Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Yankees in the Land of Mediocrity...


Aaron Boone, Anthony Rizzo, and Domingo German (Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/AP)

The team continues to look for a spark…

In a perfect world, the Yankees would be the AL’s elite team, running away from the competition, in preparation for a deep charge into October. All the team’s players would be happy, healthy, and productive. And the Boston Red Sox would be winless. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. 

Losing is never fun but losing to the Boston Red Sox hits harder.  The Red Sox may be the AL East’s resident cellar dweller, however, they showed they were nobody’s fool with Friday night’s 15-5 thrashing of our beloved Yankees.  It was one of those games where I felt like joining with the Red Sox fans as they chanted ‘Yankees Suck!’. The sting of the loss lingered more than it should have with the weather-related postponement of Saturday’s game. If there is any consolation, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost last night, 15-to-zero, to their hated rival, the San Francisco Giants. At least the Yankees managed to score a few runs. Hey, misery loves company!

July is less than two weeks away and the Yankees find themselves ten full games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. The Baltimore Orioles are four games up on the Yankees, and the Red Sox only trail the Yankees by four games. The Yankees (39-31) are as close to the division floor as they are to second place. I know the 1978 Yankees overcame a mid-July fourteen-game deficit to force a one-game playoff for the division championship en route to the World Series crown, yet this team does not feel like it has that magic. 

The Los Angeles Angels have beaten the Yankees to forty wins. Granted, they have played three more games than the Yankees and have two more losses, but they are only a half-game behind the Yankees in the Wild Card chase. I guess it is Shohei Ohtani’s revenge.

Aaron Judge’s absence has proven how much the team has depended upon him. The other big bats in the lineup have been largely silent, putting added pressure on the pitching staff.  It is tough going into games thinking that the pitchers need to hold the opponents to no more than three or four runs to give the offense a chance. How did we get here? I thought the Yankees were smarter than this. When I say Yankees in this case, I am referring to Brian Cashman, his high-paid consultants, the team of nerds, and the others responsible for the players on the field or rather, should I say, not on the field. 

Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Dustin Satloss/Getty Images)

Aaron Judge has gone from just needing a few days to rest to possibly returning before the All-Star Break as the best-case scenario. It was reported this week that he received a second platelet-rich plasma injection in his right big toe. The injection was targeted at a different ligament than the first one he received. Fans love to say the Yankees will be a different (better) team when Judge is back, along with Carlos Rodón and Harrison Bader. I am not so sure. It seems like the 2023 Yankees are snake-bit.  Something new continually comes up to derail team momentum.  The Yankees are playing like the average team they are. 

I wish I could look at the Trade Deadline with optimism. I am doubtful the Yankees can add impactful players. They cannot trade the elite prospects without sacrificing the future. It is not prospect-hugging, it is fact.  The Yankees are getting older, and keeping healthy players on the field is continually a problem.

Estevan Florial is tearing up Triple-A with homers seemingly every day without promotion to The Show. He is hitting .311/.403/.646 (1.049 OPS) with 18 home runs, 44 runs batted in, and 13 stolen bases. It seems obvious the Yankees do not believe his Triple-A numbers would translate to Major League success. Maybe the Yankees hope to get some value for him in a July trade, but realistically, it was not that long ago when every team in the Major Leagues had a chance to claim Florial on waivers and passed. Last year’s trade deadline acquisitions (or rather misfires) leave me a little doubtful to believe the Yankees can find gems who push them into second-half success.

St Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill is the most recent rumored trade candidate I have seen. I know there is some comfort in having a player named O’Neill in the Yankee outfield (even if he is not related to The Warrior), but he is another outfielder with durability problems. O’Neill is on the 60-day Injured List (back) and is not expected to return until next month. Even if his back is pain-free, the Yankees do not need another player who loves riding the Injured List. The O’Neill rumors are most likely ones created by Cardinals fans, yet I would not put anything ‘senseless’ past Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman. The Cardinals generally fare well in their trades with the Yankees.

I am hoping for the best but braced for the worst. It is the current state of the New York Yankees.

Harrison Bader’s Return

There was some disappointment among the Yankees fan base when outfielder Harrison Bader was not activated off the Injured List before Friday night’s game against the Red Sox. I get his desire to be 100% before he resumes his role as the team’s starting centerfielder, however, it is frustrating that it is so difficult to keep him on the field. It reinforces the belief the Yankees should find a new centerfielder in the offseason. I like Bader, and when he is healthy, he is a fun player to have on the team.  Unfortunately, those times are too infrequent. He is not worth the money it would take to sign him to a new contract if he cannot stay on the field. 

Bader was one-for-four for the Somerset Patriots on Saturday, with two strikeouts. Well, at least his bat is in line with a few of the hitters on the current active Major League roster.

Harrison Bader

Bader is expected to be at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday when the Yankees open a three-game set with the Seattle Mariners. Hopefully, he stays healthy and can help the Yankees find wins. 

Well Wishes to Tanner Houck

We wish an expedient and full recovery for Boston Red Sox starter Tanner Houck who suffered a facial fracture when he was hit with a line drive off Kyle Higashioka’s bat in Friday night’s game. He was able to walk off the field, and he never lost consciousness. He is resting at home and will have follow-up evaluations this week to determine the next steps.

Tanner Houck (Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/AP)

You never want to see anyone get hurt. A hard-hit ball to the face is one of the worst things imaginable on the playing field, and it certainly could have been far more devastating than it was.

I am glad Tanner is doing better, and I hope he is back soon. 

And Finally

The Yankees and Red Sox play a doubleheader today at Fenway Park in Boston. Clarke Schmidt and Luis Severino are the scheduled starters for the Yankees. A sweep would go a long way toward erasing the memory of the Friday night disaster.  Josh Donaldson, please feel free to hit a meaningful home run for a change.

As always, Go Yankees! 

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