Yankees Thoughts: ‘Everything Is Fine’

Yankees now 8-15 since All-Star break and 23-27 since June 19

The Yankees lost another series, this time to the last-place Red Sox finish their 2-7 on their nine-game road trip.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. I haven’t heard the YES broadcast booth or any Yankees fan compare the 2022 Yankees to the 1998 Yankees lately. I wonder why that is.

Maybe it’s because the only Yankees the 2022 Yankees are comparable to are the 2021 Yankees. A team whose season was based around one hot streak and who ultimately (to use Aaron Boone’s second-favorite word after “obviously”) underachieved. The 2022 Yankees’ hot streak might have lasted longer than the 2021 Yankees’, but it looks like they are headed down the same path with the same inevitable fate: an early postseason exit.

2. The Yankees are 23-27 since June 19. They are 8-15 since the All-Star break. They are 2-9 in their last 11 games. They were shut out on Sunday night for the third time in eight games. If not for the rest of the AL East playing nearly as poorly as they have for the last eight weeks, they could have easily blown their massive division lead. The lead was at its highest at 15 1/2 games and now sits at 10 games. So while they have managed to erase 35 percent of their lead, it’s still a double-digit lead because the Blue Jays and Rays failed to capitalize on an opportunity to overtake the Yankees.

“If you would have asked me at the start of the year, would I like a 10-game lead in the middle of August?” Aaron Judge said to the media after Sunday night’s shutout loss, “I think any of us would have signed up for that.”

That’s true. But that’s also like being given $1 million, losing one third of it and then trying to justify being fine with it just because you didn’t expect to have the $1 million in the first place.

3. At 3-10 since the trade deadline, the Yankees’ marginal upgrades at the time haven’t even been that. Andrew Benintendi looks like the guy the Red Sox gave up on, and while he was always expected to regress, regressing to be worse than Joey Gallo is certainly something else. Scott Effross’ only earned runs came on one mistake pitch (a giant mistake at that) and Lou Trivino has been OK, but both have them have been used at times after Albert Abreu and Lucas Luetge have pitched and been allowed to blow games. Frankie Montas has pitched like a No. 5 starter in two starts, and a bad No. 5 at that, and Harrison Bader still isn’t close to playing for the Yankees. Add in Jordan Montgomery putting together two scoreless starts for the Cardinals (with one coming against the Yankees), and to date, the Yankees couldn’t have botched the deadline any worse than they did.

The new Yankees are only a small portion of the team’s problems. The majority of the rest of the team is the still the problem.

4. Anthony Rizzo finally decided to halt his non-injured list stint after a week of missing games and is 1-for-15 with six strikeouts since returning.

A week ago, for the third time, people thought Josh Donaldson was finally going to turn his season around after he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs in the series opener in Seattle. Since then he’s 2-for-18 with nine strikeouts, and his season OPS is back below .700 yet again.

The idea that 2018-19 Gleyber Torres was back was always an illusion. Since July 28, Torres is hitting .154/.167/.200. His OPS was at .802 at the beginning of play that day. It’s now at .729 as he tries to become another everyday Yankees to have a sub-.700 OPS.

Aaron Hicks is part of the sub.-700 OPS club. His is at .650. Remember when he homered in three of four games from July 6 through July 9 and there was this perception his power (or whatever power he has ever had) has returned and he was going to turn his season around? Well, July 9 was the last time he homered, 37 days ago. Since then he’s hitting .165/.297/.165 with no extra-base hits.

Benintendi is an exceptional candidate for worst deadline acquisition of all time, hitting .196/.323/.294 with the Yankees. If you want to say “Oh, it’s only 16 games,” well, the Yankees traded for him prior to Game 100, so he has played more than one quarter of the games he will be a Yankee for.

Want to call Saturday’s win over the Red Sox the “Isiah Kiner-Falefa Game?” Go ahead. That’s the only game he has had as a Yankee that could be considered that. After 104 games played, he’s hitting .269/.315/.323 with one home run as he tries to be the worst everyday player to play for a championship team.

5. The Yankees aren’t currently a championship team. Not with the combination of an abundance of underachieving players and an abundance of injuries. Maybe in late April, May and early June they were when they were getting seven innings of one-run or shutout ball every night from their starting pitching and they were completely healthy. But even then, the offense was severely flawed, and as the injuries have mounted, the offense has only gotten worse.

6. The only players to be consistent this season have been Judge, Jose Trevino, Nestor Cortes, DJ LeMahieu, Matt Carpenter, Jose Trevino, Nestor Cortes, Michael King, Ron Marinaccio and Clarke Schmidt. Judge is the AL MVP and Trevino and Cortes All-Stars. LeMahieu is now injured, which is why he didn’t play on Sunday night. Carpenter is out for possibly the season and King is out for this year and maybe all of next, while Marinaccio and Schmidt are both wasting away in Triple-A because they have options to allow the Yankees to manipulate the team’s depth. Everyone else has been inconsistent, awful or has underachieved.

7. I never thought Clay Holmes would be a part of the inconsistent group on this team. Not after how good he was for the first three months of the season. But now that he doesn’t know where the ball is going and walks at least one batter an appearance, he can’t be trusted just like the rest of the bullpen. He’s been so bad since mid-July that Aroldis Chapman has jumped him on the bullpen pecking order and Chapman is the least trustworthy reliever given the high-leverage situations he’s used in. Holmes has allowed 11 earned runs, 11 hits and 10 walks in his last 9 2/3 innings with opposing batters hitting .282/.482/.385 off him.  Prior to July 9, batters had hit .165/.213/.188 off him and he allowed two earned runs, 22 hits and five walks in 38 innings. The Yankees’ bullpen is too beat up and too shallow now to have Holmes be Jonathan Holder.

8. It would be nice if Giancarlo Stanton could play baseball in the near future. Stanton has missed 35 games this season, the equivalent of 32 percent of the season. (I thought Eric Cressy and his team has solved injuries! It’s almost as if you can’t prevent injuries, especially for historically injury-prone players.) But what you can prevent is the amount of time it takes for Stanton to return. Stanton has taken one day to shag balls, another to swing a bat, another to run the bases, another to go through a pregame routine, and so on. Basically one day per baseball-related activity. It’s all pretty ridiculous and there’s no evidence this will prevent him from getting injured in his first game back.

With Rizzo out and now back but being unproductive, LeMahieu now out, Carpenter out, the Yankees could desperately use Stanton. But I’m sure he will need to brush his teeth on Monday and then go through buttoning his jersey on Tuesday and then try to tie his cleats on Wednesday and maybe at this rate he will be cleared to play by Labor Day.

9. Things are likely to get worse before they get better, and I don’t know how much worse they can get for a team that has the second-worst record in the AL since the All-Star break, trailing only the Tigers. On Monday, the Yankees begin a nine-game homestand against the Rays (3), Blue Jays (4) and Mets (2). For a team that in the last month has split a series with the Pirates, lost a home series to the Reds, has lost five of nine to the Red Sox, got swept by the Mets and Cardinals and lost four of six to the Mariners, I don’t know how anyone could feel good going into these nine games. Add in the unknown with LeMahieu’s foot injury, the underperformance of every offensive player not named Judge or Trevino, the shakiness of the rotation after Cortes, the instability of the entire bullpen, the front office’s unwillingness to call anyone up, and the incompetency of the manager, and you have a team that could really screw up its season over the next nine days.

10. Now that the comparisons to the 1998 team’s success have stopped, the comparisons to the Septembers of the 1998 and 2000 teams have started. Two teams that finished out their regular seasons like these Yankees have played for the last eight weeks. The difference is those teams knew how to flip a switch and they could flip the switch once the postseason began. They also earned the right to be allowed to flip the switch with four championships in five years and six championship appearances in eight years.

These Yankees haven’t earned that benefit. They haven’t earned anything other than for fans to think this season will end the same way every other season has ended with this group and this core: early. The Yankees may be headed to the postseason and headed there with a bye to the ALDS, but that doesn’t mean they will do anything once they get there. After these last eight weeks, the only thing I can see them doing is holding an end-of-the-season press conference while the ALCS is going on without them.

They have six-and-a-half weeks to change that.

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