Yankees Thoughts: Rays Give ‘Bombers’ Reality Check

Yankees have lost three of four to division rival Rays this season

The Yankees followed up their three-game sweep of the A’s by getting embarrassed by the Rays at home. The Yankees are nine games back once again and their next seven games are against the Rays and Blue Jays.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. There are times when I say the Yankees are bad or awful or suck, but that’s relative to their expectations and history, and their roster and payroll. In the big picture of Major League Baseball, they are none of those things. But the A’s are.

The A’s are as bad as it gets. Not just in 2023, but historically. The 1962 Mets went 40-120. The 2023 A’s would sign up for 40 wins right now, as they are 8-31 and on pace for 33 wins. There’s a good chance the 2023 A’s go down as the worst team in the history of the league.

2. The arrival of the A’s in the Bronx couldn’t have come at a better time. With the Yankees sitting in last place in the AL East and coming off their worst loss of the season in which Gerrit Cole blew a six-run lead to the Rays, the Yankees needed something to possibly get their season turned around, and that something was the A’s. The Yankees picked up their first three-game winning streak of the season and first sweep of the season by scoring 28 runs in the series. (The Yankees had scored 28 runs in their previous nine games before playing the A’s.) The series got the Yankees three rather easy wins, but it didn’t turn the season around.

3. I’m not an idiot. I know how truly, historically abysmal the A’s are. I know the Yankees’ three games against them were a mirage. I know the success the Yankees experienced in the series is the same success the Rays experienced against the A’s to begin the season and the kind of success the rest of the AL East will experience when they play the A’s. So while I’m happy the Yankees have created some separation from .500, picking up three wins against the A’s was like passing GO and receiving a free $200. Now the Yankees face a board littered with opposing hotels with their next eight games against the Rays and Blue Jays.

4. Immediately after passing GO, the Yankees landed on one of the Rays’ hotel, serving as a quick reminder of the disparity between the actual best team in the AL, and a team that believes they can be the best team in the AL because they were the best team in the AL once upon a time. After a couple of offense-less nights in Baltimore, the Rays showed up in the Bronx (where the Yankees have been since the beginning of the week, able to sleep at home and not travel) and pummeled the Yankees’ pitching and put the Yankees’ offense back in its place. The Yankees were routed 8-2, and the only reason they scored is because the Rays pulled Drew Rasmussen after seven innings to not have him exert anymore energy, though he exerted as little energy as possible in shutting out the Yankees’ sad offense over seven innings. Rasmussen could still be pitching against the Yankees now (as in the following morning) and they would still be scoreless. The way the Yankees feel when they play the A’s is how the Rays feel when they play the Yankees.

5. The rhetoric that the Yankees’ injuries is the reason for their demise continues to get shoved in the face of Yankees fans. The offense sucked when Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson were a part of it, and with each coming off the worst season of their respective careers, believing they will turn the Yankees from frauds into contenders once they return (if they return) is simply irresponsible.

6. The only way out of this mess for the Yankees is for Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino to return and pitch to the best of their abilities, and for Stanton and Donaldson to return and turn the clock back several seasons. Then on top of that, the Yankees will need Anthony Volpe to hit like the team’s No. 1 prospect and not to the .640 OPS he has, Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu to stay healthy and produce to their career averages, Gleyber Torres to not go into month-long slumps and someone to emerge as a major-league-caliber left fielder. Someone. Anyone. If all of those things happens, then yes, the Yankees can contend for a championship. But all of those things need to happen. Not some. All. The Yankees aren’t good enough to only have one-third or half or even two-thirds of their roster healthy and producing. They need everyone. That’s a lot of to ask for a team that puts someone new on the IL each series and for a roster that is full of underachieving, aging names.

7. The Rays were fortunate to start their season with nine games against the Tigers, Nationals and A’s, but they took care of business in those nine games, going 9-0. They also swept four games from the Red Sox, three from the Pirates and went 8-2 against the White Sox and Reds. They have beaten up on the bad and mediocre teams on their schedule, and the Yankees are becoming one of those teams.

8. The Yankees’ goal shouldn’t be to erase the division deficit by beating up on the Rays because that’s not a realistic goal. Divisions are won by beating up on the bad teams, which is what the Rays have done. The Yankees’ goal should be to match what the Rays have done against the league’s worst and then hold their own against the league’s best. So far though, the Yankees aren’t exactly doing that with a 2-5 record against the Rays and Blue Jays.

9. The easy part of the Rays’ schedule happened to be stacked at the beginning of the season, while the Yankees’ is more spread out. The Rays had the advantage of being able to fly out of the gate, stack and bank a ridiculous amount of wins and then live off that commanding lead into the summer. The Yankees just played the A’s three times. They will play three against the Reds next week. They have six total games against the White Sox and A’s in June and six total games against the Rockies and Royals right after the All-Star break. A big August with 10 total games against the White Sox, Nationals and Tigers. Another three against the Tigers in September and they finish the season with three in Kansas City. The Yankees will have their chance to match the Rays’ success against the worst teams, but they will need to hold their own in between their spread out “easy” games.

10. The Yankees began this all-important four-game series with the Rays needing to win three of four to make up ground in the AL, and at worst, split the four to not lose any ground. Now they need to win three straight against the Rays (something that would be nearly impossible even without Clarke Schmidt starting one of the three games) and need to win two of three just to maintain their eight-game deficit. The loss on Thursday was disappointing and disheartening, but completely expected and it’s dropped the Yankees nine back (again) and 1-3 on the season against the Rays. The Yankees to do better this weekend. They need to be better this weekend. They need to win two games this weekend.

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