Yankees Thoughts: Good, But Not Good Enough Against Orioles

Yankees wasted chance to sweep Orioles and move two games over .500

After a miserable weekend against the Blue Jays, the Yankees got just what they needed: three games against the Orioles. The Yankees beat up on the Orioles the way they always do, winning two laughers (7-0 and 7-2), but they weren’t able to pull off the sweep as they left nearly every baserunner they had on base in the series finale.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Aaron Judge is hurt. It took five games, and not even five full games for Judge to get hurt. So much for that new offseason workout regimen Eric Cressey implemented. So much for the yoga routine. Four games in right field and one as the designated hitter and Judge is already hurt and has already missed one game due to a potential injury.

On Wednesday, Aaron Boone described Judge as being “sore” on Tuesday. “With the off day tomorrow I don’t want to take any chances,” Boone said.

How does Boone know Judge is sore? Because Judge must have told him. Judge acts like he wants to play no matter what and will play thorugh anything, yet every time he is “sore” or banged up, the manager knows about it. I find that odd for someone who claims to want to be in the lineup every game.

Judge has a history of oblique injuries, which ended his 2016 season early and took two months of his 2019 season. When asked if it is his oblique again, Boone said it’s “general soreness in his side.” Is that not the definiton of an oblique injury? Now we wait. We wait and find out if it’s more than Boone and the Yankees have led on, which it almost always is. It wouldn’t surpise me if it is more and Judge is placed on the injured list or out for an extended period of time since that’s what I have been trained to think over the last few sesaons.

I don’t want Judge to be hurt, but it’s a good thing he is because ifhe was just being given a scheduled day off on Wednesday, I might have been forced to start to root against the Yankees. After giving Giancarlo Stanton the day off on Sunday and Aaron Hicks the day off on Tuesday, when I didn’t see Judge in Wednesday’s lineup, I freaked out. Judge had gone 5-for-8 with two home runs and five RBIs in the first two games of the series, and it would have been irresponsible and unacceptable to give him the day off. If he’s not truly injured or IL-bound and is just “sore” then it’s still pretty ridiculous he didn’t play. You would think Judge would play through anything these days after having missed 138 of a possible 390 games since 2018 and with his free agency looming after 2022. But nope, he’s the same old injury-prone guy. No offseason workout changes or training or medical staff hires can change that.

2. Boone’s early-season catching plans have worked to perfection for him. He had Gary Sanchez catch Gerrit Cole on Opening Day to hide the Cole-Sanchez relationship storyline to begin the season. Then he let Kyle Higashioka catch Cole’s second start, citing it as just a normal day off for Sanchez. But of all the games to give Sanchez a day off, Sanchez got the day off when Cole was starting, and what do you know, having that day off lines up Sanchez to have this coming Sunday afternoon off in Tampa as well. And guess who’s pitching this Sunday afternoon in Tampa, why none other than Cole. What a coincidence! Boone is going to have Higashioka catch Cole as much as possible, and he will cite games like Tuesday when Cole threw seven shutout innings as the reason why. Even though Higashioka’s start and those seven shutout innings came against the Orioles, who could lose 100 games again, and Sanchez’s came against the Blue Jays, who could win the AL East. This storyline isn’t going anywhere. Boone created a monster last season and he continues to feed it.

3. It’s bad enough Aaron Hicks bats third for the Yankees, but it was appalling when Brett Gardner batted third in the fifth game of the season. When Hicks returned the following night, Gardner was moved down to ninth. So Gardner is going to bath ninth when he plays, unless Hicks isn’t playing and then he’s going to bat third? How does that make any sense? It doesn’t. It’s just another nonsensical decision by Boone. There’s no rule stating a left-handed hitter has to bat third. There’s no rule stating one of the team’s weakest hitters has to bat third. It’s just what Boone chooses to do.

Here is a list of some No. 3 hitters in the majors. One of these names is not like the others. Can you figure out which one it is?

Mike Trout
Bryce Harper
Juan Soto
Christian Yelich
Manny Machado
Freddie Freeman
Jose Abreu
Nolan Arenado
Aaron Hicks

4. Hicks batting third (or Gardner batting third on Tuesday) isn’t an organizational decision. It’s a Boone decision. Here’s what Brian Cashman said at his end-of-the-season press conference this past October:

In terms of the lineup and in-game strategies, those are the manager’s. It always has been and as long as I’m the general manager, it never will be different.”

Boone makes the lineup. Boone makes the calls to the bullpen. Boone gives the scheduled days off. It’s all Boone. There’s the idea Boone is a puppet and every move is made by Cashman and his team, but Cashman denied that at the same press conference this past October, saying:

“I know there’s that narrative about the manager being a puppet and none of that’s true. I’ve never ordered a manager to do anything specifically and Aaron would be able to testify to that as well as Joe Girardi and Joe Torre. They’ve never been directed at any time by me or our front office to do something they didn’t want to do.”

Cashman also said:

“Does he push back? The answer is yes. Not every manager has agreed with suggestions made, but every manager was allowed to plot their own course. I think there is a healthy debate that transpires and an all-in commitment once that decision is ultimately made.”

Maybe it’s time you stop letting him push back. There are thousands of people who can manage the Yankees and manage them as poorly as Boone. If Cashman wants his staff to tell Boone what to do, what is Boone going to do? Threaten to quit? Oh no! What would the Yankees ever do?!

The unnecessary rest only goes for position players though. On Wednesday, Chad Green entered the game in the 10th inning and was removed in the 11th inning. Green has already appeared in four of the Yankees’ six games this season and in three of his four appearances, he has been asked to pitch more than an inning. Good long-term plan by the manager who is supposedly so great at load management and keeping his guys fresh. Everyone except the elite bullpen arms the team will need to win the division and win in October.

5. Gleyber Torres’ defense is a problem. A huge problem. There shouldn’t be a sense of relief when a major league shortstop successfully converts a routine ground ball into an out, but that’s what it’s become with Torres at short. Forget making a difficult play, Torres can’t simply field ground balls hit right at him and throw accurately to first base. His defense was a significant problem for the Yankees last season, but the Yankees attributed it to the unique and odd circumstances of 2020. Well, nothing has changed for Torres. His inability to throw the baseball in the air to first base cost the Yankees the game on Wednesday night. Yes, the Yankees only scored two runs despite having 12 hits and two walks, but it was Torres’ 10th-inning error that allowed the go-ahead run to score. Any ball that is hit at him I assume is going to an end in either a fielding or throwing error. That can’t go on. Either he needs to immediately get better or a drastic change needs to be made.

It’s possible the Yankees could eventually change their defensive alignment. They gave Gio Urshela time at shortstop in spring training, and while he has barely played there in his career, Torres plays as though he has barely played there. There’s no chance Urshela is worse at shortstop than Torres is. It’s hard to envision any everyday major league shortstop being worse. Put Urshela at short, Torres back at second, where he had two unbelievable seasons in 2018 and 2019, move DJ LeMahieu over to third and pray Luke Voit comes back soon, so the Jay Bruce experiment can end.

6. Jordan Montgomery was great in his season debut: 6 IP, 4 H 0, R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7K. I was waiting for the crooked number to ruin his night at some point since that’s the way Montgomery’s starts seem to go. Four or five scoreless innings sandwiched around a three-run inning is usually the story with Montgomery. That never happened on Monday, and he shut out the Orioles for six innings, giving the bullpen a much-needed rest in the Yankees’ first easy win of the season. Through one turn in the rotation, Montgomery has been the Yankees at worst the Yankees’ second-best starter.

7. Jameson Taillon was good in his first star in 707 days following his second Tommy John surgery. Good, not great. If you heard Michael Kay and David Cone describe his performance on his way to the dugout, you would have thought he was getting pulled in the ninth inning, an out or two away from a complete-game shutout. Kay said, “Taillon gave the Yankees all they could have asked for.” All they could ask for? What?

Here’s Taillon’s line from his Yankees debut: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 2 HR. I know the Yankees are trying to protect him and avoid using him like the family dining room, which only gets used on holidays and when company is over, but at some point they’re going to have to let him pitch and not fear him get injured.

The same goes for Corey Kluber. The Yankees can’t afford to have two of their five starters only going four and five innings at most each start, or the bullpen will get overused and overworked, and come October, it will be rundown and fatigued.

9. The Yankees needed to see the Orioles this week. After the awful season-opening weekend against the Blue Jays, the Yankees needed some easy wins and to start looking and playing like the Yankees. The Orioles will do that for you. The division is likely going to be won by whichever team beats up on the Orioles and Red Sox the most.

10. Now the Yankees are headed to Tampa on Friday for three games against the Rays — a team the Yankees have had enormous trouble beating in recent years — at the Trop — a place the Yankees never seem to win. I’m sure it’s going to be an intense, frustration-filled weekend in which my heart rate and blood pressure will both hit dangerous levels during the seventh, eighth and ninth games of a 162-game season. But these games are that important to the Yankees winning the division and avoiding the one-game playoff. After attending and sitting through three of those in 2015, 2017 and 2018, I never want to have to sit through one again.

Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast. New episode after every game.

My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!