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Festivus airing of grievances: 2020 Yankees edition

All my fellow Seinfeld fans out there know that Frank Costanza was one of the show’s best characters. Although Jerry Stiller, the actor who played him, sadly passed away earlier this year, his legend lives on forever. Who could forget him ripping into The Boss for the Jay Buhner trade?

Costanza invented a holiday called Festivus, which conveniently is today, Dec. 23. One of the main parts of the holiday is the airing of grievances. It is defined by Wikipedia as “each person lashing out at others and the world about how they have been disappointed in the past year.” So, in honor of Frank Costanza, I’ve decided to do my own 2020 Yankees version of the airing of grievances.

Another Festivus miracle! There will be no airing of grievances . . . today | Madison's Avenue

JA Happ

If you’ve ever seen my Twitter feed, you’ll notice I’m never hesitant to make a joke at Happ’s expense.

Happ was absolutely awful in 2020. He started off the season poorly, and had some of his starts skipped after the Yankees had games cancelled due to COVID. The lefty then accused the Yankees of passing on his turn in the rotation just so his 2021 option wouldn’t vest. No, dude, they’re skipping you because Gerrit Cole is fully rested and you have an ERA of 10. To Happ’s credit, he rebounded and pitched well down the stretch. Until the playoffs.

In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays, Aaron Boone removed rookie Deivi Garcia after just one inning of work. The move was intended to have the Rays put out a lefty-heavy lineup and create favorable match ups for the left-handed Happ. He responded by allowing four runs on five hits and three walks in 2.2 innings. During Happ’s postgame press conference, it was clear he had not bought into the strategy.

Happ was nothing but a whiny, overpaid, underperforming loser in 2020. He was without a doubt the first person to come to mind for the airing of grievances.

Aaron Boone

I don’t dislike Aaron Boone as much as a lot of Yankee fans do. I thought he went through growing pains in 2018, and did a great job in 2019. Unfortunately, Boone regressed in my eyes in 2020. To be fair, a lot of Boone’s decisions probably are organizational moves that come from the front office. There’s no way pulling Garcia in Game 2 was strictly a Boone call. Boone did, however, use Mike Ford as a pinch hitter over Clint Frazier twice in that series. Frazier’s OPS was .905 this season, Ford’s .496. Boone was clearly overthinking things while managing against Kevin Cash, and it showed.

Another thing Boone did this year that bugged me was how he handled his relievers. When Tommy Kahnle went down for the season, the Yankee bullpen became a lot thinner. Boone would consistently go to Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green in high leverage situations. As he should, those are his three best relievers, and every game counts in a shortened season. However, he had to have known that these three wouldn’t be enough to get through the playoffs. Especially considering there were no off days in the ALDS/ALCS this year. Despite this, he did nothing to try and prepare others like Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga for high leverage playoff appearances. Yet, he still went to both of them in big spots in the playoffs. Predictably, they were not good.

Boone seems like a good guy, and he’s shown in the past that he can be an effective manager. But in 2020, he had me scratching my head more often than not.

Brian Cashman

Speaking of that bullpen problem, Cashman did nothing to address it at the trade deadline. To be fair, MLB didn’t announce that there were no off days in the DS/LCS until after the deadline because Rob Manfred is the absolute worst. (Manfred could get his own book’s worth of grievances from me.) Regardless, as soon as Kahnle went down, Cashman should’ve known he needed to be replaced. The fact that Cashman has done nothing at the trade deadline while in the midst of a championship window is frustrating.

At the end of the day, Brian Cashman is a good GM. But his kryptonite is acquiring starting pitching. Unless it’s throwing money at the best starter available (Cole, CC, etc.), Cashman rarely finds a difference-maker for the rotation.

To be fair, last year’s rotation would have been great had Luis Severino & James Paxton been healthy. Sadly, they were not.

Cashman did a great job building the core of this Yankee team. But it’s time he does enough to get them over the top. Who knows how many more chances this group will have?

Hal Steinbrenner

I’ve actually found myself defending Hal on Twitter the past few days. I dislike the narrative that he’s “cheap” or “doesn’t care.” If that were the case, he wouldn’t have paid Cole $324 million last winter. Hal wants to win.

My grievance with Hal, however, is this one quote he gave after the Yankees had been eliminated:

I try not to use the “if only George were alive” cliche too often. The Boss’ recklessness set the Yankees back at times. It was his suspension from baseball that let Stick Michael build the 90’s dynasty team. All of that being said, nobody can deny that George Steinbrenner desperately wanted to win.

For Hal to say that the 2020 season “wasn’t a failure” is tone deaf. If the Yankees made it to the World Series and lost a heartbreaker in 7, maybe that flies. Not after getting eliminated in the ALDS by your division rival whose payroll is a quarter of the size of yours.

Adam Ottavino

I liked the Ottavino signing at the time, and he was great for most of 2019. I mean, look at that slider!

Unfortunately, the guy walks everybody in sight. If teams aren’t swinging at the slider, they’re probably hitting pitches like this one:

If Ottavino’s salary wasn’t $9 million next year, I’d be fine with the Yankees giving him one last chance. Since he is making that much money, I can’t see the Yankees being able to move him. So we’re stuck paying him like an elite reliever, meanwhile Boone was hesitant to use him at all come playoff time.

General Health

For the second season in a row, the Yankees were heavily bitten by the injury bug. I already mentioned the Kahnle, Severino, and Paxton injuries earlier. Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton missed time once again. Gleyber Torres missed a few weeks as well. Even DJ LeMahieu landed on the IL briefly in 2020. It’s infuriating how injured this team has been. Even when guys are able to return for the playoffs after injuries, they’re not always 100% back to themselves. We saw Gary Sanchez return shortly before the 2019 playoffs, and he never got quite right. The same goes for Judge in 2020. It’s not easy for players to miss weeks at a time, get limited regular season reps, and then hit the best pitching in baseball come October. In fact, some would say that it’s hard.

I’m not sitting here saying get rid of Judge or Stanton or any of the other “injury prone” Yankees. I know how talented they all are. It’s just beyond frustrating to see injuries keep getting in the way of this team reaching its full potential.

Happy Festivus everybody! What grievances do you have to air about the New York Yankees? Sound off in the comments, or tweet me @ncostanzo24. Wishing you all a happy & healthy holiday season.