The Yankees got swept in the first half of the 2022 Subway Series, have lost five of seven since the All-Star break and are 17-16 since June 19. The comparisons to the 1998 team have finally stopped as the Yankees try to get back to winning consistently for the last two months of the season.
1. Back on April 21, the Yankees lost to the Tigers 3-0 in Detroit, falling to 7-6 on the season. It was the third time the Yankees had been shut out in 10 games. Coming off a three-game series loss in Baltimore the previous weekend in which the Yankees scored only three runs in 29 innings at Camden Yards, the 2022 season was a continuation of the 2021 season. Inconsistent, lackluster and disappointing play had become these Yankees.
Following that shutout loss to the lowly Tigers, the Yankees went off, winning 11 in a row and 22 of 26. They went from the most underachieving season in arguably the team’s history in 2021 to being compared to arguably the best team in the team’s history of 1998 in 2022. From the day after that loss in Detroit through June 18, the Yankees went 42-10, running away with the division and guaranteeing themselves a bye into the ALDS.
2. But since their 4-0 win over the Rays on June 18, the early-season Yankees have returned. The 2021 Yankees have returned. Injuries and underperformance have led to just a 17-16 record since June 19, and in that time, the Yankees lost five of seven to the Astros, blew three games to the now last-place Red Sox, split a two-game series with a Pirates team on pace to lose 96 games, lost a home series to a last-place Reds team on pace for 99 losses and got swept in the first half of the Subway Series.
The starting pitching has begun to show cracks and lost Luis Severino for an undetermined amount of time. The bullpen lost Michael King for the rest of this season and possibly next season, lost Miguel Castro indefinitely and is hoping Aroldis Chapman (who was on his way to being released before injuries) and Jonathan Loaisiga (who looks completely lost) can figure it out and fast. The lineup continues to go as Aaron Judge goes and when the big man slumps, the Yankees often lose.
3. After the Mets completed a first-half sweep in the Subway Series of the Yankees, Aaron Boone said, “We’re good. We know it. But we also know obviously we’re very beatable.”
Boone says a lot of dumb things. Most words that come out of his mouth in pre- and postgame press conferences are exactly that … or lies. But for one of a few times as Yankees manager, Boone said something accurate and truthful.
The Yankees are good, but yes, unfortunately, they are very beatable. I have written and said many times this year that the Yankees are where they are for three reasons: the starting pitching, Judge and the combination of King and Clay Holmes. Well, the starting pitching is no longer what it was in late April, May and the first half of June, and King is done. The Yankees need help and they need it between now and Tuesday afternoon.
4. The Yankees went out and got some help late on Wednesday night, trading for Andrew Benintendi. He’s not Juan Soto, who I still pray the Yankees land and will be distraught if they don’t, but he’s a solid player, and his presence means the end of Joey Gallo on the team and less Aaron Hicks, and no more Gallo and less Hicks is enough to make Benintendi already likable.
I could see Benintendi hitting just about anywhere in the Yankees’ order. First, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, who knows. I don’t think anyone knows because the logic and reasoning Aaron Boone uses to construct his lineups is unpredictable because there is no logic or reasoning. (He gave a breakdown of how he makes decisions on an offseason episode of CC Sabathia’s podcast and it was flat-out scary. I don’t know how the front office didn’t listen to how his brain works and not immediately let him go.) No matter where he hits, the Yankees improved their team and their offense with the trade.
5. The best possible lineup doesn’t include Josh Donaldson, who is officially washed up. I have questioned it all season, but it’s now official. He sucks. If he were on a one-year, prove-it deal for $5 million, he would likely no longer be a Yankee. But because the Yankees foolishly traded for him at the age of 36 and happily took on the entire $48 million owed to him, Donaldson isn’t going anywhere in terms of no longer being a Yankee. He should go somewhere though and that somewhere is the bench.
Donaldson can’t hit right-handed pitching (.239/.315/.396) because he can’t even hit left-handed pitching (.175/.284/.368). His numbers against power pitching are atrocious (.254/.303/.339) because his numbers against any kind of pitching are atrocious. And guess what type of pitching there is in October? Power pitching. How can the Yankees pencil his name into the lineup and expect anything other than strikeouts and ground outs to the left side against Justin Verlander, Christian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr., Alek Manoah, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, and any other hard-throwing, right-handed starter the Yankees may see.
6. I keep having people tell me “Yeah, but he plays great defense!” Who gives a fuck? Seriously, who gives a fuck? Defense grows on trees. You can find defense anywhere. Infield defense, outfield defense, you name it. It’s not hard to find. Defense-only players don’t get paid $24 million a season, and they don’t hit fifth and sixth for teams with championship aspirations.
Donaldson can’t be an everyday player for a team trying to win the 1-seed in the AL, and he can’t be an option as a starting player in the postseason, whether the Yankees are facing a lefty or not. This year is a lost year for him. If they’re unable to move him and dump even some of his salary in the offseason then try again next year (not that he will suddenly be better a year older). But for 2022, I have seen enough.
7. I have seen enough of Chapman as well, but because of the injuries to King and Castro, he’s not going anywhere. The Yankees are going to try to fix him between now and the ALDS, but if he’s needed in the ALDS, I think we all know how any outing of his will fare.
“It’s obviously tough right now for him,” Boone said of Chapman recently. “He’s going through a tough time and grinding.”
The “tough time” is now more than a year. Since June 10, 2021, Chapman has an ERA of nearly 6 and has allowed double-digit home runs. It’s rare when he pitches a scoreless inning and a near miracle when he pitches a 1-2-3 inning. Most of the time, he has no idea where the ball is going, walks at least one batter in an appearance and gives up the long ball when he has to come in the zone. He could not give up an earned run for the rest of the regular season and I would have zero confidence in him in a postseason appearance.
Loaisiga has been every bit as bad as Chapman, and possibly worse. Loaisiga has allowed 35 baserunners and 17 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings this season. He went from being in the conversation for best reliever in the majors in 2021 to on his way to pitching himself out of the majors in 2022.
8. The Yankees have a lot of bad options right now across all facets of the team. They are willing to give endless starting opportunities to Domingo German who should have been released from the team at the announcement of his suspension in 2019, and who continues to be really, really bad. They continue to roster Gallo, bat Donaldson in the middle of the order, act like it’s not a big deal that their starting shortstop can’t hit the ball in the air and is extremely shaky in the field, and their backup catcher doesn’t do anything well and rarely ever isn’t pinch hit for in a game he starts. In the bullpen, Albert Abreu seems like a ticking time bomb Boone will deploy at the most inopportune time in October and Wandy Peralta is the manager’s second-favorite reliever after all-world Holmes. As long as bad options exit on the roster Boone will find a way to use them, just like he did in inexplicably pinch hitting Gallo on Tuesday night.
9. Gallo hadn’t even walked out of the dugout before Buck Showalter immediately brought in Edwin Diaz. All Yankees fans know how inept Boone is at in-game management. But it’s pronounced when he goes head-to-head against managers like Showalter or Alex Cora or Kevin Cash. After the game, Boone said he wanted to “force” Showalter to use Diaz for a four-out save. The only chance the Yankees had in coming back on Tuesday was to come back before Diaz entered the game, yet there was Boone saying his goal was to get Diaz into the game as early as possible and for as many outs as possible. A true moron.
10. Boone isn’t about to get smarter between now and the first week of October. If it hasn’t happened for him at this point of his life, it’s not happening. And it’s not happening.
The only way to decrease the odds Boone ruins the postseason is by eliminating bad rooster options. Trading for Benintendi was the first step in doing so. It can’t be the only move. If it is, I can tell you right now how this Yankees season will end.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!