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  • Ed Botti

How Long?

by Ed Botti

May 31, 2022

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The Yankees have played 48 games so far in 2022. I will consider that the quarter mark for the purposes of this opinion piece.


Most fans are very excited by the Yankee record at the quarter mark, and why not, it’s the second best record in baseball, behind the Dodgers.


But, they will not keep up this pace of a .686 winning percentage (111 wins), and there will come a time very soon, when the rest of the league catches up to them, and they will have to field 8 position players that can at least hit their weight, and give this pitching staff a fighters’ chance.


I also wonder, are the Yankees actually this good, or is it that the league just isn’t that deep this season?


Admit it. We all are surprised by the Yankees fast start.


Who can complain, right?


Here are some numbers to chew on:

  • Since the start of the 2020 season two players have stood out as complete abject failures as Major League hitters. Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks. Yet they continue to play for the New York Yankees.

Photo: NJ Advance Media


  • Looking back 3 years, a pretty fair and reasonable sample size, you will see that over the course of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons Gallo is hitting .170 with 28 home runs and 219 strikeouts. 2020 and half of of 2021 were as a Ranger.

  • Gallo is on pace for 229 strike outs per 162 games played for the Yankees (23% of his total plate appearances, but 38% in 2022).

  • Over the course of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons, all as a Yankee, Hicks is hitting .209 with 11 home runs and 101 strikeouts. He is on pace for 129 strike outs per 162 games played over the course of the last 3 seasons as a Yankee.

Why do I focus on strike outs? Because despite what you may have been told the last 8-10 years, the object of the game is still to throw the ball, hit the ball, and catch the ball. Striking out is not the same as grounding out. A strike is a complete failure. There is no redeeming benefit whatsoever.


Although Hicks’ strikeouts are not nearly as alarming as Gallo’s, he also has hit only has 11 home runs during that span. Making matters worse, last year his on base percentage (OBP) was only .294.


Centerfield in Yankee history is hallowed ground. .209 with 11 home runs over the last 3 seasons is not getting it done. Plus, he turns 33 in October, and is often injured.


Gallo 2022 salary $10,275,000

Hicks 2022 salary $10,000,000

Wasting $20,275,000? Priceless.


Over the last 3 years, these two have combined to hit .183.

That is not 2/3 of a championship outfield.


I guess some can give General Manager Cashman a little slack with Hicks (not me). After the 2019 season (when he hit a whopping .235 but did have a .325 OBP), Cashman gave Hicks a 7 year $70,000,000.00 contract with a $2,000,000.00 signing bonus.


I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.


But, I thought, “It is a movable contract”. I am not so sure right now.


However, when it comes to Gallo, blame falls directly and indisputably on Cashman’s inability to recognize how to build an efficient and balanced offense, a trend we have seen for several years, now.


I said it on July 29, 2021 right here on the pages of Start Spreading the News, and I’ll say it again today. He is the exact opposite type of hitter this team needs. Making matters worse, I wasn’t impressed by his stats as a Ranger, but he is even worse as a Yankee.


I am still trying to figure why Cashman made that trade. Please don’t tell me about the analytics, etc... Baseball is played on dirt and grass. Not an excel spreadsheet. You step in to the box, you hit the ball.


Cashman, and by extension Boone, have been hoping the duo of Gallo and Hicks somehow improve, a lot.


I say dream on. They are what they are. Now, you have put yourselves in the unenviable position to make cold and hard decisions. Let’s see if they have the guts to do so. I think they do.


But will Hal Steinbrenner allow them to do so?


At the quarter mark of this 2022 season, the Yankees have won a lot in spite of these two players. But, mark my words; they can’t and won’t continue to win long-term with essentially no production from left and center field when Gallo and Hicks are in the lineup. The Yankee have a great chance to be in the playoffs in October, but they’re going to need more from Gallo and Hicks to escape an early postseason exit.


Personally, I don’t think either one has it in them.


They need to make moves, and the sooner the better. Why not do it now, and bury the Rays and Blue Jays? Why wait for July 31?


Has anyone noticed that after starting the season 10-19, the Red Sox have quietly won 13 of their last 19 and 9 of their last 12?


No one is lying down and conceding a thing. Rightfully so.


I understand that managers have to try and be as positive as humanly possible when it comes to speaking about their players with the media. But, they also have to understand that we are not stupid. We watch the same games that they do. Case in point this past Saturday against the Rays.


Aaron Hicks had a golden opportunity to positively impact Saturday’s game. With the Yanks trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, Boone had a decision to make. Should he let catcher Jose Trevino hit for himself after Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s two-out single? Or, with the righty reliever Jason Adam pitching, should he put Hicks in to hit lefty? A fair and reasonable question for Boone to consider. Boone chose the switch-hitting Hicks over the righty-swinging Trevino.

Here is how it unfolded.


Hicks took Adam’s first pitch for a called strike, fouled off the next two pitches, then struck out swinging.


4 pitches, end of threat. End of inning. End of game.


Afterwards Boone spoke to the media and said “Adams is a really tough at-bat, especially for a righty. There was a debate there, but I felt Hicks might catch one (and hit a homer) or at least control the zone (and work a walk). It was tough call.”


What would make him think that?


Before the game Boone dropped Gallo to the ninth spot in the order. Not exactly where they envisioned him hitting when they made the trade. They had him penciled in at either 5 or 6 in the lineup, “mashing bombs over the short porch”, we were all told by the YES Network talking heads.


Well, that didn’t work out, did it?


Here is how Boone explained it to the media “The nine hole is a place I value, I think there’s a pretty good fit there, especially as you turn over the lineup when he’s going well with his ability to get on base. We’re just trying to space our lefties a little bit better.”


Seriously?


Gallo went 1-3 during the game. But if you actually look close at his at bats here is what he did:

  • He hit an average ground ball that rolled into right field because nobody was playing where the second baseman should have been if he hadn’t shifted to short right field.

OK. I give him credit for hitting it where they “ain’t”.

  • Gallo’s other two at-bats were a swinging strikeout and a pop up to first base.

When you throw into all of that the fact that the catching tandem includes Kyle Higashioka and his .164 batting average, on some nights you have at least three hitters that are just about automatic outs that can’t hit their weight.


That has to change for this team to win in October. Period.


Winning in April and May is great. I always say a win in April is just as important as a win in September.


But, October is different, as we all know. Everything is ratcheted up, everything seems faster.

We also know, not every player has it in them to perform in October. And we also know, not every player has it in them to play in New York. And in New York October is what matters.


My question is how long will Cashman and Boone continue to throw these two (or three) players out there on a nightly basis, and continue to hope they suddenly wake up?


***


Photo by Getty Images


Aaron Judge and Nestor Cortez are having a career years that will be wasted if the Yankees do not address the massive holes in their lineup.


You may read this and think, why is he getting so far ahead? It’s only May 31. The reason I am is that I see an opportunity with this team. Their fast start has paved the way for them to contend for a division title (not a wild card) and secure home field.


I say time is of the essence. Get a head start on the other teams, and go for it!


Some will look at the 4 game split with the Rays last weekend, and think a split is fine. Not me, when you take the first 2 games, a split of the last 2 is what you need. In both the Saturday and Sunday losses to the Rays, the Yankees went a combined 1-10 with RISP.


On Sunday, they out hit the Rays 9-2 but lost 4-2. How did that happen? Easy, the 6-9 hitters (including Hicks, Higgy and Gallo) went 1-16 with 5 strikeouts.


Trust me, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth, but when you have a chance to take 3 of 4 vs the team that has humiliated you over the last three seasons, you go for the jugular.


1-16 from the bottom half of your line up is weak, and sends a message to the rest of the league.


One thing I have noticed over these first 48 games, is a discernable lack of hustle, even from guys that previously you could not say that about. This past week I saw Rizzo not run hard on a third strike passed ball.


Unacceptable.


If you look across town, that does not happen since Buck Showalter took over. What that tells me is that it is a leadership issue.


If you take a look at the turnaround of the surging LA Angels (is that what they are called these days?) you will see that hard decisions were made, and the results followed.


Last season, about a month in, the Angels released Albert Pujols with about $25 million left on the final season of his 10-year, $240 million deal. Jared Walsh took advantage of more playing time and made the All-Star team. This season, the Angels released Justin Upton with $29 million left in the final season of his five-year, $102 million contract. This time it was Taylor Ward (.354 batting average, 1.145 OPS) that jumped on the opportunity. Ward has a 2.1 Wins above Replacement (Baseball Reference) which is just about the same as Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez.


You can see a similar move in Queens, when the Mets earlier this season cut Robinson Cano and ate the $37 million-plus remaining on his contract.


My message to the Yankee--get rid of the dead wood and bring in players that are hungry and want to win. Put the petal to the metal and bury the rest the league, and do it now!


My first move; work a deal for Andrew Benintendi to replace Gallo in left, and put his line drive lefty bat in front of Judge! Remember, he is only 27, and is a winner.


My next move; let’s see what we have in a healthy and clearly defensively improved Miguel Andújar. The kid paid his dues, and deserved a shot to play. It is easy to forget, but in his one and only chance to play regularly he hit .297 with 27 home runs and 47 doubles while striking out 97 times in 606 plate appearances (16%). He also is only 27.


Digging deeper, I have a feeling, when Stanton (who has proved he can play in October) comes back, he will see more time at DH and less time in the field then him or us wants.


That’s not good, he’s a different player when he is a position player.


So, the Yankees had a great April and May and we are all thrilled. But, as we used to say “that and a token will get you on the subway”.


October is what matters. They have a chance to do something special in October, but it starts now!


Lastly, can someone explain to me why the Yankees do not have games scheduled for Memorial Day and July 4th?


Very weird. Very shortsighted.


Also, a big Bronx cheer goes out to the brain trust that ruined another Friday Night of Yankee Baseball on Amazon Prime. My connection was frozen from pre-game to post-game.

What did I do? Mets v Phillies, Celtics v Heat. Not a great way to grow your fan base.


Here’s to hoping everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend, and thank you to all of the men and women of our Military that unselfishly protect us and make the ultimate sacrifices by doing do.


Today’s Trivia: Who was the last player before Bernie Williams made it his own to wear #51?

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