The Yankees’ winning streak ended at seven games thanks to J.A. Happ, and the Yankees only won two of their four games against the Phillies thanks to Aaron Boone. Now the Yankees head to Tampa for their biggest series of the season to date against their only true competition for the division.
Last season, I wrote the Off Day Dreaming blogs on every off day, but this season there aren’t many off days. There aren’t many games. So instead, I have decided to use the Off Day Dreaming format following each series. Yankees Thoughts will be posted after each series this season.
Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.
1. It didn’t surprise me when DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge weren’t in the lineup on Thursday against the Phillies. That’s because nothing surprises me when it comes to Aaron Boone anymore. Truly nothing. These lines from Stanley Hudson in The Office do a good job of explaining it:
Every day you do something stupider than the day before. And I think, “There’s no possible way he can top that.” But what do you do? You find a way, damnit, to top it! You are a professional idiot!
One day Boone will elect to have David Hale close out a game rather than Zack Britton. Then the next day he’ll allow J.A. Happ to remain in a game for much longer than he should and relieve Happ with low-end relievers to put a seven-inning game out of reach. Then the next day he’ll sit his 1- and 2-hitters in the same game, only to eventually use them as pinch hitters anyway. The only days off from Boone’s idiotic decisions are the days the Yankees don’t play. I wrote back on Jan. 3 that my New Year’s Resolution would be to not get upset with Boone this season, but it only took a few games for me to break that promise and I don’t think I will ever be able to go more than three days without vehemently disagreeing with a decision of his.
2. How absurd was it that Boone needed to give LeMahieu and Judge the day off on Thursday? Consider this:
Oct. 19: ALCS Game 6
Oct. 20 to Feb. 11: Off
Feb. 12 to Mar. 12: Spring training
Mar. 13 to June 30: Off
July 1 to July 20: Summer Camp
July 21: Off
July 22: Off
July 23: at Washington (six innings)
July 24: Off
July 25: at Washington
July 26: at Washington
July 27: Off
July 28: Off
July 29: at Baltimore
July 30: at Baltimore
July 31: vs. Boston
Aug. 1: vs. Boston
Aug. 2: vs. Boston
Aug. 3: vs. Philadelphia
Aug. 4: Off
Aug 5: at Philadelphia (double header of two seven-inning games)
Aug 6: at Philadelphia
How much time off do the Yankees need?
3. You want to give players half a game off on the day of a doubleheader? Fine. Given all the time off I just listed (the Yankees have played 12 games in nearly 10 months) and the fact the doubleheader consisted of two seven-inning games, no regular player needed either game off, but OK, you tried to give everyone a game off. To then follow it up the next day saying you’re “trying to pick strategic days off” for LeMahieu and Judge and your strategy is to give them the same day off? What? What are we even doing here? The Yankees are managing this season as if it’s a 162-game season over six months. I get that the Yankees are a lock for the postseason with the expanded field of eight teams per league, but maybe try to finish with the best record in the American League and in baseball for once? Try to play the most amount of games possible at Yankee Stadium in October. Try to do everything you can to put the team in the best possible position to win the World Series for the first time in more than a decade.
4. Essentially, Boone threw away two of the three games in Philadelphia. He threw away the first game of the doubleheader by letting Happ face the lineup a second time in a seven-inning game and then letting his low-end relievers put the game out of reach, and then he threw away Thursday’s game by not playing LeMahieu and Judge in a game the Yankees would lose by one run. You think six, seven or eight more at-bats from LeMahieu and Judge wouldn’t have resulted in the run that was the difference? I can accept losing when the offense gets shut down or when the pitching just doesn’t have it. Only once this season have the Yankees really lost a game they had no chance of winning and that was the second game of the season against the Nationals. Their other two lossers were winnable games. This weekend the Yankees have four games in three days against the Rays, their only competition to win the AL East. One of the days there’s a doubleheader, so two seven-inning games. If Boone wants to prove things are different, play the everyday lineup in each of the four games against the Rays, create real separation in the division and then give guys days off. Boone is managing his lineup like the Yankees have already wrapped things up because they’re 9-3 when they haven’t won a single thing, at 9-3, they don’t have the best record in the AL or in baseball, and yet, they are handing out days off to guys that have essentially been off since October. The Yankees haven’t won anything with Boone managing and they haven’t won anything with the load management strategy the team lives by.
5. LeMahieu is so good. I have been calling him D(erek) J(eter) LeMahieu since last season because of his ability to hit in the cluch and to consistently produce base hits to right field. He was the Yankees’ best overall player in 2019 and if not for Judge carrying the team to wins for a week straight this season, LeMahieu would have to be considered their best player again. After his pinch-hit single in the ninth last night (good thing he didn’t play the whole game), he’s now hitting .429 with a 1.037 OPS. If he were to go 0-for-20 starting on Friday night, he would still be hitting .290. That’s how good he has been. There’s no other hitter I want up in a big spot and there’s no other player on the field I want the ball hit to. I love LeMahieu.
6. The Yankees have a starting pitching problem. Outside of Gerrit Cole’s three starts, they haven’t received at least six innings from any other starter. Only once in the nine non-Cole games did the Yankees’ starter even get to the sixth inning (Jordan Montgomery’s first start). Despite this, the Yankees have won 9 of 12 because their bullpen has been so good, and because Judge hit late-game, go-ahead home runs for nearly a week straight, but it can’t continue. It’s a recipe for disaster to ask you bullpen to get about 15 outs per night. The Yankees purposely tried to use this strategy in the postseason and look where it got them. It got them a six-game loss to the Astros and Zack Britton speaking out about how tired and overworked the bullpen was in the ALCS. To this point, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino and Britton have barely worked, but even the lesser relievers like Luis Avilan, Jonathan Holder and David Hale will begin to get run down, and with how much Boone loves to go to the lesser arms, it won’t end well if they are fatigued.
7. The starting pitching has to be better. If the Yankees’ only consistent starter is Cole this season then they might as well pack up the bats and balls now and try again in 2021 when Luis Severino is back and maybe the team is ready to give Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt a chance. There’s no way the Yankees can get through the postseason with an additional best-of-3 round with only Cole and a bunch of three- and four-inning starts from their relievers. I do believe Masahiro Tanaka will be fine once his pitch count is back to normal and he’s allowed to go a normal length in a game, but even still, that’s only two starters. Montgomery needs to be better than he was on Thursday because Happ and James Paxton seem like lost causes.
8. There’s nothing left to say about Happ that I didn’t write on Thursday or that I didn’t talk about on Thursday’s podcast. He can’t get another start. The Yankees have options like Garcia and Schmidt at the alternate site in Scranton in the event of underperformance or injury on the roster. Well, here is as good of an example of underperformance as you might ever see. Happ hasn’t been good since the start of 2019, and he’s not going to magically return to the pitcher he was in 2018 between now and the end of September. Even if Happ did miraculously turn into that guy, would you feel confident giving him the ball for a postseason start? The Yankees need to give someone else a chance to join the rotation in Happ’s spot, and they needed to be given that chance the next time Happ is scheduled to pitch. The Yankees are long past the point of giving Happ opportunities to turn it around.
9. Welcome back, Gary Sanchez! After taking a fastball in the left arm on Wednesday with noticeably left the seams indented on his skin, Sanchez was back in the lineup on Thursday and hit a two-run, opposite-field home run to finally look like the Sanchez we have all come to know since historically beginning his career in 2016. Sanchez would fly out in his next at-bat, though it was a much better at-bat than we have seen from him over the first two weeks of the season, so maybe that home run will spark his turnaround. I have never stopped believing in Sanchez and as the President of the Gary Sanchez Fan Club, I won’t stop believing in him. I might be the only member left in the club, but membership is going to start increase now.
10. What’s going on with Gleyber Torres? The Yankees’ shortstop had another 0-for-4 game on Thursday night and is now batting .132 with one home run and two RBIs on the season. (For as bad as Sanchez has been, he has as many home runs and one more RBI than Torres.) I guess the good news is the Yankees are 9-3 even though Torres and Sanchez have been automatic outs, Aaron Hicks is batting .207 and Brett Gardner has six hits (three of them just happen to be home runs). The Yankees have been scoring runs and winning because of LeMahieu and Judge, which is why it’s even more ridiculous they were both out of the lineup in the same game last night. But if the Yankees can win 75 percent of their games with two outs in their lineup, they will be OK. OK for the regular season that is. The offense can’t collectively slump (minus LeMahieu) in the postseason again.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!