Yankees Thoughts: Why Aren’t ‘Great Friggin’ Players’ Winning?

Aaron Boone says his roster is "great," so why does it keep losing?

The Yankees are 2-5 on their current homestand, and it’s not over yet. They still have to face Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom before this miserable week at home ends.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The Yankees lost another series. And not just “another” series, but a four-game series to the Blue Jays, the team still trying to catch them in the AL East.

It was another frustrating and disappointing week for the Yankees as their once-15 1/2-game lead is now down to eight games, and seven games in the loss column. If they could just find a way to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season, they would finish at 94-68, and in doing so, the Blue Jays and Rays would have to go 29-13 to tie them, and likely 30-12, as right now, the Yankees hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams. Because of this math, the Yankees have a 91.2 percent chance of winning the division still, despite losing 14 of their last 18.

2. The Yankees lost three of four to the Blue Jays and were outscored 20-8 in the series. They have now put together these rather horrific records over the last two months:

The Yankees are 25-32 since June 19.

The Yankees are 10-20 since the All-Star break.

The Yankees are 5-14 in August.

3. As the Yankees’ division lead has been significantly cut into, Aaron Boone has gotten testier and more sensitive with each passing day. On Saturday, Boone got snippy with Meredith Marakovits and freaked out on the media after the Yankees lost 5-2 for being asked about the dwindling lead in the standings.

“I gotta quit answering these questions,” Boone exclaimed right before he slammed the table. This came a day after he said, “I don’t give a crap about the division lead.” It’s literally his job to answer questions from the media and to give a crap about the division lead.

If Boone doesn’t answer questions from the media, then the media doesn’t cover baseball. If the media doesn’t cover baseball, there’s no attention paid to baseball. If there’s no attention paid to baseball, then fans don’t exist. If fans don’t exist then Major League Baseball doesn’t exist. If Major League Baseball doesn’t exist then Boone’s entire life is different since everything he has had in life has been a result of Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball was the way his grandfather earned a living to pay for his father’s life. Major League Baseball was the way his father earned a living to pay for his life. Major League Baseball is the way he has earned a living to pay for his family’s life. He might want to shut up and answer questions about the game that has given him everything.

4. The Blue Jays went into this season as the favorite to win the American League. When they were 46-42 through July 12, they fired their manager for failing to meet expectations as they were 15 1/2 games back in the division and barely holding on to the final wild-card berth. Since then they have taken 7 1/2 games off the Yankees’ lead and are tied for the first wild-card berth with the Rays.

The Yankees went into last season as the favorite to win the AL. They finished fifth in the AL and third in their own division. Their manager’s contract was up, and instead of moving on from Boone (who had failed to meet expectations in each of his four seasons as Yankees manager), the front office gave him a new three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

Unless the Yankees collapse to the point of not winning the division and having to play in the best-of-3 round and losing there, I don’t think Boone’s job is in jeopardy. Even then, I think he would be safe. I think if the Yankees were to miss the playoffs completely, he would still be safe. But for the last week he hasn’t been talking to the media like someone who has never been held accountable for a single second in his position. He has been talking like someone who is on the hot seat, which he has never been on. Despite his endless nonsensical lineups, idiotic in-game decisions, incredible lies about injuries and unbelievable sugarcoating of poor performances, Boone has never once had to worry about his job as Yankees manager.

5. In the Derek Jeter documentary The Captain, Buck Showalter talked about leaving the Yankees after 1995 and how George Steinbrenner wanted to fire all of his coaches. Showalter said he couldn’t have stayed with the Yankees and had “any credibility” with all of his coaches being let go. After 2021, the Yankees fired Boone’s third base coach and friend since childhood Phil Nevin as well as his hitting coach Marcus Thames, assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere and first base coach Reggie Willits. This comes two years after firing his bench coach Josh Bard and his pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Boone has maintained his job while everyone around him has been replaced.

The only person who hasn’t been replaced is the one person who unconditionally loves Boone: Brian Cashman. The only way Boone isn’t the Yankees manager in 2022 is if the Steinbrenners move on from Cashman with his contract expiring at the end of this season and the new general manager wants his own manager. But Cashman isn’t going anywhere. For as much as he loves Boone, the Steinbrenners love Cashman more. Hal Steinbrenner has never once blamed Cashman or Boone for the organization’s shortcomings over the last four-plus seasons and always blames the players.

It’s hard to believe Boone has any credibility in the clubhouse. He might be a nice guy and could be the nicest guy of all time, but it’s hard to believe the players on the team experience decisions he makes and think he should be in the role he is in. If a manager is going to be given credit for a team’s run following a team meeting then they should be criticized when a team meeting has an opposite effect. Since Boone’s team meeting in Seattle, the Yankees are 4-9. I wonder why his message didn’t get across to his players.

Boone said himself on Saturday, “We’ve got great friggin’ players in there.” So if you truly believe you have great players then why have they played .439 baseball for more than two months? Why didn’t they listen to what you had to say in Seattle?

6. A day after saying he manages “great friggin’ players,” the Yankees blew an early 1-0 lead and a late 2-1 lead before finally winning a game with Andrew Benintendi finally doing something at the plate. Even with a .951 OPS over the last six games, Benintendi is still hitting just .211/.322/.368 with the Yankees, which tells you how bad he has been since becoming a Yankee on July 28.

7. The Yankees won on Paul O’Neill Day at the Stadium with the organization retiring Number 21. I loved O’Neill growing up as a Yankees fans in the ’90s, but in no way should his number be retired. He was a great Yankee, but number retirements should be for iconic Yankees. The Yankees have diminished what it means to get your number retired with the Yankees, and the fact that people have conversations about if CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner should have their numbers retired tells you all you need to know about how much (or how little) it now means.

I was at Ron Guidry Day in August 2003 when Number 49 was retired. For gifts, George Steinbrenner gave Guidry an SUV, a tractor, golf clubs, a digital camera, a gold ring, mountain bikes for his kids and five roundtrip train tickets from Louisiana to New York because Guidry doesn’t like to fly. George’s son gave O’Neill a replica of his plaque in Monument Park, a single bottle of wine, a Number 21 jersey signed by the 2022 Yankees (that probably goes right in the trash) and a gimmick gift of a $29.97 Gatorade cooler from Dick’s Sporting Goods with band-aids on it and a bat through it. Hal isn’t just cheap when it comes to the actual Yankees roster.

The fact that the Yankees won on Paul O’Neill Day has definitely raised the idea to Hal that the Yankees don’t need to buy players to win games they can just retire more undeserving numbers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sabathia and Gardner get their numbers retired at some point, and it will likely happen after Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius get theirs.

8. On Sunday, Boone first asked Lou Trivino to come into a 2-2 game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. up. Trivino successfully got him to ground out to end the seventh. Then he asked Trivino to start the eighth and he produced a 1-2-3 inning. Then he sent him back out for the ninth and he pitched around a one-out walk to save the game for the Yankees. It was the Yankees’ most impressive relief pitching performance of the season. They had to have the game on Sunday and going to Trivino for seven outs was an absolutely insane ask, but he Trivino handled it just about perfectly, needing only 32 pitches to get through 2 1/3 innings.

9. Alek Manoah hitting Aaron Judge is a non-story. First base was open and Manoah was going to pitch Judge inside and if he happened to hit him in doing so, so be it. It was a good strategy for the Blue Jays. Gerrit Cole trying to play the role of tough guy or enforcer and hopping over the dugout railing to chirp Manoah as if he was going to do anything to do the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Manoah was comical. What Cole should worry about is pitching like Manoah. Cole was awful in his start in the series on Saturday, allowing four earned runs on five hits and two walks across six innings. His manager (friend and neighbor) did say “he threw the ball well,” though, so there’s that.

10. The Yankees need to find a way to win of these two Subway Series games against Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Starting Domingo German against Scherzer on Monday would be bad at any time, but with the state of the Yankee’s offense it’s especially egregious. Then asking the Yankees to beat the best pitcher in baseball the following day is just unfair, let alone with Frankie Montas starting, who will likely give up a run per inning.

After the second half of the Subway series, the Yankees head to the West Coast for seven games in seven days against the A’s and Angels, two teams they are a combined 6-0 against this season. But that doesn’t mean anything because these Yankees aren’t he same Yankees that went 6-0 against the A’s and Angels, outscoring them 33-12 earlier this season.

I expect the Yankees to have trouble with the Mets this week. If they have trouble against the A’s and Angels, then I think we will all officially know how this season is going to end.

Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast.

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