About Last Night: Rays Topple Yanks 8-2
by Paul Semendinger
May 12, 2023
The Yankees came into this series flying high. They had just pulverized the Oakland A's for three games. They were home. Aaron Judge was back. Harrison Bader was hitting as if he were Babe Ruth. It seems that the ship had been righted.
But then they played the game...
The Yankees managed all of four hits. They scored two meaningless runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Rays, on the other hand, scored one run in the fifth inning, three in the sixth, one in the seventh, and three in the eighth, to command the game.
The Rays are a first place team. The Yankees are in last place.
HR- Josh Lowe (TB)
Yankees hits: Torres (1), Bauers (2), Calhoun (1)
The Big Story:
To start the week, the Yankees beat up on the A's. Last night, it was if the A's big brother came home and taught the Yankees a lesson.
Domingo German did not pitch poorly for the Yankees. He pitched into the sixth inning. He allowed only three hits. He walked three. He had recorded two outs, on the first two batters, walked the third, was at 87 pitches, had allowed only one run (unearned too), and... Aaron Boone lifted him. This is a story we've seen before. Again and again.
It sometimes feels as if the Yankees operate, not by logic, but by a pre-planned script. "If this, then that." The script last night seemed to be, "Regardless of circumstances, if German allows a base runner after the fifth inning, take him out." So they did.
(As I recall, there's been a lot of talk about the Yankees bullpen being tired of late. Players have been shuttled up and down to Triple-A to get fresh arms in the pen. It seems that fact was not considered in the script writing.)
Ron Marinaccio came into the game, and a single, a hit batter, and a double later, the Yankees were down by four.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over at that point.
Player(s) of the Game:
Drew Rasmussen: 7 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts, 0 runs
Josh Lowe: 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 home run, 5 runs batted in
For the Yankees, as noted, Domingo German pitched well.
Better to Forget:
The Yankees offense managed only four hits.
Anthony Volpe, for all the hype, is batting .199 for the season (see below)
Aaron Judge, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts
Jake Bauers left the game with an injury to his knee.
Aaron Boone seems to have little feel for when to pull his starting pitchers. Over the last week, we've seen him use a quick hook a few times (and get burned) and we've seen him leave his starter in too long and also face bad results. One could say that he doesn't seem to know (yet) what he's doing. Or, one could say, "You know, that's baseball."
It is no secret that I am down on the Yankees. I did not believe in them before the season. I still don't. The games against the A's proved nothing to me except for the fact that that the Yankees are better than the worst team in all of baseball. That's not saying much.
I hear Yankees fans talking, "Hey, I know they lost two of three against the Rays last week, but they hung right there with them... they almost won those games!" I believe that's what the Yankees have been reduced to. The fans, the team itself, is finding contentment with hollow victories. That's not how championship teams operate - and it's not how confident fans look at their team.
I have written, often, that the Yankees did not plan well for the season. They never acquired a left fielder. They don't have a lead-off batter. The built a starting rotation that looked amazing on paper, but was built around pitchers who were not healthy. They have one lefty bat in the line up. The bullpen was built on pitchers all coming back from serious arm injuries. There is no real depth. The manager had never gotten the team to the World Series. The general manager talkes more about the process than the results in an industry based only on results. The owner was willing to spend, to a point, but not pass a certain tax threshold assuring that needs wouldn't be addressed. The lineup was fragile - and not deep. I talked a lot about the fact that there were a lot of weak hitters in the lineup. On and on.
Most every one of those concerns are playing out in real time for the last place 2023 Yankees. This is a flawed team. A very flawed team. The approach is wrong. The roster isn't balanced.
To address the team's many flaws, the 2023 Yankees have been a team that experiments in real time - during games. They have players playing positions they never played before. They stick with veterans who seem well past their prime.
The worst decision, of all, though, I believe, and I believe I am the only one who opposed this from the start - even in spite of the fact that the initial results seemed to be great, was moving Anthony Volpe to the lead-off spot in the order. It was shortsighted. It wasn't smart. It wasn't good process. It was a bad idea. It is a bad idea.
Anthony Volpe, in his entire career, played all of 22 games at Triple-A. He batted just .236 there. At Double-A, a level he only reached last year, he hit only .251. Yes, he's dynamic. Yes, he's the hope. Yes, he's extremely talented. Yes, I am so glad he made the team as a long-shot out of Spring Training, but he is not, not yet, ready for prime time as a hitter. He's just not. And he is certainly not ready to be the player who is supposed to jump start the Yankees' offense. The Yankees should have batted him ninth and said, "That's your spot. Enjoy the big leagues. We look forward to watching you develop into a star." But that's not what happened. Because the Yankees never built a solid team, because they had no lead-off hitter, they moved Volpe to that spot moments (fewer than 20 games) into his big league career. It was the wrong move.
After some initial success, and a few memorable hits, Anthony Volpe is not doing well. (I know that there are readers that will tell me I'm wrong, but I'm not.) Over his last seven games, Anthony Volpe is batting .125. And yes, that includes three games against the hapless A's. Over his last 14 games, Volpe is batting .151. He has five runs batted in over that span, but, four of those came on one of his few hits - a grand slam (against the A's).
I have been an educator for decades. And, no, school is not Major League Baseball. But, I have seen parents and other adults try to force children (at all levels - inside and outside of the classroom) into situations they are not ready for. The results are often not great. (If Billy isn't ready for high math, or if Suzie isn't ready to read at the next level, or if Marcia shouldn't be on the varsity squad, on and on, they often find a level of failure they need not have experienced.) Yes, failure is a huge part of learning, but unnecessary failure isn't the optimal way to build up a child or any person. Those failures aren't coming because the child is pushing - those failures often come as a result of the adults (and often because of their own needs, not the kid's) making poor decisions for the children.
The adults in the room, have made poor decisions regarding the Yankees' prized rookie. They pushed him (and are pushing him) too far, too fast. It might work, but it's not yet working. And if it doesn't, the results could be devastating. No one knows. I could end up being very wrong. But the risk/reward that the Yankees are following isn't a good one. They're pushing Volpe too far and too fast.
I'm reading a very detailed book, Baseball's Endangered Species by Lee Lowenfish. This book talks about the role of scouts in baseball as it chronicles the sport from its earliest days. The story is full of examples of young players with vast potential who did not attain the greatness many felt would come their way. Often times the words that surround that player are "lost confidence." Baseball is a game of failure. We know that. Smart teams mitigate those failures. They allow players to slowly develop. They move them at their own speed - when they are ready. Smart organizations don't rush players into situations they are not ready for.
Expecting Anthony Volpe, with fewer than 300 minor league games under his belt (and who batted only .263 across his entire minor league experience), to be the catalyst for the Yankees offense - a team that is supposed to be playoff bound, was a bad idea. It was a horrible idea. It shows the Yankees' poor planning and decision making. It's bad process. It's horrible process.
In the end, it might just work, but that doesn't mean that the decision was a good one. And I fear it wasn't - and isn't. I fear that the Yankees are following the wrong approach at the wrong time with their most valuable young player. They are doing this because they did not plan well for 2023. It's bad process. It's led to bad results. The kid isn't ready. He should not be the leadoff hitter.
The Yankees and Rays battle again tonight. Gerrit Cole takes the mound for the Yankees following a gem in which he was left in too long and the Yankees blew a big lead.