Yankees Perspectives: August 15, 2021
by Paul Semendinger
August 15, 2021
Boy the Yankees are showing guts and character and the ability to keep bouncing back.
It is impressive. And fun.
Imagine how much more fun this season would have been had the Yankees started the season playing well. Still, they are making it fun to watch the games, so I am appreciative.
Still, if the season ended today, the Yankees would be out of the playoffs. Even with all the winning, and with the Red Sox playing so poorly, they are two games behind them in the race to get to the post season. Games in April and May count just as much as the games in August.
Watching the Yankees and the Red Sox battle to the end should be great theater, but the Yankees will also have to watch for the Toronto Blue Jays. It is possible for the Jays to pass the Yankees. In the end, this is what makes baseball fun. (It’s also stressful. In 2022, I hope the Yankees make it less stressful and just run away with the division.)
Now, here are some other perspectives, reflections, and thoughts:
I loved the Field of Dreams game. I didn’t love how it ended, but I loved the whole idea and the way the game was covered. I’m often (usually) disappointed in gimmicks like this, but MLB did this one extremely well. (For the upcoming Tuesday Discussion, our writers will share other unique places where they would like to see a Major League game played.)
Last night I watched Field of Dreams with my son Ethan and my wife. Yeah, I cried. That’s a movie that speaks to the emotions that so many baseball fans have. “Hey Dad, Wanna have a catch?” Amazing. I just love it. I have shared that I went to Iowa to have a catch with my dad five years ago on that field. I am so glad that I did that. It was one of the special moments of my life.
(I actually wrote the following BEFORE last night’s game…) Joey Gallo has been a huge disappointment thus far, but I believe he’ll come around. Many players new to the Yankees struggle in their first weeks. This is nothing new. At all. The following are just some examples:
In March and April of 1920, as he began his Yankees career, Babe Ruth batted .226 with no homers in his first 9 games.
In his first 9 games as Yankee, Reggie Jackson batted .229 with one homer.
Tino Martinez hit .222 with no homers over his first 17 games as a Yankee.
After his first 10 games as a Yankee, Jason Giambi was batting just .211 with two homers.
Alex Rodriguez hit .196 with one homer in his first 14 games as a Yankee
I have written, a lot, that I believe the Yankees are being foolish, and have been foolish, if they believe that Luis Severino is going to be an impact pitcher on this year’s team. There is no logical reason to believe he’ll be healthy or perform well. He hasn’t been healthy since 2018. That’s a lifetime ago. I wish him well, but to hope that he’s going to be a difference maker, especially as a starter is not a sound baseball decision. Fans can root for this. I am rooting for this. I just hope the Yankees are not making Severino’s return part of their plan. For the team to plan for his to be effective (or durable) is foolish.
Luis Severino was just scratched from his most recent rehab start. He cannot stay healthy. As an athlete (not a professional one, but a guy who runs major marathons and still plays competitive baseball) I know all about injuries and recovery and how difficult it all is. It doesn’t get easier. Once one part of the body seems healed or repaired, often another one starts to hurt. Rehab is a long long process. I am living it. Believe me when I say 2018 was a long time ago for an athlete.
I have run 21 marathons. My last marathon was in 2018. I am battling to get back there (in New York City) this year. It’s not easy. At all. I plan to be at the starting line, but I can’t imagine that I’ll be the same guy who ran great some races years ago. With this as a frame of reference, even if Luis Severino comes back, we cannot expect him to be the kid who dominated in the first months of the 2018 season. He is not that guy any longer. 2018 was a long time ago. In baseball years, it is an eternity.
Going forward, even after this year, since he wasn’t even able to develop a foundational base, the Yankees will not be able to count on Luis Severino to be a regular starter for all of next year as well. The Yankees will have to be careful with his innings as they build him back up. Logically, the hope would be for Luis Severino to be a steady force in the rotation in 2023, not 2022. This is the sad reality. Injuries have set his career back a long long way. We can all hope that Luis Severino will be great again, but an organization planning for success cannot build their plan around a pitcher that has been hurt this often and for this long.
Many, including me, have given the Yankees a hard time about their inability to develop pitchers over the last many years. Many “plus” arms have been brought to New York and failed to be what the Yankees and their fans have hoped. The list goes on and on and includes Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, Javier Vasquez… among others. BUT, that being said, the Yankees have done a great job with Jameson Taillon. Where would the 2021 Yankees be without him?
Sometimes I am correct. (I’d like to think it’s more often than not.) I wish I hadn’t been correct about D.J. LeMahieu. It just seemed so clear to me in the off season that investing six years into a second baseman on the wrong side of 31-years-old didn’t make much sense. It also didn’t make much sense to go all in on a player coming off his best two years (which was really, due to a shortened season, only about a season and a half). In 2018, D.J. LeMahieu put up the following numbers:
.276/16/62 (avg/hr/rbi) and .321/.428/.749 (slg, obp, ops)
I noted that it would be logical to assume that we’d see similar numbers from LeMahieu going forward. This is what he’s at this year:
.270/7/47 and .349/.366/.716
Just as it’s logical to assume that Joey Gallo will come around, it was equally logical that D.J. LeMahieu, a very good player, would not replicate the best seasons of his career, especially as he aged.
When signing players to long term contracts, teams should consider all of the following:
Many years of excellence (teams should shy away from players coming off their best seasons just before free agency).
The player’s injury history (never sign a player who has a history of missing games due to injuries – even “freak” injuries. Missed time is missed time. A player not on the field cannot help the team win games).
The player’s championship history. In short, they should note if the player was a contributor to very successful (championships preferred) teams. There are players that just seem to be on winning teams. Players who bring that experience contribute in ways other than on the field. Teams need to build a winning culture, they can do that by signing players who bring the experience of winning with them.
In the Yankees’ case, specifically, primary value should be given to left-handed starting pitchers and left-handed hitters
Finally, I would look to athleticism. The team has to have a plan for how that player can contribute in three years, and in five years. Signing players who soon project to be DH types is not a great investment for long-term deals.
I have been very pleased that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have been mostly healthy this year. I will say that I did NOT see that happening. Judge has played in 102 games. That’s 87.9% of all the games the team has played. Giancarlo Stanton has played in 95 games (81.8%). These have been welcome surprises.
A week, or so ago, I was going to write that I’d like to see Jonathan Loaisiga as the closer. That hasn’t happened. Last night, out of desperation, Albert Abreu finished the close game. It’s time for the Yankees to plan for the next guy who will fill this role. Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton are not the long term answers. They can still do the job this year, all pitchers go through down periods, especially closers, so at season’s end, and (hopefully) in the playoffs, they’d be the first guys to go to, but it is time to start thinking about that role in 2022. I don’t think Chapman or Britton will be the answer next year.
The week features a big three-game battle with the Red Sox. These three games could go a long way to deciding how the season ends up.
Let’s Go Yankees!
FINAL NOTE – I am honored that the Yogi Berra Museum will be hosting the very special book launch for my Yankees book The Least Among Them. I would love to meet many of our readers at that event. Please click here to sign-up for FREE tickets. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/free-yankees-book-launch-special-event-the-least-among-them-tickets-167100178131