Perspectives: We Saw This Miles Away, Years Ago Even
by Paul Semendinger
October 23, 2022
Let's start here:
And continue with this:
HE COULD HAVE BEEN A YANKEE...
The Yankees said they didn't need Bryce Harper. (I mean, they had Clint Frazier!)
What Yankee has stepped up and played big the way Bryce Harper has? Who brings the energy that Harper does?
Year-after-year, the Yankees go down flailing and without emotion. "We lost again," they say. They put their heads down. The manager blows bubbles or spits out sunflower seeds during the game, and then tells the media that they have to, and will, do better. They act defeated. They show no energy. They have no fight. They do and say the same things after the games, "We have to do better." "I tip my hat to them." "We'll come back tomorrow with a new plan."
It doesn't look like there will be many (or any) more tomorrows (this year).
This is the Yankees:
Harrison Bader, the player they brought in to play defense and be the difference maker in the postseason has now made two postseason errors. His error last night took enough focus away from the ace starting pitcher(Gerrit Cole) that he promptly gave up a two-run homer to the opponent's #9 batter. For all intents and purposes, that was the game. It was over when the Yankees went down 2-0. This is the Yankees of today.
That great centerfielder, Harrison Bader, was also supposed to bring speed and excellence on the bath paths. He got thrown out trying to steal a base last night.
Remember, this was the player who was injured and wasn't able to play for weeks and weeks, but we were told that that was okay because of the positive difference he was going to make in the postseason. "You don't need to win games in August," we were told. "It's all about October."
And remember, while Bader wasn't playing, while he couldn't play, the Yankees lost game after game and along the way also lost home field advantage. "It doesn't matter," they said. "Who needs home field advantage in the playoffs?" (Then we heard how difficult it was to travel to the away game to begin the ALCS...)
In 2022, the Yankees were 57-24 (.704) at home. (They were 42-39 on the road.)
The Astros were 55-26 (.679) at home.
Who needs home field advantage? Is there really an advantage? (That's what we were told, until the Yankees lost a game in Houston because, as they said, it was played outside.)
In the post season, the Yankees keep getting beat by the other team's bottom of the batting order. Yet, the Yankees don't even know who their #9 hitter is. They also don't know who their leadoff hitter is. They are in the ALCS, and they don't even know what player plays in what position. Who is the leadoff batter? Who is the left fielder? Who is the shortstop? Who is the set-up man? On and on...
The Yankees have played eight post season games this year. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Harrison Bader, and now Anthony Rizzo have all batted lead off. There is no plan. Everything changes each game.
The shortstop is IKF. Until it's not. Then it's Oswaldo Cabrera. Until it's not. Oswald Peraza, who wasn't even placed on the roster for the ALDS, became the starting shortstop in the ALCS, for a moment, at least. That is, until they went back to Cabrera.
And yet, Josh Donaldson, who is 1-for-9 with seven strikeouts plays game after game after game.
Is it any wonder that the team doesn't win? They don't even know who is playing - or why.
The Yankees operate minute to minute without a plan. They make it up as they go along. It's not a winning formula.
Worse, this has been the model they have used for the entirety of the Aaron Boone era. Year after year, we see the same thing. It hasn't been a winning formula.
Year-after-year, we see the same thing in the postseason - the Yankees strikeout a ton and they don't hit. At all.
Aaron Boone, the manager, is supposed to be a great communicator, yet reports were that Harrison Bader found out that he was batting leadoff not from the manager or a coach, but from reporter Lauren Shehadi. Last week, the Yankees' closer didn't know that the manager had no plans to use him in a tight game. I must say, that is some excellent communicating.
Last night in a must-win game, the team managed all of three hits. Two of those hits came in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the team down 5-0. The hits came with Yankee Stadium, in a playoff game, that was far from full. The fans had left. The Yankees have taken the heart from their fans.
When the fans no longer believe, what's left?
I have to ask... why would anyone play the prices asked for tickets at Yankee Stadium for the postseason? Hundreds of dollars to watch them lose? There is a reason I haven't paid that kind of money. Why would I pay to watch this brand of baseball?
Years ago, and ever since, I have said that the Yankees will regret, greatly regret, not signing Bryce Harper. The Yankees needed a big lefty bat, yet they passed on a superstar who would have made a difference for them. At that time, they said, "Good hitters are good hitters... " (Remember that?) "Lefty or righty, we have a lineup that can hit." Then, about a year ago, they realized that they actually did need a quality left-handed bat in the lineup:
They tried batting Aaron Hicks in the heart of the order. That didn't work.
They got Joey Gallo. That didn't work.
They got Anthony Rizzo. That kind of worked. (Rizzo is, of course, a lot older than Bryce Harper and could never be a long-term solution to this problem.)
They got Matt Carpenter... And it worked, for a while. But once it was clear that it wouldn't work any longer, because they had no one else, they had no other choice but to use Carpenter in the Championship Series, even though he was rustier than the tin man in the Wizard of Oz (except no oil could get him ready quickly enough to perform). Along the way, Matt Carpenter became the first batter, ever, to strikeout in his first eight postseason at bats.
Think of the players, the money, and the time the Yankees have spent trying to replace the one player, Bryce Harper, that they could have had and who would probably have made the difference for the team these last few postseasons.
Remember when the Yankees didn't go after Justin Verlander because he was too expensive?
I do have to wonder why some fans think that if the Yankees sign Aaron Judge that his contract won't get in the way of the Yankees again doing what is necessary to build a great team around him. It will, absolutely. It is clear, perfectly clear - this is the way the Yankees operate. This isn't something new. It is how they have operated for a long time.
Two years ago, the Yankees were unable to do anything in the off-season until they resolved the contract with DJ LeMahieu who had just had back-to-back outlier seasons. The Yankees were convinced that this high performance would continue, even though LeMahieu was about to enter his decline years. So, they signed him for six years. DJ got injured at an age when many players get injured. He has batted .268 and .261 in the two seasons since he signed the long-term deal. Some of us saw this coming a mile away. "You're crazy," I was told. "He's going to remain great." He didn't. And his injury has hurt the team. No, we couldn't see that coming...
Last night, Aaron Judge went 0-for-4. He struck out twice. In the ALCS, he is batting .083.
All season long we heard that Aaron Judge showed it to the Yankees. He stepped up big and had a great year. In his contract year, Aaron Judge proved how great he is. AND HE DID! Absolutely. But, if we give Judge credit for that, for stepping up big, we also have to note that in the post season, he has not done that. In the postseason, he is batting .156. That's not getting the job done. Did he forget how to step-up big? All year long we heard about his super powers. Where did they go?
Maybe, just maybe, Aaron Boone's philosophy rubbed off on him - "Don't play in the last game, you're tired. Even though we have a week off ahead of us, sit this out and don't chase the triple crown. Why try? You won't get it."
This approach, this, "You must be tired approach," has also defined the Yankees throughout the Aaron Boone era. "We will sit you today so you're rested for the big games in October."
Here's a question for anyone who ever played a sport - Did you do better when your coach coddled you or when that coach pushed you and said, "I expect more out of you"?
And it's not just Judge...it's not fair, at all, to focus just on him. The whole lineup doesn't hit. It hasn't hit. The team set a record for the most consecutive games with the fewest hits... ("The Yankees offense has now recorded six or fewer hits in nine straight games dating back to the regular season, the longest streak in a single season in franchise history.") and followed that up last night by getting only three hits.
And then there is this...