Yankees Thoughts: New Low Point in This Sad Season

Yankees' inability to win division games will keep them out of postseason

Well, that sucked. The Yankees had a chance to have a big weekend in Boston and it couldn’t have gone worse. The Yankees were swept by the Red Sox for the second time this season and are now 0-6 against their rival.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. If you thought the Yankees getting swept by the Rays at Yankee Stadium in mid-April to fall to 5-10 was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought getting shut down by Matt Harvey at the end of April was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought getting shut down by Jordan Lyles in mid-May was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought getting swept by the Tigers at the end of May was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought losing 10 of 13 at the end of May and beginning of June was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought allowing a complete-game shutout to Ryan Yarbrough (he has pitched to a 1.56 ERA and 0.692 WHIP in three games against the Yankees and a 5.43 ERA and 1.333 WHIP against every other team) was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you thought getting swept by the Red Sox at the beginning of June was the low point of the season, it wasn’t. If you think going to Boston with a chance to erase the loss-column deficit in the AL East and instead get swept to increase that deficit to six games, well it is. This weekend was the lowest point of the 2021 season.

2. It’s hard to take the Yankees seriously as anything more than an average team. The preseason AL favorite, they are now 6 1/2 games back in the division and five games out of the second-wild card berth.

It’s hard to take them seriously because they can’t hit with consistency, can’t pitch with consistency, can’t field with consistency, can’t run the bases with consistency and can’t manage with consistency. Most importantly, they can’t win with consistency, now just three games over. 500.

“Inconsistency has kind of defined us so far,” Aaron Boone said after Sunday’s embarrassing 9-2 loss.

“Kind of?” “Kind of?!” “KIND OF?!” Boone likes to sugarcoat everything that comes out of his mouth, but adding a “kind of” in that sentence might be the most ridiculous bullshit he has ever said as Yankees manager. There’s no kind of. The Yankees are inconsistent. It’s why they’re in fourth place in the division after 77 games and 48 percent of the season.

“We have the people in that room to get this done,” Boone said after getting swept by the Red Sox for the second time this season. “We can’t wait and look around for a magic move to make us better.”

What exactly is “this” anyway? Simply making the postseason? Winning a wild-card berth? Hosting the wild-card game? “This” should mean winning the World Series, considering Boone took over a team that came within one game of the World Series and the team has gone backward under his leadership though I think by “this” he meant making the postseason, and simply making the postseason shouldn’t be acceptable. But when you have a loser manager who has done nothing in his career but lose, is OK with losing and has made his players believe it’s OK to lose, then doing the bare minimum becomes acceptable.

A lot of Yankees fans forgot about the movement to replace Boone as manager over the three series prior to this one because the Yankees had gone 7-2. I didn’t forget. Because even when they were beating the Blue Jays, A’s and Royals, Boone was doing everything he could to not put his players in the best possible position to succeed, and was doing everything he could to manage his team to losses.

What “magic move” could the Yankees make to make the team better other than to get a whole new team? All offseason I wrote and talked about how poorly constructed the 2021 roster was and my worst fears have come true and then some. I thought the Yankees would have issues fending off the Rays and Blue Jays in the division and at best would lose in the first round of the playoffs. Making the first round of the playoffs is now a pipe dream. The first time I said I would sign up for the Yankees settling for the second wild-card spot was back on April 14. Two-and-a-half months later and they need to jump the Blue Jays, Mariners, Indians and A’s for a postseason spot.

3. If your name isn’t DJ LeMahieu (7-for-19) or Gary Sanchez (.400 OBP), you didn’t do much this weekend. That includes Aaron Judge who went 3-for-12 with a home run, two RBIs and a walk. Judge continues to be a huge disappointment with runners on base (.961 OPS with the bases empty and .781 OPS with runners on) and in late-and-close situations (.765 OPS). It’s gotten to the point where it might be best to bat Judge leadoff, so he has at least one at-bat per game with no one on to increase his chances at hitting a home run (12 solo home runs and five multi-run home runs). Judge did hit a two-run home run in Sunday’s game when the Yankees trailed by six runs. But when he came up with the bases loaded representing the tying run in the seventh inning, he popped out to first base. The night before he had a chance to tie the game or give the Yankees the lead the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, but he struck out against Adam Ottavino.

4. The Yankees are paying Ottavino to pitch for the Red Sox. Rather than retain Ottavino and sign Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson, the Yankees chose to trade Ottavino to the Red Sox of all teams to shed payroll to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. Staying under the threshold was more important to the Steinbrenners than winning, and because of it, the Yankees gifted the Red Sox a right-handed reliever who possesses the Yankees’ kryptonite: high-velocity fastballs and impossible breaking balls. Knowing they could face Ottavino up to 19 times in the regular season and that their expected everyday lineup would feature at least eight right-handed hitters, the Yankees still willingly made the move to save money to avoid exceeding the imaginary salary cap. Ottavino has pitched in four of the six games between the Yankees and Red Sox this season, and the Red Sox have won all four. Of course they have since they have won all six games in the series.

5. To make matters worse, Red Sox’ right-handed reliever Garrett Whitlock continues to get important outs against the Yankees. Whitlock was a Yankee, but they let him go in the Rule 5 draft and the Red Sox selected him. The Yankees thought it was more important to keep Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske on the 40-man roster than Whitlock. In eight games this season, Nelson has pitched to a 9.75 ERA and has put 23 baserunners on in 12 innings. Kriske pitched to a 14.73 ERA last season and has an 11.25 ERA this season. Kriske’s career line: 7.2 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 9 BB, 11 K, 3 HR, 12.91 ERA, 2.348 WHIP.

Here is what Ottavino has done against the Yankees: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2.08 ERA, 0.924 WHIP

Here is what Whitlock has done against the Yankees: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.750 WHIP

6. Even with the left-handed Eduardo Rodriguez and his 6.07 ERA pitching for the Red Sox, the Yankees weren’t going to overcome a first-inning, four-run deficit. And they didn’t as Rodriguez turned in arguably his best start of the season (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 HR).

“I do think we were prepared,” Boone said. “I felt like we were ready to go all weekend.”

The Yankees “were prepared” and yet they trailed 4-0 after an inning, couldn’t hit a bad left-handed starter and lost 9-2? Boone “felt the Yankees were ready to go all weekend” and they went 0-3 and scored seven runs in 27 innings at the most right-handed-hitter-friendly park in all of baseball?

Clearly, Boone can’t read his own clubhouse, and clearly, whatever message he is delivering to his team isn’t getting through. A change is long overdue. I don’t expect the Yankees to make one midseason since the Yankees under Hal Steinbrenner have become perfectly content with mediocrity. The only way the Yankees move on from Boone is after the season. So either the Yankees have a miraculous turnaround over the remaining 85 games or they continue to slog through a season that had great expectations and Boone gets fired. It’s a win-win position.

7. I despise Nathan Eovaldi. (Spoiler alert: he will be the starting pitcher on my 2021 All-Animosity Team.) He couldn’t have been a worse Yankee, pitching to a 4.45 ERA and 1.387 WHIP before eventually needing Tommy John surgery. Despite throwing 100 mph, he couldn’t strike anyone out, could never go more than five innings and every five days we had to hear the Yankees refer to him as “Nasty Nate.” Since joining the Red Sox, he has helped them win a championship and has thoroughly dominated the Yankees in a way I thought Gerrit Cole would dominate the Red Sox.

Cole had to win on Sunday. He had to. He had to go out, dominate and have one of his best starts as a Yankee. Instead, he might as well have been wearing uniform number 47, 50, 55 or 73 because there was no difference between Cole or any of the other awful Yankees starters. It was easily the worst start of Cole’s Yankees tenure and he should be embarrassed of his performance. I know all Yankees fans are.

8. “I think from the beginning his stuff wasn’t as sharp as I’m used to seeing,” Higashioka said. “As the game went on, he got a lot better.”

“His stuff wasn’t sharp?” Thanks for that insight, Higashioka! One pitch into Cole’s day and the Yankees were down 1-0 on an Enrique Hernandez home run, the same Enrique Hernandez who boasts a career .730 OPS. Eight pitches later and the Red Sox had second and third and no outs. Five pitches later, the Red Sox had a 4-0 lead after Rafael Devers hit a three-run home run and the game was over.

As for him getting “a lot better” as the game went on, who cares? The game was over after five batters. And it’s not like Cole shut down the Red Sox after the first as he allowed a home run and another two runs in the third. Cole finished the game with this line: 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3 HR. An embarrassment indeed.

9. There’s nothing left to say about the unnecessary pairing of Cole and Higashioka. If Higashioka is going to get a lot of the credit when Cole is dominant (even though Higashioka has nothing to do with Cole’s success) then Higashioka should get a lot of the blame when Cole is bad (even though Higashioka has nothing to do with Cole’s failures like Sunday).

Cole has gotten lit up in three of his last eight starts and one of them was against Tampa Bay and one against Boston, the two teams the Yankees are chasing for a postseason berth. Not good. In Cole’s last four starts, Boone used Sanchez as a pinch hitter for Higashioka, so even when he’s getting a “day off,” he’s not really getting the full day off.

10. Everything the Yankees did in the nine games prior to this weekend was erased. The Yankees went from putting themselves in a position to have the division lead by the end of June to now being buried in both the division and wild-card standings and they accomplished it in 45 hours.

Between now and the All-Star break, the Yankees have 13 games against the Angels (4), Mets (3), Mariners (3) and Astros (3). They either need to win every series or the equivalent of every series, and that means going 9-4. It’s lofty and might seem unreasonable and borderline impossible given the way the team has played this season, but because of the way they have played this season, they are going to have to start achieving unreasonable and borderline impossible goals.

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