Yankees Thoughts: ‘Championship-Caliber’

The Yankees picked up post-All-Star break right where they left off. After losing two of three to the Cubs before the break, they lost two of three to the Rockies after it. They are in last place in the AL East and are out of a playoff spot.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The Yankees got a gift. They got a gift of opening the “second half” of the season with nine games against the NL-worst Rockies, Mike Trout-less Angels and barely-better-than-the-A’s Royals. It would be the perfect opportunity for the Yankees to make up ground in the postseason race, and possibly position themselves to hold a playoff spot when Aaron Judge potentially returns, and for when Brian Cashman finally does what he was expected to do in the offseason and upgrade the offense. They have pissed away one-third of this scheduling gift.

In the last two weeks, the Yankees have had a third player in eight seasons suspended for domestic violence, went 3-3 on a road trip against the last-place A’s and last-place Cardinals, lost a home series to the Cubs, disgraced the iconic Yankees uniform with a Starr Insurance jersey sleeve advertisement, fell to last place in the AL East, fell out of a playoff spot, fired their hitting coach and hired Aaron Boone’s friend of 30 years with no coaching experience for the position and now lost two of three to the worst team in the NL.

2. “It’s baseball, Major League Baseball,” Boone said when asked how he could call his Yankees “championship-caliber” when they can’t beat the worst team in the NL. “Save it with that question.”

The Rockies are barely Major League Baseball. They are rostering the two worst starting pitchers in the majors in their rotation with the only goal of them eating innings until their miserable, lost season ends. Austin Gomber entered Friday with a 6.40 ERA and an .884 OPS against (the equivalent of every hitter being about Juan Soto against him). The Yankees scored two runs off him before they made an out in the game and then didn’t score another run off him or any Rockies pitcher for the rest of the game. On Sunday, Chase Anderson entered the game with a 6.89 ERA and a .932 OPS against (the equivalent of every hitter being about Freddie Freeman against him). He shut out the Yankees for five innings.

3. So much for Sean Casey “having an impact” like he promised he would when he was sketchily hired. I say “sketchily” because this is what A.J. Pierzynski said he heard at the Home Run Derby in Seattle about how the firing of Dillon Lawson and hiring of Casey supposedly went down.

“When were at the Home Run Derby, someone told us the story of how it happened, and this was like a week ago that Boonie called Casey and said, ‘Hey, will you be my hitting coach?'” Pierzynski said. “And Casey’s like, ‘I don’t know, brother,’ and then he called him back and said he would do it because he said it was a no-lose situation. If they do great, he’s the hero, and if they do shitty like they already are, he’s like, ‘Eh, it’s two months.'”

If that’s true, and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, since Pierzynski is more than well connected in the league, and because Boone is buddies with Casey, it’s a pretty disturbing way for Cashman and the Yankees to conduct business, and also proves their timeline of the events were a flat-out lie. Cashman said he asked for Hal Steinbrenner’s “blessing” to make the first in-season coaching change of his general manager tenure just before he fired Lawson. (As if Hall Steinbrenner even knew who Lawson was.) Only the best from and for the New York Yankees.

4. Casey was made out to be a hero by YES in the first inning of Friday’s game when he was shown celebrating Giancarlo Stanton’s first-inning home run off Gomber as if he were the winner of the current historic Powerball drawing. I didn’t see much of Casey for the rest of Friday’s game as the Yankees never scored again in the game, and didn’t see any of him for the rest of the weekend, as the Yankees scored two runs off Gomber and Anderson in 11 innings, and at one point, had a streak of 12 straight scoreless innings at Coors Field. Casey was never going to fix the Yankees because they are unfixable. Hitting coaches are neither good nor bad. My two-year-old and one-year-old could be the head and assistant hitting coaches of the Braves right now and it would have no impact on Ronald Acuna’s inevitable NL MVP win.

The Yankees scored two runs on Friday, managed to score six on Saturday and then only scored on Sunday because of a parade of comedic errors from the Rockies’ defense. (There’s a reason why they’re 22 games under .500). With Sunday’s loss, the Yankees maintained their place in the basement of the division and fell to two games out of the last playoff spot.

5. Seven years ago, the Yankees were slogging their way through July when Cashman decided to sell instead of buy and reset the Yankees’ roster. This July feels a lot like that July. Here is what he said about July 2016 after the 2016 season.

“It was a series of twists and turns of this year. We obviously had high hopes,” Cashman said. “It was a mixed bag. It was a very frustrating and difficult process in the first three months of the season. Ultimately, we know when the dust settled, when it’s all said and done, the season did not achieve the stated goal, which was the first get to the playoffs and try to compete for a championship in October.”

That sounds a lot like this season, doesn’t it? He also said this about the decision to sell at the 2016 deadline.

“We have a worldwide network of fans that we’re proud to have. They’re very sophisticated,” Cashman said. “This was something that we think is something that they wanted to transpire, and they wanted us to press the reset button. And you know, in many cases I was tired of seeing what was transpiring in the first few months this year. Been there, done that, it’s time to do something that wasn’t part of the DNA. I think our fanbase recognizes what we did in July, and responded in kind with a lot of excitement.”

6. Maybe the Yankees will rip off six straight wins against the Angels and Royals and a week from today they will hold a playoff spot with a week to go until the deadline. But if they don’t, and this road trip that is off to a catastrophic start continues to unravel, they should not invest in this team and further deplete their farm system to fill holes they could have filled in the offseason using just cash, the thing they make more of than any team. Unfortunately, no matter what happens between now and the trade deadline, I don’t see the Yankees selling. And no matter what happens between now and the trade deadline, Boone isn’t worried.

7. “I’m not worried about where we are,” Boone said on Friday in response to falling into last place in the division. “It’s all right there in front of us.”

Boone has never been worried a day as Yankees manager, and why would he be? As long as Cashman holds his position, Boone is bulletproof. Boone survived the 2018 ALDS Games 3 and 4 debacle. He survived his bullpen management in the 2019 ALCS. He survived his pitching decisions in he 2020 ALDS. He survived the Yankees losing home-field advantage for the 2021 wild-card game and a loss in that game. He survived his choices in Game 1 of the 2022 ALCS and using the 2004 ALCS as a motivation tactic for his team when trailing 3-0 in that series. He received a multi-year contract extension with an option after creating a comfortable-with-losing culture in a clubhouse that doesn’t know what the term “accountability” means. There’s always tomorrow in Boone’s world as he preaches what the Broadway orphan sang about. The sun will come up on Monday in Anaheim for Boone as Yankees manager, and it will come up at the end of the season when it inevitably ends in an early playoff exit or even without a playoff appearance.

8. When the postseason expanded to five teams and the one-game, wild-card playoff, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t want to have to experience the Yankees possibly playing in a one-game playoff. (Little did I know, in 10 years with that format, they would play in four of them.) Even though I didn’t like the idea of the Yankees appearing in a one-game playoff for my health, it made it easier to stomach knowing they would never miss the playoffs with 33 percent of the league reaching the postseason inn that format. (Little did I I know, they would miss the playoffs three times in the 10 seasons with that format.)

When the postseason expanded to six teams last year, I had the same feeling as I did when they expanded to five. I didn’t want the Yankees to have to play in a best-of-3 and possibly even a best-of-3 with all three games on the road. But I knew with six playoff teams per league and 40 percent of teams reaching the postseason, the Yankees would never miss the postseason again. Not with their financial resources. Well, the possibility they won’t reach the postseason is already a thing in Year 2 of the format.

9. The Yankees need to pass the Red Sox to be the first team out of the playoffs. Then they need to pass the Astros who they are two games in back of for the last playoff spot, or the Blue Jays who they are three games in back of. The first wild-card spot is gone as a path to the postseason. If you think the Yankees can catch the Orioles, then you think they can catch the Rays since the Rays now have more losses than the Orioles and are only ahead of them in the standings because of percentage points since they have played four more games. The Yankees have two paths to the playoffs, and the Red Sox, Astros and Blue Jays stand in their way. Not exactly a great place to be.

10. “We got two-and-a-half months to put ourselves in a position to be championship-caliber,” Boone said on Sunday, walking back claims from the Yankees that they are already “championship-caliber.”

I don’t look at the rest of the season as “Hey, the Yankees have two-and-a-half months to turn the season around.” I look at it like “I can’t believe I have two watch this team for another two-and-a-half months.”

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