Last weekend, as I sat in Fenway Park and the Red Sox kept scoring and scoring and scoring against a tired and abused Yankees bullpen, it started. No, not The Wave. That had started the night before during a tied game in the seventh inning. I’m talking about the chant.
Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!
The chant is as Boston as the Common or Faneuil Hall or not pronouncing the letter “r” and I have grown accustomed to it over the years. It used to make no sense and make me laugh pre-2004 when the Red Sox hadn’t won a championship since 1918 and their fans had the balls to say the most successful franchise in professional sports history “sucks”, but it doesn’t make me laugh anymore … because it’s true. I didn’t join in the chant even though part of me wanted to as the Yankees were shut out by Rick Porcello a night after they were mostly shut down by the immortal Henry Owens.
The two games on Friday and Saturday represented the entire season. The Yankees couldn’t score, they couldn’t hold a lead when they did score, the starting pitching wasn’t good enough and finally after being dominant for nearly a month, the bullpen imploded and let Jackie Bradley Jr. become the new Pedro Ciriaco and let David Ortiz add another highlight to the inevitable David Ortiz Farewell Tour DVD the Red Sox will be selling the second after the last out is recorded this season. (I have a weird feeling they won’t include his performance-enhancing drug use admission or any of his wild media outbursts in it.)
Thankfully, I was back home in my apartment to watch Nathan Eovaldi blow two separate leads on Sunday Night Baseball after the Yankees’ offense finally scored six runs. And thankfully, I had the option to turn the game off the second Dellin Betances’ first-pitch fastball made contact with Christian Vazquez’s bat and likely landed somewhere near Kevin Youkilis’ walk-off home run off Damaso Marte from April 2009 that I was also lucky enough to be in attendance for.
The worst-case scenario had happened: the Yankees were swept and they had gone from four games under .500 to seven games under in about 52 hours.
“No big deal” I told myself. “Go to Baltimore and win that series and get back on track,” I tricked myself into thinking. Even as I laughed at the comparisons of the 2005 and 2007 Yankees, two teams that also found themselves far below .500 early on, I somehow still thought the Yankees could turn it around.
So they went to Baltimore and scored one run on Tuesday night, got a vintage CC Sabathia performance to win on Wednesday night and then were shut out again on Thursday night to fall another game under .500 than they were when they left Boston. The Yankees scored eight runs in three games in Camden Yards and didn’t hit a home run, and they actually only scored in three of the 28 innings they played. That’s Yankees baseball in 2016.
Everyone is at fault for this disaster with the exception of Masahiro Tanaka, Andrew Miller and Starlin Castro. Dellin Betances is only half at fault because he has been so good for two-plus seasons that I will give him half credit despite his shaky weekend in Boston. But everyone else is part of the problem, and that includes Joe Girardi, who was given a free pass because of his roster in 2013 and 2014, was cleared of any wrongdoing as the team blew a seven-game lead in the division last season and has skated by during the worst start to a season in 25 years. Well, that ended on Thursday night.
Tied 0-0 in essentially a “must-win game” since they all are at this point, Joe Girardi, from the clubhouse, called on Johnny Barbato and his 5.25 ERA instead of arguably the best reliever in the entire league in Andrew Miller for the 10th inning. After back-to-back singles made it first and third with no outs, Girardi then had Rob Thomson bring in Andrew Miller. A sacrifice fly later and the Yankees lost 1-0. His reasoning after the game for not having Miller start the inning? “We weren’t winning.”
Girardi lives by the closer “rules” of bringing in your closer at home in a tied game (the way Buck Showalter did with Zach Britton), but never bringing him in a tie game on the road (the way Joe Torre didn’t and cost the Yankees the 2003 World Series). But guess what? The Yankees weren’t winning when Miller did finally come in with first and third and no outs. “There were a couple guys on base,” is how Girardi defended his decision, which completely contradicted his previous sentence about not winning. So yes, Girardi’s free pass has been revoked. I don’t mean by me since I revoked it a long time ago. I mean by the Girardi Fan Club, which likes to say, “What is he supposed to do?” when it’s argued that he is part of the problem. How about manage to win a game when you’re 9-16 (now 9-17).
The starting pitching usually isn’t good enough. The offense shows up once a week. The defense is OK. The bullpen is mismanaged. The manager likely stays on 16 against a 10 in blackjack on one hand and then hits on 16 against a 10 on the next hand. The general manager has taken full responsibility for this awful team because he knows he’s invincible from ownership, and ownership has stayed quite through this 26-game mess because they could care less. When the Stadium is empty this summer and 40-year-old A-Rod (if he’s healthy) is the only reason to maybe spend your hard-earned on an embarrassing baseball team, that’s when we’ll hear from them.
Chase Headley is the worst player in Major League Baseball. Jacoby Ellsbury, given his performance and contract, is on pace to be the worst Yankee in the history of the organization. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran stopped hitting weeks ago and Aaron Hicks never started hitting despite the Yankees’ urgency to continue to get him in the lineup. Didi Gregorius continues to be the dumbest player since Nick Swisher, who could get called up to the Yankees at any moment. Brett Gardner has been hurt twice already this season and Brian McCann thinks he can pull every outside pitch for a home run.
Michael Pineda has one letdown inning every game. Nathan Eovaldi is still the same guy the Dodgers and Marlins gave up on. Luis Severino has struggled to make adjustments to a league that has clearly adjusted to his impressive run last season. CC Sabathia has been what should be expected of a 35-year-old starter with over 3,000 innings on his arm, who throws in the mid-80s. Outside of Dellin Betances when he’s not in Boston and Andrew Miller, the rest of the bullpen hasn’t been good.
The Yankees are a bad baseball team that left home at 7-10 and return at 9-17. They have scored three runs or less in 19 of their 28 games, have won two of their nine series and haven’t won more than two games in a row. Now they return home for a 10-game homestand against the Red Sox, Royals and White Sox that will likely determine if this team is worth from Memorial Day on.
There’s a scene in the movie Heavyweights where a depressed and devastated Gerry is pretending to ride the now defunct go-karts at his fat camp. The camp counselor Pat approaches him and they have the following exchange:
Gerry: Did this place always stink this much?
Pat: No, Gerry. This place used to stink very little. In fact, it didn’t stink at all.
Gerry: Well, it does now.
I’m constantly reminding myself that the Yankees used to stink very little. In fact, they didn’t stink at all. But in the last three seasons, they have played in one playoff game, a game in which every Yankees fan knew they would lose and possibly get shut out and they did just that. Somehow this 2016 team has me longing for the days of Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay from three years ago.
The Yankees don’t just stink right now, they suck.