Yankees Thoughts: Path to Postseason Isn’t Pretty

Yankees need to win 50 of remaining 73 games after All-Star break

The Yankees are out of chances to turn their season around. When the second “half” begins on Thursday, they have to win games at an incredible pace or they won’t reach the postseason.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. I went to the first game of the Subway Series. Why? Like I wrote after the Yankees were swept by the Red Sox in Boston, I still think there is time (though not much) to turn it around. Again, I’m like Rudy’s fellow scout team member in Rudy who tells him, “I’m under the delusion that I might get a chance to run out that tunnel.”

What a mistake that was going to the game. The Yankees produced yet another piss poor, disgusting effort and when I walked out of the Stadium during the top of the sixth, the Yankees had allowed five runs in the inning, were losing 8-0 and the offense hadn’t produced a single hit. I was back home before the game ended and felt sorry for the thousands of Yankees fans who decided to stay through the end of the team’s latest slopfest.

2. The following day, on the Fourth of July, the Yankees might as well have been playing spring training games given how much I was into a Subway Series doubleheader. I couldn’t have cared less about watching Sunday’s comical seven-inning doubleheaders. There are sold-out stadiums across the league and the Stadium had 40,000-plus people on Saturday, and yet the league can’t play actual full-length games? It’s a joke.

Thankfully, I didn’t give a shit if the Yankees won the first game on Sunday because they didn’t. Gerrit Cole let everyone down once again and given his performance in that game and over the last month it seemed like he might be a huge problem going forward if unable to use sun screen or Vaseline or Spider Tack or Silly Putty or Play-Doh to get outs. Thankfully, he put the idea he can’t pitch without some foreign substance to rest with his dominant start against the Astros over the weekend.

3. Unfortunately, about 19 hours later, Cole’s complete-game, 12-strikeout start was erased by his manager’s inability to make even the most elementary decisions as a major league manager. Boone pissed away a five-run, ninth-inning lead in the series and first “half” finale, as the Yankees fell to 3-9 when they have a chance to sweep.

“It’s another gut punch, and we’ve had a number of those, obviously, here in the first half,” Boone said after the loss. “We’ve gotten off the mat each and every time and we’ve gotta do it again and understand what’s at stake starting Thursday.”

The amount of gut punches the Yankees have taken would cause irreparable harm, internal bleeding and possibly death. I guess that’s why they’re on the brink of no longer having a season.

When exactly have the Yankees “gotten off the mat’ from the guy punches they have taken. They are three games over .500, have the fourth-worst offense in the AL and a plus-1 run differential. They have been down on the mat all season.

4. With a five-run lead in the ninth, Boone stuck with Domingo German who had used as a reliever in the game. German allowed two baserunners to begin the ninth and with runners on second and third and no outs, Boone turned to Chad Green. Why not Aroldis Chapman, the highest-paid closer in the history of baseball? 

“I want to pick those situations where Chapman gets a clean outing under his belt,” Boone said about his closer who has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 6 2/3 innings. “Once it became a save situation I wanted to go with Greeny.”

A five-run, ninth-inning lead is about as perfect of a soft landing spot for a pitcher who hasn’t been able to get anyone out for the last month like Chapman, no matter the opponent. If Chapman can’t get three outs before giving up five runs having only pitched twice in the last 12 days, then there’s no place for him on the Yankees, owed money or not. Instead of going to Chapman, Boone went with Green, and didn’t go to him until the score represented a “save situation.” Yes, the Yankees manager made his final bullpen decision on Sunday based on a meaningless stat.

Sunday was July 11. Over the previous week, Green had pitched in four games, including both games of the July 4 doubleheader.

Sunday, (Game 1): 2 pitches
Sunday (Game 2): 35 pitches
Wednesday: 18 pitches
Friday: 26 pitches

Green had pitched multiple innings in two of his four appearances, going three innings in the second game on Sunday and two innings on Friday. He was asked to do so because Chapman can no longer throw strikes or get outs, Zack Britton is hurt, Darren O’Day is hurt, Jonathan Loaisiga wasn’t available due to protocol, Justin Wilson is awful, Luis Cessa is … well, Luis Cessa and Adam Ottavino is being paid by the Yankees to pitch for the Red Sox. Boone had used Green for multiple-inning outings 14 times already in 2021, including six times in April and four times in the first nine games of the season. Boone didn’t “bring along” Green as the season went on because the Yankees have been trying to save their season since Opening Day and the overuse finally caught up with Green. Take the unavailability of anyone else to get outs against the Astros and add Boone’s inability to manage the situation and understand the workload he has given Green and you get a recipe for disaster. The type of disaster that took place in Houston on Sunday.

5. After the Yankees lost to the Astros in the 2019 ALCS, Britton said the bullpen was overworked, and they were. Out of the 55 innings in that series Yankees pitchers pitched, the bullpen pitched 31 1/3 of them. Britton, Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle pitched in five of the six games and Green pitched in four. Green was used in relief in three of the first five games of the series and then as an opener in the sixth game, in which he gave up a three-run home run to Yuli Gurriel in the first inning.

In three of the last four games Green has pitched against the Astros, he has allowed a crushing three-run home run. The one to Gurriel in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the one to Altuve on May 6 of this season to give the Astros their only win of that series and the one to Altuve this past Sunday to give the Astros their only win of that series. The difference between the Yankees being 6-0 and 4-2 against the Astros this season is two Jose Altuve three-run home runs.

Green allowed back-to-back doubles and a single and then finally recorded the first out of the inning on a lineout. The 6-7-8-9 hitters were squaring him up and Boone never thought of not letting him face Altuve, who had already hit a three-run home run off him two months prior.

“He was obviously a little bit off with command, leaving some stuff up early,” Boone said. “I thought he rallied there and found it a little bit.”

Rallied? Found it? What exactly did he find other than Altuve running the bases following yet another walk-off home run against the Boone Yankees with the team ripping his jersey off and laughing in the face of the Yankees, who they absolutely own both on the field and in trash talk.

6. “I’ve said it a handful of times how much some of them have stung, and obviously, as well as we played this week to not finish it off right there is difficult,” Boone said. “But we’ve gotta rally from the adversity of it.”

Someone should really let Boone know what “adversity” means because he uses it incorrectly nearly every day. “Adversity” means “misfortune.” The 2021 Yankees haven’t been misfortunate. The players and pitchers have underachieved, they have been poorly managed and poorly constructed by the front office. The 2021 Yankees have faced zero adversity. They have just been a team with expectations that hasn’t met those expectations. Big difference.

“We’ve got a lot at stake starting on Thursday,” Boone said. “And it’s in our hands.”

The Yankees had a lot at stake beginning on Thursday, April 1, not Thursday, July 15, but they failed to recognize that because there’s always tomorrow with their manager. No loss seems to affect his mood or create any sense of urgency with the team and that’s how to get two first-round exits, an ALCS loss in which the team lost four of the final five games of the series and this horrific season under his watch.

7. Starting on Thursday, the Yankees have 73 games left, and they need to win 50 of them. I wish I were joking. The 46-43 Yankees need to now go 50-23.

There is still a path to the postseason for the Yankees, even if it’s currently covered in leaves, debris and litter with several seemingly immovable boulders blocking their way. For as improbable of a path it is, there’s still a path. There won’t be for much longer.

I have done a rough outline of how the Yankees can win 50 games and get to 96 wins on the season over the next two-and-a-half months:

Red Sox: 10-4
Phillies: 1-1
Rays: 4-2
Marlins: 2-1
Orioles: 7-2
Mariners: 3-1
Royals: 2-1
White Sox: 2-1
Angels: 3-1
Twins: 3-1
Braves: 1-1
A’s: 2-2
Blue Jays: 4-3
Mets: 2-1
Indians: 2-1
Rangers: 2-1

Doable? Unlikely. Impossible? No.

8. Right now, the Yankees have a 9.3 percent chance to win the division and a 41.1 percent chance to make the playoffs. The division odds seem right, the odds of making the playoffs seem high, considering they need to pass the Blue Jays and Mariners just to be the first team outside the postseason picture.

Here are the teams ahead of the Yankees and what their records would be if they play .500 baseball the rest of the season (or one-game-over-.500 if they have an odd amount of games remaining).

Red Sox: 91-71
Rays: 89-73
A’s: 87-75

For the Yankees to win 91 games, they would need to go 45-28 (.616).
For the Yankees to win 89 games, they would need to go 43-30 (.589).
For the Yankees to win 87 games, they would need to go 41-32 (.562).

In all three of those scenarios, the Yankees would have to play better than they have this season (.517), while the Red Sox would simply have to go 36-35, the Rays 36-36 and the A’s 35-35. I think the Red Sox are the most likely of those three teams to have a bad second “half” and play .500 baseball, but it’s unlikely any of the three will drop that low.

9. Each loss is extremely detrimental to the fragile math the Yankees are working with now and a loss occurring when the Yankees need to get three outs before allowing five runs is crushing. You can tell yourself the Yankees still won the series in Houston, taking two of three, which is no easy task, but Sunday’s loss essentially erased Friday’s and Saturday’s wins, and turned what would have been a great 5-1 road trip and three straight wins into the break into a 4-2 trip with the latest worst loss of the season hanging over the Yankees’ break with eight of their next 10 games against the Red Sox.

Winning three-game series and taking two of four in four-game series is no longer good enough. Fifty wins in 73 games is a .685 winning percentage. That’s more than winning each three-game series and taking two of four in the four-game series the rest of the way. The Yankees need to finish teams off in the final games of series the way they weren’t able to in Houston or in Seattle and the way they haven’t been able to do in nine of the 12 series they have had a chance to sweep this season.

10. The Yankees need to rebound from their 0-6 start against the Red Sox in the final 13 games with them. They need to beat the Phillies in New York the way the Phillies beat them in Philadelphia. They need to find a way to win four out of six from the Rays and at least four out of seven from the Blue Jays. They need to beat up on the truly bad opponents they have left in the Orioles, Marlins, Twins and Rangers. They need to find a way to win games in Oakland (something they haven’t been capable of for a long time) beat the Mets at Citi Field in games Jacob deGrom isn’t starting, beat the now-Ronald Acuna-less Braves and the average Mariners and Angels.

I’m not sure if this team, this roster and this manager can do all that, but if these Yankees want to erase the embarrassing first three-and-a-half months of this season and reach the postseason, they don’t have a choice. It’s their only path now.

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