About a year ago, I was watching game five of the American League Division Series with some friends at my dorm. The Yankees were a few outs away from something that at one seemed impossible: advancing to the American League Championship Series. Aroldis Chapman faced Austin Jackson with a runner on second and two outs. Despite being up 3 runs, there was still tension in the room. Chapman fired a fastball that just clipped the inside corner for strike three. Ball game over. After falling behind two games to none against the best team in baseball, the Yankees were going to the ALCS. Soon, my friends started blasting “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra. A team that had sold out a year ago was going to fight to reach the World Series.
Fast forward about a year later. “New York, New York” was playing somewhere, but not for the Yankees. The Red Sox were the ones celebrating to this tune while the Bombers disappear into a long, cold winter.
Yes, the Yankees failed to advance past the division series. This seems odd since the Bombers added the reigning National League MVP, hit a Major League record 267 home runs and blew opponents away with their lockdown bullpen. So, why did the Yankees go backwards?
There are a few reasons why the Yankees failed this season. The first being, well, the Red Sox were too good.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had the Yankees winning the division over Boston. Bias aside, I just felt like the Red Sox had too many inconsistent parts across the board, from their bullpen behind closer Craig Kimbrel to the lineup that finished near the bottom in home runs. It seems like I wasn’t alone, as FanGraphs projected the Yankees to finish two games higher than the Red Sox.
The Red Sox not only finished first, they demolished Major League Baseball with 108 regular season wins. The at times anemic offense from a year ago led the league with 876 runs, thanks to the addition of J.D. Martinez and major improvements from Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. Also, David Price and Rick Porcello improved to form a stout rotation behind Chris Sale and even the bullpen behind Kimbrel wasn’t as terrible. On top of that, first year Alex Cora completely changed the culture in Boston and revived the energy in the clubhouse. So, the fact that the Yankees had to face an improved Red Sox team 19 times didn’t help their cause.
Another major factor was that the Yankees were still a very inexperienced team. Many fans and writers, I included, overestimated the growth the team would make from 2017. The Yankees were still one of the youngest teams in MLB and with that comes growing pains. That includes dealing with Miguel Andujar’s messy footwork at third base, and Gleyber Torres having mental lapses and Luis Severino falling apart in the second half. These three players still had solid seasons, but they’re also still young players learning how to be major leaguers.
In addition to inexperience on the field, there was some inexperience in the dugout as well. Aaron Boone’s first season as the manager of the Yankees had many ups and downs. At some points, Boone looked like a wizard, with every decision paying great dividends. However, there were many times where his inexperience showed, from choosing to face a red-hot Justin Smoak with the bases loaded in April to leaving his starters in the game too long in the postseason. Again, a 100-win debut season is hard to argue against and no first-year manager is going to look like Connie Mack. However, his inexperience did show at times and those moments were crucial.
Furthermore, there were just too many unexpected factors that went against New York this season. They had to deal with horrible injuries. Aaron Judge missed more than a month with a wrist injury, Jordan Montgomery had Tommy John Surgery, Clint Frazier never had the chance to perform due to concussion issues. Players like Sonny Gray and Greg Bird underperformed, and Giancarlo Stanton had several extended slumps.
Now, this doesn’t mean the Yankees were a total abomination. They were far from that, with the pleasant surprises of Andujar and Torres arriving early, Luke Voit electrifying Yankees Stadium in September, Giancarlo Stanton’s arrival to the Bronx, and the bullpen was lights out as usual.
However, the Yankees failed to make it to the World Series. They couldn’t even win a home game against Boston in the playoffs. In a city that demands championships and with a roster built to provide them, this team was a failure.
Now, the work begins to build upon this season’s short comings and put out a team that will bring the Yankees back to the World Series. Until then, all we have are the memories of Frank Sinatra’s voice floating away in the distance.