About Yesterday Afternoon: The Yankees Sneak Past the Rays 2-1
by Tim Kabel
September 5, 2022
Aaron Judge beat the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday afternoon 2-1. Oh, excuse me, the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday afternoon 2-1. It just seems that Aaron Judge is a one-man team these days.
The Yankees managed to salvage the last game of the series against Tampa Bay but, they are limping home, having gone 4-6 on the road trip. For a minute, it looked as if they were going to lose this game too but, they held on to win it.
There were some positive signs yesterday but, are a few grains of positive sand amidst a desert of negativity indicative of anything? There are more red flags with this team than there are at a matador's convention. At this point, it's almost pointless to identify the weak points in the Yankees’ lineup. They have more weak points than strong points. It’s as if the entire team is held together with chewing gum and duct tape. Injuries are a part of it but, there is more to it than that. It's a good thing the Yankees held off Tampa Bay yesterday afternoon and have a little more breathing room in the standings but, unless things change dramatically, it really won't matter in the long run.
I like Paul O'Neill. He was a tremendous clutch player, who has five World Series rings. I find him to be entertaining and informative as an announcer. However, early in the game, O’Neill said that Aaron Hicks needs to take advantage of his increased playing time to “turn things around.” That is ridiculous. That would be like telling George Armstrong Custer he could turn things around at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Hicks’ season is beyond repair.
The Yankees’ highwater mark this season was 61-23. Their record entering play yesterday was 79-54. That means they have gone 18-31 since reaching their zenith. To put that in technical terms, the Yankees are dreadful.
At one point, the Yankees were on pace to win 122 games this season. Now, they are on pace to go home when the regular season ends.
In the first inning, Aaron Judge set career highs in home runs (53), and RBI (115).
Aaron Judge scored all three runs for the team this weekend and drove in two of them.
Kyle Higashioka was charged with catcher’s interference. It was the ninth catcher’s interference call against the Yankees this season, which is the major league record. I don’t remember Thurman Munson ever being charged with catcher’s interference. Apparently, it is a negative consequence of framing.
Aaron Boone was ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning because he wanted to challenge a catcher's interference call but had wasted the challenge in the top of the fifth trying to determine if DJ LeMahieu’s foul ball hit the screen before it was caught. This was Boone’s seventh ejection of the season, setting a career high. Unfortunately, he is allowed to return tomorrow.
On yesterday’s date in 1993, Jim Abbott pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.
The Big Story:
The Yankees won yesterday afternoon and pushed their lead over to the Rays back to five games. The question is, are they just delaying the inevitable. It was not what could be categorized as an inspiring win. The Yankees scored two runs. They had six hits as a team, and Aaron Judge had three of them. DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks were a combined 0-14. It is very likely the Yankees will cling to the division lead, because the other contenders all have to play each other, and Tampa Bay has six games left against Houston.
The larger point is the way the Yankees have played since they were 61-23, does not make me believe they can have success in the playoffs. Right now, there are a lot of ifs around this team. In fact, there are too many ifs for any reasonable fan to have a lot of confidence in the Yankees’ future success.
Player of the Game:
Frankie Montas pitched five shutout innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks. He gave up one hit. This is why they traded for him.
Notable Performances -
Oswaldo Cabrera continued to struggle but, was able to put together some good at bats and drew a walk and hit a sacrifice fly for what proved to be the winning run. Of course, Aaron Judge hit his daily home run, which he does whenever he is pitched to.
Better to Forget-
Josh Donaldson's pattern of offensive struggles and offensive behavior. He interpreted an inside pitch as an affront and was on the verge of starting a bench clearing brawl. Isaiah Kiner-Falefa's shaky defense at shortstop.
To paraphrase Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man, “Ya got trouble. Trouble right here on River Avenue. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Boone.”
The Yankees have not been able to effectively Boone-proof the team. Despite yesterday's win, the team is in the midst of a collapse. Whether it's a total collapse or not may not matter. This is not a championship team.
Although you can't really use injuries as an excuse, they do exist, and they can derail a team. Anthony Rizzo seems to have chronic back issues that have been bothering him off and on throughout the season. He may return in the series against Minnesota but, as we know from watching Don Mattingly, a first baseman with a bad back can fade away rather quickly. We will have to see what Rizzo is able to do and how effective he is.
DJ LeMahieu has not had an extra base hit in weeks and is not the hitter he was. Clearly, his toe injury is affecting him as a hitter. As Paul O'Neill explained, LeMahieu drives off his back foot, which is problematic if he has a toe injury. Aaron Boone was asked about the possibility of resting him and he indicated the only rest that would be effective would be once the season ends and he could take a couple of months off. However, running him out on the field every day when he can’t perform is not working.
Andrew Benintendi may be out for the rest of the season due to the broken bone in his wrist. We are still waiting for Harrison Bader to make his Yankees’ debut due to his plantar fasciitis. Matt Carpenter has a broken foot and may or may not make it back for the playoffs. Those injuries are real and have negatively impacted the Yankees this season. However, injuries occur and it's up to the manager to push the team forward and find solutions.
In addition to the injuries, some players are simply ineffective. Gleyber Torres had a very solid first half of the season and was arguably worthy of All-Star consideration. Since the All-Star game, he has essentially disappeared. Much like his previous two seasons, there does not seem to be any explanation. Perhaps, he is fixated on trying to pull the ball but whatever it is, he is a non-entity in the lineup. Josh Donaldson seems to have aged prematurely and lost most of his offensive prowess. He has occasional flashes of success but, for someone nicknamed the Rainmaker, he has ironically been in a drought all summer. Aaron Hicks’ offensive failures are a foregone conclusion. Yet, he constantly appears to be surprised and frustrated when he strikes out or grounds into a double play. He's like a camel. A camel can reportedly go for two weeks without a drink of water. Hicks can do the same thing without offensive production and then he'll have a little spurt of one or two hits, and everyone will get all excited. Isiah Kiner-Falefa won a gold glove as a third baseman but is a serviceable shortstop. Rather than sign any of the expensive free agent shortstops, the Yankees decided to go with Kiner-Falefa until one of their highly touted prospects was ready. Oswald Peraza appears to be ready. I know he hasn't had a hit in seven at bats at the major league level but let's give it a little time.
Loyalty is an admirable trait, unless it is blind loyalty. Loyalty is like respect; it must be earned. Aaron Boone's loyalty has morphed into stubbornness, possibly fueled by arrogance. It has caused him to make lineup choices that are mystifying. Despite Isiah Kiner-Falefa's deficiencies, including an error yesterday, he remains the starting shortstop. He should go to the bench, and Peraza should start.
It seems as if Andrew Benintendi's injury may have opened the door to Aaron Hicks being a full-time left fielder. Boone seemed hesitant about using Oswaldo Cabrera in left field. It should be noted that Cabrera did not have much outfield experience in the minor leagues but, most of that was in leftfield. He adjusted very nicely to rightfield and there would be no reason to believe he couldn't do the same in leftfield.
At this point, Estevan Florial should play centerfield every day. That would allow Aaron Judge to move back to rightfield. Oswaldo Cabrera could pay leftfield. If Harrison Bader is able to return, another problem could be addressed by moving Florial to leftfield and Cabrera to third base to replace the struggling Donaldson. I understand a lot of fans may not wish to flood the lineup with rookies but, the veterans are not getting it done and the team is sinking deeper and deeper into the swamp of mediocrity.
Boone seems to think he is a very good manager and possibly that he is smarter than everybody else. He was snarky and dismissive to Meredith Marakovits the other day, telling her he was tired of answering the same questions every day. Unfortunately, that goes with the territory. If the team doesn't win, he will be asked about it. He didn't mind answering questions when the team was winning. Then, he was as improvisational and witty as Robin Williams was on the Tonight Show. Boone’s stubbornness and dubious decision making are dooming the Yankees to another quick post-season exit. He needs to think on his feet and adjust. He does neither. Again, I say, “Ya got trouble. Trouble right here on River Avenue. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Boone.”
This afternoon, the Yankees open a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins at home at 1:05 PM. Minnesota’s Chris Archer (2-7 4.52 ERA) will face Jameson Taillon (12-4 3.97 ERA).