The Yankees have lost seven of their last nine games and it seems as though the April 1-July 4 Yankees have returned. The Yankees have 25 games left to change the narrative on their season yet again, and if they don’t, there will be plenty of blame to go around this October.
1. I was beginning to get nervous the Yankees’ play since the second game of the doubleheader on July 4, including their 13-game winning streak, had made Yankees fans forget how awful Aaron Boone is at his job and how bad this Yankees team is. The mirage that was the Yankees’ recent run has come to an end and sandwiched around their 35-11 record between July 4-August 27 is a 43-48 record. The Yankees have lost seven of their last nine games with each loss seemingly uglier than the one before it.
The Yankees were expected to represent the American League in the World Series this season and were the odds-on favorite to win the pennant. They can still do so, but it’s going to be extremely difficult, and anything short of a World Series appearance should be the end of Boone’s time as Yankees manager. A wild-card berth isn’t nearly enough. An ALDS loss apperance isn’t enough. A fifth ALCS loss for the franchise in 12 years can’t be enough. Get to the World Series or say goodbye to Boone and make a needed change at manager.
2. There is this weird faction of Yankees fans who think Brian Cashman and Boone are not to blame at all for this Yankees team and this season, always wanting to blame the players. It’s never the fault of the front office or the manager. The front office only puts together the roster and the manager only creates the lineup and manages the bullpen and in-game decisions.
If I were to start at shortstop for the Yankees tonight and make multiples errors and go hitless at the plate, or if I were to be used as a reliever and failed to protect a late lead, these Yankees fans would blame me for my performance. They wouldn’t blame Cashman for putting me on the roster or Boone for putting me in the game.
I know this because there are fans who blame Gleyber Torres and Andrew Heaney for Sunday’s loss to the Orioles in the second game of the series.
3. Torres took his sweet time on a routine ground ball, which would have ended the sixth inning and maintained a 7-2 Yankees lead. After he was unable to make the routine play, the inning was extended and Albert Abreu allowed a two-run home run to make it 7-4.
Torres is an awful shortstop. He has never been good defensively, and his bat is no longer capable of negating his defense. But Torres doesn’t pencil himself in as the starting shortstop (and he doesn’t write him name into the seventh spot in the batting order above Gary Sanchez either).
The Yankees knew Torres was a defensive liability coming into the season. They knew he would be unable to consistently make what’s considered a routine play by major-league standards. Yet they still went into 2021 with him as their starting shortstop. But the same way the Yankees stubbornly told fans their all-right-handed lineup could be successful before trading for two left-handed bats in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, the Yankees tried to right their wrong in believing in Torres when they unsuccessfully tried acquire Trevor Story in July. Torres will either be off the position in 2022 or possibly off the team. The Yankees’ failed trade of Story says so. There are still 25 regular-season games left in 2021 though and then possibly one or more postseason games.
4. While Torres was out, the Yankees were winning and Andrew Velazquez became the easiest Yankee of all time to root for. With the Bronx native, who’s living at his parents while playing for the team he grew up dreaming about playing for, starting at shortstop every day, I wrote and said if Torres didn’t play well upon his return that the calls would begin to play Velazquez every day. Those calls have started.
In four games since coming off the IL, Torres is 3-for-13 with four strikeouts and no extra-base hits and a litany of mistakes in the field. Whether he’s botching balls, taking too long to get off throws or mishandling throws on steal attempts, Torres’ defense should be enough for him to sit on the bench. With a .686 OPS and nine home runs in his last 145 games and 580 plate appearances, Torres should no longer be an automatic when it comes to being in the starting lineup.
5. In the seventh, an inning after Torres’ miscue led to two runs, the Yankees still had a 7-4 lead. Get nine outs before allowing three runs. With the heart of the Orioles’ order due up, Andrew Heaney was brought into the game. Heaney had recently been moved to the bullpen to accommodate the return of Corey Kluber, even though Heaney had two career relief appearances before this season and even though he proved incapable of being a reliever in relief of Kluber the last time through the rotation in Anaheim. But with the Orioles’ 3-4-5 hitters due up, Heaney was brought in.
Heaney hit Trey Mancini with a pitch, allowed a single to DJ Stewart, a single to Austin Hays, a double to Jahmai Jones and after finally getting an out, another single to Jorge Mateo. Heaney faced six batters, five of them being right-handed.
I’m not upset with Heaney for his performance. He sucks. He didn’t ask to be traded to the Yankees. He didn’t put himself in the bullpen with essentially no experience as a reliever. He didn’t put himself in Sunday’s game, He didn’t keep himself in the game to turn a three-run lead into a one-run deficit, while recording one out. His roster spot is on Cashman and his continued use is on Boone. The Yankees have been unable to properly evaluate Heaney’s ability and haven’t come close to putting him in the best possible position to succeed. In return, he has allowed 24 earned runs and 10 home runs in 28 1/3 innings.
6. “He’s going to have to step up,” Boone said about Heaney on Sunday. “He wants the ball and he’s going to have to take advantage of an opportunity when he gets it.”
“When he gets it?!?!” The next time Heaney should get the ball is when he’s wearing a different uniform. There are 25 games left in the season, the Yankees haven’t clinched a postseason berth and one of their paths to the postseason (as the division winner) has been taken off the board. The Yankees’ only opportunity to reach the postseason is as one of the two wild-card teams. Their only opportunity to reach an actual postseason series is to then win a one-game playoff. The only way for them to reach a seven-game series will be to survive a five-game series against the Rays without Gerrit Cole for the first two games of the series.
Despite all of this and the uphill battle the Yankees face to reaching the playoffs, advancing to the ALDS, getting to the ALCS and potentially returning to the World Series for the first time in 12 years, Boone is filling out his lineup card and making in-game decisions as if it’s March in Tampa and the results of the games are meaningless. The roster is being managed the same way. When the rosters expanded from 26 to 28 on September 1, the Yankees used one of the two spots on Brooks Kriske. Brooks Kriske! BROOKS KRISKE!
7. At this point Kriske is my favorite Yankee. What Kriske has been able to do in becoming a Yankee, having his 40-man roster spot protected over Garrett Whitlock in the offseason and then maintaining his 40-man spot this season to collect major-league pay and service despite having zero career success has been nothing short of amazing.
In 11 1/3 career innings, Kriske has put 29 runners on base, allowed 19 earned runs, including six home runs, walked 13 and thrown seven wild pitches. He has a 15.09 ERA (11.11 FIP) and 2.471 WHIP. It’s not unrealistic to think you could pick any pitcher from Single-A and put them in the majors and get better results.
8. It made no sense to give one of the two additional rosters to Kriske, the the same way it made no sense to pitch him in a three-run game against the Blue Jays on Monday, a team the Yankees are trying to hold off from taking their playoff spot.
Like Heaney and Torres, I’m not mad at Kriske. He sucks. He didn’t ask to be called up on September 1 despite doing absolutely nothing to merit a call-up. He didn’t ask to come into Monday’s game, just like he didn’t ask to come into any other game or to even be a Yankee in the first place. His use is on the Yankees failing to properly evaluate his ability and for to continuing to use him as a viable major league reliever. I hope he stays on the roster and keeps pitching. Good for him. Get that major league money and that service time. I’m rooting for him.
9. The Blue Jays’ humiliation of the Yankees on Monday was expected. The Blue Jays are really good. They have a plus-136 run differential on the season, the same run differential as the White Sox who play 76 games against the Indians, Tigers, Royals and Twins. If not for the Blue Jays’ bullpen failing them for a large portion of the season, the Yankees would be chasing them and not the other way around.
The Blue Jays now trail the Yankees by three games in the loss column and their schedule is set up for them to control their own destiny. Half of the Blue Jays’ 26 remaining games are against the Yankees (6) and Orioles (7). They are playing the team they are chasing and they are playing the worst team in the majors, a team that no one has trouble beating other than the Yankees.
10. I’m now worried about both the Blue Jays and the Red Sox (who trail the Yankees by two games in the loss column). The Red Sox aren’t as good as the Blue Jays (or the Yankees) with a lineup that has three hitters, a bad bullpen and one starting pitcher. But like the Blue Jays, the Red Sox have a favorable schedule to end the season with six games left against the Orioles and they finish the season with three games against the Nationals.
The Yankees may “hold” a wild-card spot at this moment, however, a bad week against the Blue Jays could change that, and a continued bad month will change it for good.
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