The 2020 season was supposed to be a story of redemption for the Yankees. The rivals in Boston had traded their MVP candidate while the hated Astros became the villains of baseball. Gerrit Cole was thought to be the missing piece to set up a date with the Dodgers in October.
Now? The Yankees are falling like a rock and battling with Toronto for second in a division that Tampa has all but locked up. So, what went wrong for the 2020 Yankees and who deserves the blame?
After signing the elusive Cole, the longtime Yankees GM had to believe he built one of the best rosters in baseball. An offense led by Judge, Stanton and LeMahieu (who was an absolute bargain), a dominant bullpen and an above average rotation had the Yankees as an early Vegas favorite. But once the injury bug from 2019 followed the team to 2020 it was clear the Yankees lacked the depth needed to win games. Over the weekend, the Yankees started a 40 year old catcher and an infielder who was cut by Detroit. Meanwhile, Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade have been non-factors with the bat.
While the offense has struggled to replace their starters, the pitching staff has been a disaster. Over the weekend, the Yankees saw games blown by Ottavino, Chapman and Green. Meanwhile the Yankees still do not have three reliable starting pitchers for the postseason. Paxton has yet to put together a full season in the majors and everyone knew you couldn’t count on a 37 year old JA Happ. As the team is struggling to find offense without their top hitters, the pitching staff cannot be allowing easy runs in close games.
Aaron Boone and the coaching staff
Aaron Boone was sold to the fan base as a sharp, analytical mind that would create a more relaxed clubhouse. Instead, he seems in over his head at times and overthinking simple lineup decisions.
During the first game against the Mets, Jordan Montgomery was cruising until letting up two bloop singles in the 6th. With a 4-1 lead, Boone decided to turn the ball over to the usually reliable Chad Green. Naturally, Green let up a game tying three-run homer to the first batter he faced, Pete Alonso.
While bringing in your most consistent reliever is usually the right call, it was a questionable decision. Montgomery had been dominant and both hits were weak swings. Montgomery had thrown less than 70 pitches and struck out Alonso in both of his previous plate appearances. Meanwhile, it is always difficult for a reliever to enter an inning with runners on base.
Going with Green against the Mets hasn’t been the only questionable decision. During the year it was a common sight to see Luis Avilan pitching as soon as the Yankees lost the lead. Naturally a close game would quickly get out of hand.
While Boone has made some questionable lineup decisions, the biggest coaching adjustment needs to be moving past the home run swing. It feels like ever since the Yankees moved into the new stadium all the team tries to do is hit lazy fly balls with the hope that they will carry over the short porch. This philosophy needs to stop! DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Luke Voit seem to be the only hitters who are focused on hitting line drives.
The Yankees coaching staff needs to figure out something for Hicks and Sanchez who are both on the wrong side of the Mendoza line.
While there is plenty of blame to go around so far this season, the Yankees still can’t be counted out. Hopefully sooner than later we see Judge and Stanton back in the middle of the order. Maybe the home run hit by Hicks on Sunday jump starts his season. Or Happ turns a corner with Kratz behind the plates. If Cashman adds a Clevinger or Bauer this team can still be a tough out come October.
While it is easy to be a frustrated Yankees fan, remember that the team we are seeing today won’t be the team we see in the postseason. Yes, the Yankees are slumping but with the expanded playoffs and neutral site the Yankees just need to stay above water until the reinforcements arrive.