For the second straight game, I didn’t have to look back and wish the game had been postponed due to inclement April weather, rescheduled for later in the season when Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino or Dellin Betances might be back. Tuesday and Wednesday’s wins over the Red Sox felt like I was watching the Yankees.
Aaron Boone didn’t have to spend his postgame press conference trying to find the positive in yet another loss. He didn’t have to give some bullshit cliche about how he feels his team is close to getting in a groove and that their focus and energy are in the right place. He didn’t refer to “the corner” he has frequently mentioned his team “turning” at some point.
I didn’t think the Yankees’ first home series win would come in their fourth home series — a two-game set — against the Red Sox after having dropped two of three to the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox. I didn’t think they would find a way to beat Chris Sale, given his career against the Yankees, and win a game started by J.A. Happ, given what he has done since Game 1 of the ALDS. I didn’t think Mike Tauchman was capable of hitting a ball as far as he did on Tuesday night and I didn’t think Brett Gardner had the ability to turn around a 97 mph fastball on 0-2 for a grand slam on Wednesday night.
These Yankees are confusing. Not the 2019 Yankees, but the team filling in for the 2019 Yankees. There are nights when they look listless at the plate, leaving you to wonder if they will ever get a hit with runners in scoring position, and lost in the field, appearing as though the beverages in the dugout are being kept in brown paper bags. Then there are nights when you forget they are missing their starting catcher, left fielder/designated hitter, third baseman, shortstop, center fielder, ace and best reliever because they play as if they aren’t missing anyone.
I have tempered my expectations for the time being with the current roster. I accept Gardner is going to bat leadoff until Hicks is back. I realize some combination of Austin Romine, Kyle Higashioka, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, Tyler Wade and now Mike Ford are going to be in the lineup every night. I recognize there isn’t a guaranteed win every five days the way there is when Severino is in the rotation. I understand close games are going to feel even closer with Betances unavailable in the bullpen. I have come to accept these Yankees aren’t good enough to fulfill the preseason requirement of ending the soon-to-be-decade-long World Series drought. For now, I have adjusted my nightly expectations to grinding out wins in an attempt to stay afloat and within striking distance until the All-Star injured list returns.
Maybe these Yankees have “turned the corner” in that they won’t look completely overmatched at the plate and make careless mistakes on the basepaths and on defense. It’s quite possible the rotation will contribute more than four to five innings per night moving forward and the bullpen will serve as the trustworthy strength everyone anticipated it would be. But the corner won’t really be turned for good until the Yankees, the real Yankees return.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!