How is it that a team can finish a season with 100+ wins and not look good doing it? The New York Yankees of 2018 may indeed be creeping up on their worst best season ever – and no one can pinpoint why.
The Yankees upcoming three-game set with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium was supposed to be a battle between the two teams for the American League East title.
Instead, the series which is sandwiched between the Toronto Blue Jays and the woeful Baltimore Orioles has digressed to a test as to whether or not the Yankees survive to play the one-game Wild Card shootout at home against the upstart Oakland A’s, or take a miserable flight to the West Coast following the final game of the season.
What happened? Don’t say injuries, because the best teams overcome injuries by drawing from talent within their farm system, or the remaining players on a team step up negating the absence of players thought to be an integral part of the team. Or, the team pulls a rabbit from a pocket landing some electricity to a faltering lineup, setting the stage for a charge to the finish and the ultimate return of their missing star players.
With the exception of J A Happ, who is undefeated wearing the pinstripes, and the surprising production of newcomer Luke Voit, the 2018 Yankees have not met the challenge. Remove their dual Rookie of the Year contenders, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar from the lineup, and you have nothing that approaches a Yankee having a great season.
Kudos to Giancarlo Stanton for carrying the team on his back for two months, but that was yesterday and not today when it counts (.149 BA, one home run, nine RBI over his last 23 games). And beyond that, one savior after another has not answered the call. Gary Sanchez, MIA for most of the season, comes back meekly with only four extra-base hits in nearly 50 at-bats.
Aaron Hicks, one of the few durable Yankees this season, hits just .214 with only five extra-base hits in his last 100 at-bats. Nothing is clicking for the Yankees at the moment, save for the thrill of the home runs they continue to hit at a near-record pace.
The decline of the team’s pitching is also glaring. In August, the Yankee’s team ERA ballooned to 4.29, dropping to 17th for all major league teams, a descent from ninth place the previous month. Even the presence of Aaron Judge would have made for a tough time overcoming that need for more run production. Remove Happ and Masahiro Tanaka from the equation, and one can hazard a guess the rest of the staff would account for ERA of five or higher.
The Yankees haven’t collapsed a la the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks, but they sure are making this a lot more exciting than it needed to be. Good for FOX and ESPN, but a nightmare for players like the Yankees wily and reflective veteran, Brett Gardner (Video).
All this and somehow the Yankees have managed to hold off Billy Beane‘s reincarnated Oakland A’s, a team which earns you five points if you can name three starting position players and two of their starting pitchers.
A return to full strength is imminent, with both Aroldis Chapman and Judge not so quietly making their way back into playing condition before the end of the regular season in two weeks and fifteen games. Is that enough time for Aaron Judge to regain his magic touch as the Yankees MVP, and translate into something more than a morale booster with his presence on the bench with show-and-tell appearances in the outfield. And will Chapman’s knee hold up under the pressure of 100 mph explosions on his follow through?
Or, will Luis Severino regain that thing called confidence, returning to the form he presented on his way to a Cy Young award over the first half of the season, grabbing the ball from Happ and Tanaka for the one game playoff?
As many of the Yankees players have suggested, this team is too good to be fighting for their lives to hold the number one Wild Card seed. Oh, really? I’m not sure the Oakland A’s are listening. And it’s more than enough time for the Yankees to walk the walk and stop the talk.
Because in baseball, you’re only as good as the number of games you’ve won. For the Yankees today, they remain just a whisper away from being tagged with the worst best team in their history if this thing falls apart. 10-5 is not asking too much to wrap this thing up, and that’s assuming, of course, the A’s don’t finish at 12-4.
September baseball. It’s not what we thought it would be, but it’s still something worth fighting for with Number 28 still in sight…
Update: Saturday, 5:30 PM (EST)
Here’s the line on the Yankees usually reliable in the clutch, CC Sabathia, this afternoon against the Triple-A lineup of the Blue Jays.
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