Who's to blame for the 2018 New York Yankees? The team on pace for 101 wins.
(NYY Sports Talk would like to welcome Brendan Sennott to our writing team. Brendan was a sports reporter in Detroit, covering games of all four major sports. Today he is a freelance writer. He is currently writing a book on his baseball fandom. Brendan lives in Michigan with his wife Angela and his kids Aubrey(8) and Declan(6). He is a big Yankees fan and Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, and Reggie Jackson are his all time favorite players.)
The Yankees recently completed the West Coast portion of their 3 city, 9 game, 10 day road trip an uninspiring 3-3. They now stand just 2 games up on the A’s (who seemingly never lose) for the first Wildcard spot. The Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 7 games. They are 36-28 since crushing the Red Sox behind a dominant Luis Severino (remember that Sevy?) on July 1st. The Red Sox have gone 43-17 in that same period leaving the Yankees 9 games behind the Red Sox.
The guys from NYY Sports Talk will be able to confirm this based on their daily bombardment of lunacy on Twitter, a vocal section of Yankee fans want a villain after every loss. It’s the NFL mentality that every game is life or death. So when the Yanks lose, the Twitter Mob wants blood.
Public enemy #1 for the Twitter Mob is Manager Aaron Boone. Every lineup he puts out is criticized, every pitching change is overly scrutinized, every move he makes is seemingly dumb if you believe most Twitter Yankee fans. When the Yanks win, it’s in spite of him. When they lose, security should remove him from the premises.
Is Boone some mythical combination of Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, and Joe Torre? No, but contrary to what most of the Twitter Mob thinks he’s actually pretty decent. If you’ve watched baseball as long as I have(32+ years) then you understand baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Too many Yankee fans have watched the Billy Martin Yankeeography 10 times too many, and expect Boone to flip over the post game spread in front of the media and F Bomb every guy who went 0 for 4, failed with RISP, or made a key defensive blunder. That didn’t work all that well back then. It sure as hell won’t work now. Is Boone perfect? Of course not. He’s a rookie manager. Is his bullpen management questionable? Indeed, but to act like you know more about the game than a 4th generation MLB’er is hysterical.
The aforementioned Mr Torre had a great quote during the 1998 World Series Championship reunion weekend about the ebs and flows of a baseball season. He said ”Baseball cause of 162 is a game of life, you live it every day. If you start getting too pumped up. It’s not gonna last, you can’t maintain it”
This is 100% dead-on. A manager can’t flip out every night like Herm Edwards back-in-the-day when he coached the Jets. The players would laugh him out of town. I had hoped the Twitter Mob would listen to this quote from a Yankee legend like Torre, but we’re not that lucky here at NYY Sports Talk.
So, you want villains for the Yankees struggled I will throw some at you. The biggest being that the hated Red Sox are having a season for the ages. At some point you have to just tip your cap, and admit they were a better team.
How about injuries? The Yankees lost Jordan Montgomery in April which was a much bigger loss than many realized. We all know how much time Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and Aroldis Chapman have spent on the DL. Not to mention Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and Tommy Kahnle, who has never regained his 2017 form. Injuries happen in every sport. Good organizations adjust, and overcome. If you think about it the Bombers have actually done a pretty good job of staying afloat inspite of these losses.
What about my personal choice pitching coach Larry Rothschild? The numbers say he has actually been pretty good in his tenure. But as every experienced fan knows numbers in baseball don’t always tell the full story. Ask yourself what young pitcher has actually improved in his time as Pitching Coach? Crickets... To me, the current Luis Severino conundrum alone should cost him his job.
Finally, the two players who seem to at least be in Boone’s area code of hate are Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez. Now, in my opinion Sanchez deserves more vitriol. He clearly came to spring training in less than optimal shape. That is unacceptable for the starting catcher on a major league team with playoff aspirations. His defense has not exactly improved, and he seems to be a little homer obsessed.
Bird on the other hand, may just be overrated. Maybe the injuries have been too much to overcome. When you don the pinstripes and play on the big stage in New York, you have to perform. Bird simply isn’t, and he has lost his job to Luke Voit and rightfully.
So, there you have it. You want people to blame, have at it. However as you assess that blame know that barring a catastrophic collapse the Yanks will be in the playoffs. Aaron Judge (who I think is still talking about pain levels in his wrist to temper expectations upon his return)should be back in around 10 days. Didi is back, and Chapman is throwing. The A’s will lose some games at some point. They are a scrappy team, but not exactly the 1990 Cincinnati Reds. Tanaka or Happ are capable of beating that A’s team in a grocery store parking lot, let alone New York or Oakland. Hopefully With Didi back fully, playing every day provides a spark in the lineup moving forward. It’s a long season y’all. The goal is to get a ticket to the dance. The Bombers will do that. At that point anything can happen.