Yankees Thoughts: Boo-Hoo Aaron Judge Is Getting Booed

The Yankees have played four games on their current homestand, have been shut out in two of them and even lost to the A’s.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The 2023 Yankees plus Juan Soto have been on full display through the first four games of the current seven-game homestand. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-3 on Friday, lost to the Rays 2-0 on Saturday, beat the Rays 5-4 on Sunday and were embarrassingly shut out by the A’s 2-0 on Monday. The Yankees have scored 10 runs in the four games, were shut out twice and have only scored in three of 36 innings to begin the homestand. If that doesn’t portray how truly awful the offense has been, how’s this: Soto has two extra-base hits in the four games and the rest of the Yankees have zero. Not a single extra-base hit from anyone other than Soto in four straight home games.

I continue to wonder where the 2024 Yankees would be without Soto, and it’s a place you don’t want to know about. The Yankees’ strategy to upgrade the offense this season was to trade for the generational superstar and then hope all of their aging, oft-injured, on-the-wrong-side-of-30 bats would bounce back. Soto has lived up to his expectations and then some, while the other half of the strategy has been a collective disappointment.

2. There’s been no bigger disappointment than Judge who seems to ground into a double play or strikeout in every at-bat, killing any rally he can get his hands on. His one clutch hit of the season, the two-run single against the Blue Jays last Wednesday was hit on the ground and mere inches from being an inning-ending groundout.

Judge is hitting .174/.308/.337 and the narrative is to not worry about him and the commonly used silver lining is “Look at the Yankees’ record without Judge hitting!” It’s no longer acceptable to make excuses for Judge not getting a full spring training worth of at-bats when he’s had 104 plate appearances during the season.

3. Judge has been booed this week at Yankee Stadium, and a lot is being made about it. Every Yankee has been booed at least once. Derek Jeter was booed during his 0-for-32 slump in 2004. Mariano Rivera was booed for blowing saves. The two of them helped the Yankees to five championships. Their numbers are in Monument Park and they are the most voted-for Hall of Famers in history. If they can be booed anyone can be, especially Judge.

“I’ve heard worse,” Judge said about the booing, though he has never heard worse at home. “I’d probably be doing the same thing in their situation.”

Judge gets it. He has sucked this year and he’s hearing about it. It comes with the territory. It’s not going to last because his slump isn’t going to last. He’s just another Yankees superstar who has been booed. It’s a non-story.

4. The Yankees don’t need 2024 Judge to be 2022 Judge to get to where they want to go now that they have Soto. The Juan Soto Yankees don’t need the history-making version of Judge, they just can’t have this version of him.

“We’ve just got to keep grinding,” Soto said after the 2-0 loss to the A’s even though he doesn’t need to do anything different. “We just had a tough game. Forget about it and come back tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, the Yankees didn’t just have a tough game as in a single game, and it would be easy to forget if it wasn’t a disturbing trend.

The Yankees have already been shut out four times this year. They have scored three or fewer runs in more than one-third of their games. They are 14-1 when they score four runs in a game, which seems like it should be so easy for a team that features the names this team features, and yet, they frequently have trouble plating four runs.

5. Aaron Boone, who lasted less than one inning on Monday after he was wrongfully ejected for something a fan said gave us his fist “We’ve got to mount more than that” after the shutout loss to the A’s. That’s how bad things are offensively that Boone is dipping into his buzz word bag to describe his offense.

“I’m seeing the ball well,” Rizzo said after another 0-for on Monday. “I’ve just got to put better swings on the ball.”

I don’t know what’s worse: home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt trying to say he ejected Boone because what was said to eject Boone came from the dugout or Rizzo trying to tell the world he is seeing the ball well. Rizzo sounds like a clearly drunk person trying to tell you they’re not drunk.

Rizzo is hitting .227/.307/.284 on the season. The batting average is 36 points below his career, the on-base percentage is 57 points below his career and the slugging percentage is 245 points below his career. Rizzo isn’t seeing the ball well and hasn’t in 11 months since suffering a concussion against the padres last May. As a soon-to-be 35-year-old who has a negative-0.3 WAR on the season and whose contract ends this year (plus the $6 million buyout the Yankees idiotically agreed to for 2025), he’s closer to being designated for assignment than he is putting “better swings on the ball.”

6. For as “bad” as Judge has been, Rizzo would gladly trade his .590 OPS for Judge’s .645. And Gleyber Torres would donate an organ to have Rizzo’s .590 instead of his own .516.

The day Torres is no longer a Yankee will be a wonderful day. For someone who should have been traded three years ago, Torres has somehow been worse than Judge and Rizzo. Torres has yet to hit a home run and has driven in two runs. TWO RUNS in 98 plate appearances. Austin Wells is 3-for-the season and has as many RBIs as Torres in 55 fewer plate appearances.

On Monday, Torres struck out on three pitches in his first plate appearance and in his second plate appearance he struck out on nine pitches. So when he came to bat a third time, Ryan Ruocco said, “Here’s Gleyber Torres. He struck out in his last at-bat, but really battled.” That’s what we’re resorting to in evaluating Torres? Congratulating him for battling? Can someone show me where battling can be found in a player’s slash line? Is it before or after slugging percentage? Torres struck out on three pitches in that third plate appearance, finishing the day 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

Torres had to be praying he didn’t get a chance to come up in the ninth representing the tying run. Considering he couldn’t get the bat on the ball against the light-throwing JP Sears, I’m curious to see how he would have looked swinging against A’s closer Mason Miller and his 104 mph fastball that he used to strike out Anthony Volpe, Judge and Soto for a perfect ninth.

7. The 2024 A’s aren’t the 2023 A’s because this version of the A’s has a bullpen, which is something the Yankees now completely lack. The two most trustworthy relievers in the Yankees’ bullpen are Ian Hamilton and Clay Holmes and I wouldn’t trust either of them to tell me what day of the week it is, so you can imagine how good I feel when I see them enter a close game. After those two it’s Caleb Ferguson and Victor Gonzalez? Because of a lack of relief depth, barely-in-the-majors Luke Weaver is firmly entrenched in Boone’s circle of trusted receivers, and Estevan Florial showed everyone 10 days ago why that’s a bad idea. The entire bullpen is a joke. No Yankees reliever is a true strikeout pitcher and no one out of the bullpen can put away a hitter with two strikes on them. Holmes has tried to blow or ruin every game he has come into, but he has had a horseshoe jammed so far up his ass this season, I hope he has been playing Powerball and Mega Millions every single day given what has transpired in his outings for him to still not have allowed an earned run.

If you’re waiting for Tommy Kahnle, Scott Effross and Lou Trivino to save the day, you’re going to be waiting for a long time. And by the time those three are all healthy (if they are ever all healthy at the same time) there might not be a day to save. It’s not early. The season is nearly a month old and we’re approaching the 20 percent mark of the schedule.

8. You may be wondering what I’m writing about since the Yankees are 15-8. If you are, then you were probably wondering what I was writing about when the Yankees were winning nearly every day in April, May and the first half of June in 2022 before that entire season crumbled leading into 2023, which was the worst Yankees season in 30 years.

I don’t view these Yankees as a team that has only played 23 games. How could you? It’s the same team plus Soto from last year. It’s the same team plus Soto from 2022 as well. Sure, some of the names are different, but the production is equal. Rizzo may as well be Josh Donaldson. Torres may as well be Aaron Hicks. The starting pitching is relatively the same and the bullpen is much, much worse without Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King and Wandy Peralta.

9. I would trade King for Soto a trillion times out of a trillion, but when the Yankees knew they weren’t going to have King, how do they not bring back Peralta at a measly $4.25 million a year? He has a 0.82 in 12 appearances for the Padres.

Relying on Loaisiga to be the team’s best reliever was irresponsible given his injury history, much like it was irresponsible to rely on Hicks to be a starting out fielder on the team in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. The Yankees continue to count on players with extensive injury histories and when they inevitably get injured, the front office and manager cry about the injuries and “adversity” the team has had to deal with. 

The Hal Steinbrenner Yankees always have to cut corners somewhere. They will give Judge a monster contract, only to not address left field or the bench. They will trade their farm system for Soto, only to skimp out on the bullpen. For the last six-plus years, both Hal and Brian Cashman have talked about “leaving no stone unturned” when speaking to the media about the free-agent market, and yet they rarely turn over any stones. That’s how you end up with Dennis Santana and his career 5.19 ERA pitching important innings in the third week of April.

10. These Yankees are what they are and that is the same offense of the last four years plus Juan Soto, a starting rotation that rarely gives more than five innings and a bullpen that is being held together by tape, glue and gum scraped off a bleacher from Section 39. Boone has had a mostly error-free three-plus weeks to begin the season. Wait until that changes. The Yankees are 7-2 in one-run games. Of their 23 games, 39 percent have been decided by one run. The more one-run games they play in, the more Boone’s in-game decisions become vitally important. If there’s any part of the Yankees standing on the tracks waiting to be destroyed by the regression train it’s their play in one-run games when managed by Boone.

The offense has the ability to take Boone’s in-game strategy out of the equation before the train comes with an inverse regression of their own. That will take Judge waking up, Rizzo proving he’s past his 2023 head injury and Torres not being the equivalent of a random fan getting to face major-league pitching. If it happens, the Yankees will be fine. It could even happen as early as this week against the A’s mediocre-at-best starting pitching. I’m going to need to see it for a lot longer than a series against the A’s, but after what I watched on Monday, I’ll gladly take any offensive outburst even if it’s against the A’s.