Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Deflating Optimism...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Sam Hodde/AP)

The Yankees have become a rudderless ship…

Several months ago, there was so much promise for the 2023 New York Yankees. After signing free agent starting pitcher Carlos Rodón, they appeared to have one of the best rotations in Major League Baseball. They had re-signed the face of the franchise, Aaron Judge, and had anointed him the latest Captain of the team. They overlooked finding help in left field, but regardless, the team appeared strong with the return of Anthony Rizzo and the shortstop competition entering Spring Training featured two talented, top-ranked prospects, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe which was ultimately won by the latter. As the saying goes, the future is (was) so bright, you gotta wear shades!

Then, the injuries…

The starting rotation went from wondering if one of Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt would be the fifth starter to both men in the rotation along with a rookie pitcher, Jhony Brito. I thought 2023 would be a breakout year for Schmidt, but after a month’s worth of starts, it was false hope.  German is who he is, and Brito, despite some good moments, is a young pitcher who will get hit hard from time to time.  Saturday’s loss was not on Brito. He was failed by an anemic offense. The Yankees cannot win with only one certainty…two tops with Nestor…in the starting rotation. 

Aggressiveness on the base paths is fine for a young player like Anthony Volpe when speed is one of your strongest attributes, armed with the ability to disrupt the game plans of opposing pitchers, but not for your primary offensive superstar like Aaron Judge. When he attempted the stolen base recently, it felt wrong when it happened. I got visions of Derek Jeter’s collision at third base on Opening Day 2003 when he separated his shoulder. Slides are always potential for injury, so it was a needless risk by Judge. I get trying to win, but the Yankees were ahead in the game.  At first, we thought he had a hand injury, and felt some relief when it did not turn out to be serious, but subsequently, the sore hip materialized. The mild hip strain…because of the slide…has taken Judge out of the lineup, and questions linger if he will need to spend time on the Injured List. 

Aaron Judge's Slide (Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Without Judge, when nobody else on the team is hitting, the Yankees are pushovers for pitchers with some degree of talent. Saturday’s game featured a dominant complete game shutout by a former Yankee, Nathan Eovaldi, the victory powered by the strength of a two-run homer by a former Yankee prospect, Ezequiel Duran.

April is not over yet, and the Yankees are eight games behind the AL East leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Toronto Blue Jays, winners of six consecutive games, have caught fire and are tied for second place with the Baltimore Orioles. They are three and a half games up on the Yankees. The Yankees, with the worst record among division teams in the last ten days, 4-6, are a game above the division cellar. Boston Red Sox fans probably love having the Yankees share in their misery.  The argument that the season is early and there is so much baseball yet to be played is losing steam when every lineup features a batch of guys who cannot hit. 

An offensive surge and stellar pitching triggering a ten-game win streak would certainly change one’s perspective, but any optimism is fading. 

The Injured List is depressing.

60-Day Injured List

Scott Effross

Luis Gil

Tommy Kahnle

Frankie Montas

Lou Trivino


15-Day Injured List

Jonathan Loáisiga

Carlos Rodón

Luis Severino


10-Day Injured List

Ben Rortvedt

Josh Donaldson

Harrison Bader

Giancarlo Stanton


Active but Not Playing

Aaron Judge

Jake Bauers

The Yankees will presumably make a roster move today with both Judge and Bauers out of action. Bauers, making his Yankees debut, has a swollen knee after making a sliding catch into the left field wall during yesterday’s game. Unclear how much time he will miss, but it seems improbable the Yankees will carry both Bauers and Judge on the active roster if they cannot play. I expect a roster move before game time today (2:35 pm ET). 

A lineup that features regular starts by Aaron Hicks and Willie Calhoun will not be October-bound. 

Of all the injured players, only Harrison Bader appears to be ready to be activated soon. Ben Rortvedt will head to Triple-A when he finishes his rehab assignment to await a call-up if/when something happens to either Jose Trevino or Kyle Higashioka. When on the IL, Stanton’s status always becomes shrouded in mystery. 

It is too early to give up on the season. However, I find myself wondering if the Yankees would be better served eliminating the useless veterans (a group headed by Aaron Hicks) and playing the kids.  There is no great pitching prospect to rescue the starting rotation. The uncertainty behind Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes, Jr. will continue until Sevy and Rodón can return. Neither pitcher appears to be ready anytime soon. 

It is the end of April and I have absolutely no idea where the Yankees are going. We are at the crossroads of a resurgent team making a run in the division or a lost season. One would think the Yankees should at least lay claim to one of the Wild Card spots (forget about the division crown if the Rays continue to find ways to win every night). Yet, nothing can be taken for granted. The possibility the Yankees could find themselves on the outside looking in is real.  I hope that is not the case and good health finds its way to the Yankees. When healthy, the Yankees can certainly compete with baseball’s best teams. 

Hopefully, I can look back at these April fears and laugh. 

Today is a good day for a win.

As always, Go Yankees!


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