Yankees Thoughts: Brian Cashman Was Right, ‘Rays Are Better Franchise’

Rays now 8-5 against Yankees, outscoring them 64-37 this season

The Yankees aren’t very good right now. The last time I felt really good about the Yankees was right before Adam Ottavino’s first pitch in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS. The Yankees had a 1-0 series and had a 2-1 lead in Game 2 over Justin Verlander, but Ottavino gave up a home run to George Springer, and since then, the Yankees have been a disappointment.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. At his end-of-the-season press conference last October following the Yankees’ ALDS elimination, Brian Cashman said the following about the Rays: “They are a better franchise right now than we are.”

Since then, the Rays have gone 8-5 against the Yankees outscoring them 64-37, and have a 4 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East, so they are clearly still better.

Cashman did nothing to close the gap between the teams in the offseason, either because he didn’t feel the need to or because ownership wouldn’t let him. Either way, the Yankees failed to get any better or change in any way.

Cashman turned Masahiro Tanaka into Corey Kluber (injured) and Jameson Taillon (ineffective), turned Adam Ottavino into Darren O’Day (injured) and Justin Wilson (ineffective) and brought back the same exact lineup that failed to hit in the postseason. And when you bring back the same team, you get the same results.

The Yankees team that went 33-27 in the shortened 2020 season is now 31-26  in 2021. The offense is the second-worst in the AL, having only scored more runs than the lowly Tigers, who just swept the Yankees. On days when the starting pitching isn’t lights out, and I mean lights out as in pitch black and complete darkness, the Yankees lose.

2. The Yankees celebrated Memorial Day Weekend by getting swept by the Tigers and then scored one run in the first game of the four-game series against the Rays. Here are the Yankees’ runs scored by series over their last seven series with the average per game for the series in parentheses:

Tampa Bay: 12 (3.0)
Detroit: 5 (1.7)
Toronto: 7 (2.3)
Chicago: 14 (4.7)
Texas: 13 (3.3)
Baltimore: 19 (6.3)
Tampa Bay: 5 (1.7)

3. The Yankees managed to win a game started by Tyler Glasnow because Glasnow momentarily lost control and walked in a run and then threw a wild pitch to score a second run on back-to-back batters. Without Glasnow handing the Yankees a pair of runs in the second game in the series, things might be even worse than they currently are for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ bullpen helped the Yankees with two games in the series. In the second and third games of the series, the bullpen combined to pitch to this line: 8.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 9 BB, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.205 WHIP. Even Luis Cessa pitched one of those 8 1/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts.

After the Yankees won the second and third games of the four-game series, I foolishly thought ‘Maybe this is when they turn their season around.’ Once again, the Yankees made a mockery of wishful thinking.

4. Gerrit Cole turned in his second clunker in four starts, and even if he had been great, he would have had to be dominant because the Yankees only “mounted” (to use one of Aaron Boone’s favorite words) two runs in the game, both on solo home runs, and because you better believe Boone wasn’t going to use Jonathan Loaisiga, Chad Green or Aroldis Chapman in the game.

During the first inning on Thursday, Michael Kay and John Flaherty wondered on the broadcast who would be available for the Yankees out of the bullpen. It would seem impossible everyone wouldn’t be available for a game against the Rays with the Yankees trailing them by 3 1/2 games in the standings, but it was a very logical question to ask with Boone as manager.

Yes, Loaisiga, Green and Chapman had all pitched on Tuesday and Wednesday, but over the last 10 days they had each only pitched three times. None of them pitched from May 24 through May 26, all three pitched on May 27, and then none of them pitched from May 28 through May 31. Isn’t the idea of not pitching them in games the Yankees are losing, so they can pitch in games the Yankees are winning, regardless of whether or not they pitched two days in a row?

5. Two runs against Ryan Yarbrough, the average left-hander, who was supposed to be an opener and ended up throwing a complete game. Yarbrough has now shut the Yankees down in three appearances this season, while being awful against every other team.

Against the Yankees:
17.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, 1.56 ERA, 0.694 WHIP

Against all other teams:
48.2 IP, 53 H, 32 R, 26 ER, 10 BB, 39 K, 8 HR, 4.81 ERA, 1.294 WHIP

6. The next time Cole starts, Gary Sanchez needs to catch. The personal catcher experiment is over. When Cole is allowing five earned runs in two of four starts, to the last-place Rangers and the team that strikes out more than any other team in the Rays, it’s over. Higashioka isn’t hitting even close to enough to get as much playing time as he has been this season, and now the magic of he and Cole has worn out (because there never was any magic).

7. Miguel Andujar hit three home runs in the four-game series against the Rays. So why does he keep batting at the bottom of the order? How are Odor and Brett Gardner not the 8-9 hitters whenever they play? It shouldn’t be hard to fill out the lineup card, yet somehow it is every day.

8. Between Opening Day and May 13, Giancarlo Stanton had four personal days off for extra rest to prevent injury. He got injured anyway because there’s no way to prevent injury other than to not play. So apparently that’s what the Yankees are going to do: not play their highest-paid position player, who is making $179,012.35 per game this season. (Wait until his 2023, 2024 and 2025 when he’s 33, 34 and 35 years old and making $197,530.86 per game).

Since coming off the injured list on May 28, here is how Stanton’s days have gone:

May 28: 0-for-5, 4 K
May 29: Personal day off
May 30: 0-for-3, 2 BB, 2 K
May 31: 0-for-4, 2 K
June 1: Personal day off (0-for-1 as pinch hitter)
June 2: 1-for-3, BB, K
June 3: Personal day off

Stanton is only ever the designated hitter, yet somehow he gets injured more than players who actually play in the field. Considering he has struck out in nine of 19 plate appearances, he has walked to the plate and back to the dugout to sit and wait for his next at-bat 47 percent of the time since returning from the IL. He hasn’t scored a run since coming off the IL, so he has yet to actually round the bases or truly run or run hard.

Stanton doesn’t look like a player who needs to rest, he looks like a player who needs at-bats, having gone 1-for-16 with three walks and nine strikeouts since returning from the IL.

Stanton is having another underwhelming season, hitting .259/.331/.814 and has missed a combined 17 games due to injury and personal days off.

9. Mike Ford is no longer a Yankee … again. Well, he’s still with the Yankees, just not a Yankee in terms of being a major leaguer.

On his last day as his most recent stint in the majors, at 3:45 p.m. the Yankees posted their lineup with Ford batting fifth. Ford entered the game 18-for-131 dating back to the beginning of 2020, but that didn’t stop Boone from batting him in the exact middle of the lineup and ahead of Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar. Ford went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the game, and at 11:55 p.m., the Yankees announced he had been sent down to Triple-A. Good enough to bat fifth for the Yankees at 3:45 p.m., not good enough to be a Yankee at 11:55 p.m.

This isn’t the first time the Yankees have done something like this. Last season, they did it all the time. In a game against the Rays last year, Andujar was used as a pinch hitter for Mike Tauchman with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Andujar didn’t get on base, and after the game he was sent to the alternate site. Good enough to pinch hit in the ninth, not good enough to be on the team after pinch hitting.

It happened with Ford as well. Ford was sent down at the beginning of September last year, deemed not good enough to be a Yankee for the last month of the regular season. But there was Ford on the postseason roster, and there he was pinch hitting with the season on the line over both Sanchez and Frazier in Game 5. Not good enough to be a Yankee in September, good enough to pinch hit in October.

10. This weekend, the Yankees need to get back on track and need to continue to send the Red Sox where they belong and that’s one place above the Orioles in the AL East standings. The Red Sox have a very challenging schedule coming up, having just played the Astros, they play the Yankees, a make-up game against the Marlins, then the Astros again, the Blue Jays and Braves.

It’s time the Red Sox leave the AL East race and the AL East becomes the three-team race I expected it to be in 2021. The Yankees have the opportunity to do that this weekend.

Do I expect the Yankees to suddenly start hitting and scoring runs at even a mediocre rate? No. But I have no choice other than to think it might happen at some point.

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