The Yankees played the best team in baseball and never had a chance. The Braves gave the Yankees their third straight loss with an 11-3 in Atlanta.
1. On Monday, coming off the worst loss of the season, with the Yankees’ postseason odds down to 6.1 percent and a three-game series on tap against the best team in baseball, I wrote:
It would be in Yankees fans’ best interest for the team they root for to get humiliated between now and Sunday. Root for them to get their asses kicked in Atlanta over the next three nights (which shouldn’t be hard) and then have the Red Sox come into their building and embarrass them over the weekend (which happens so often it should be expected).
The plan is off to a good start as the Yankees were thoroughly humiliated in Atlanta with an 11-3 ass-kicking from the Braves. The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, gave that run right back in the bottom of the first, took the lead back with a run in the top of the second, and then gave it away for good in the bottom of the second. The Braves scored three in the second, four in the third, one in the sixth and two more in the eighth. The Yankees added a meaningless run in the ninth.
2. Clarke Schmidt produced the worst start of his career in a return to his home. Schmidt has been the Yankees’ second-best starter for months, but on Monday, he pitched like Luis Severino: 2.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. Schmidt couldn’t get through three innings before being relieved by Ian Hamilton (who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings) before Albert Abreu came in to let the Braves pad their league-leading offensive stats a little more, as the always awful Abreu put seven baserunners on in three innings and allowed three runs.
3. It was the bottom of the Braves’ order that degraded the Yankees. Eddie Rosario went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and Nicky Lopez went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. The Braves stunned everyone when they traded for Lopez at the deadline. Acquiring a career .250/.312/.321 (.653 OPS) with a career 74 OPS+ was puzzling, but in three games with the Braves, Lopez has a 2.000 OPS, five RBIs and hit a home run after hitting five in his previous 563 career plate appearances.
Everything the Braves touch turns to gold. Two years ago at the deadline, they traded for Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson, and that trio helped lead them to a championship. On top of their Midas touch, they are also incredibly smart. Their entire core is locked up long term. They gave Ronald Acuna, Matt Olson and Michael Harris eight-year deals. Ozzie Albies got seven years. Six years for Sean Murphy and Spencer Strider and 10 years for Austin Riley. All seven of those players are under 30 years old, and Harris, Acuna, Albies, Riley and Strider are all under 27. Not only is their core locked up, but their core plays. The Braves have played 118 games in 2023. Acuna, Albies, Olson and Riley have played in 117 of them.
4. As a Yankees fan, I’m jealous of the Braves and their fans. They are what the Yankees were once upon a time. A perfect mix of homegrown talent, acquired talent and free-agent talent. The Yankees could have had Olson or Murphy, like the Braves have. They opted for Anthony Rizzo and the combination of Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka. The Yankees could have locked up Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres before they ever hit free agency, but instead they now have to pay Judge until he’s 40 and are likely to trade Torres before next season or lose him for nothing after next season.
5. Watching the Braves treat the Yankees the way the Yankees treat the A’s or Royals had me thinking about Aaron Boone’s quote following the Yankees’ 2021 wild-card loss when he famously said, “The league has closed the gap on the Yankees.” The Yankees never had a gap on the league in Boone’s tenure as manager and once he’s relieved of his duties in seven weeks, he will leave the Yankees with the team separated by a Grand Canyon-like gap from the Braves.
6. “They have a lineup that’s really, really rugged and balanced,” Boone said after game in what seemed like a direct shot as his general manager. “A little peek into what you’re trying to get to.”
Like the Astros, the Braves are awesome. Two teams that seem to push every right button, extend their young talent, smartly acquire the right talent and then go to what Brian Cashman calls the marketplace to fill any holes still left. They are the anti-Yankees, who develop one to two position players each decade, acquire busts and bums through trades and overpay in free agency to make up for their development and front office shortcomings. Cashman goes to the marketplace trying to build an entire roster, a strategy that isn’t possible in today’s game.
7. The Braves are managed by a 67-year-old who has been part of the Braves organization since 1980 and started out as a coach and minor-league manager. The Astros are managed by a 74-year-old who started out as a base coach and is the only manager in the history of the game to lead five different teams to the postseason. The Yankees are managed by a moron who never worked one day as a coach at any level, and is responsible for overseeing a laundry list of negative Yankees records, and could be responsible for a few more before this season ends.
8. With their losing streak now at three straight and their postseason odds down to 5.3 percent, the Yankees will send Severino back to the mound against the best team in the majors with the best offense in the majors. Severino couldn’t navigate the horrid White Sox offense and now he’s supposed to take his flat, uncommandable fastball and get outs against the Braves? I’m sure it will go well.
9. The gap the Yankees have to close on teams in their own division is growing each day, let alone the gap they will likely never close on the Astros until Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Christian Javier and others are no longer Astros. And then there’s the gap with the Braves that even if the Yankees were able to ever return to the World Series, it’s ridiculous to envision how they could win four of seven from the Braves.
10. Monday was a wake-up call for any Yankees fan who believes Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman or Boone when they call the Yankees “championship-caliber.” The game served as an infomercial for what actual “championship-caliber” teams look like. The Yankees used to be one. They haven’t been one for a while, and I’m not sure when they will be one again.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers
is available as an ebook!