday night.
Normally, I want Yankees pitching to face as many hitters with Kiermaier’s numbers as possible, but not Kiermaier. I’m looking forward to his contract with the Rays ending in 2022, and hopefully the team option for 2023 isn’t 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 19 games last season against the Yankees, Grichuk had two doubles, eight home runs, 15 RBIs and a .938 OPS. Add in the five home runs he hit against the Yankees in 16 games in 2018 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: Alex Bregman
The first thing I used to think about when thinking about Bregman was how hard it is to retire him at the plate. Now when I think of him, I think of him standing there at the Astros’ fan fest and giving the same rehearsed answer over and over about the team’s sign-stealing scandal with that smirk on his face and the sarcastic laugh he kept giving the media. It doesn’t matter that he overall doesn’t hit against the Yankees, those answers, that smirk and that laugh are enough to get him on this team.
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 and allowing him to go to the Astros to single-handedly decide that season’s 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.
Verlander was openly critical of sign stealing around the league, but after his own team was caught in the biggest sign-stealing scandal of all time, Verlander had nothing to say. He’s a fraud.
RP: Nathan Eovaldi
Nathan Eovaldi isn’t a relief pitcher, but he has been, and he most notably was in the 2018 World Series.
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 in 2018 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. At least he’s returned to his former pre-2018 postseason self.
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 2018 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 2020 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’ managing will take care of it for me.
Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episodes after every game throughout the season.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!