The 2020 Yankees were losers of seven straight, then winners of ten in a row. Now this, 5-5 in their last ten. Who are these Yankees?
The Yankees are not the only playoff team with less than inspiring credentials during the last week of the 2020 regular season. Mediocre at best, 5-5 in their previous ten games and a three-game losing streak, the Yankees, like the Cubs, Padres, and White Sox, will stumble in as a qualifier for this year’s postseason crapshoot.
With two games remaining, including today’s afternoon contest with the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have already conceded the AL East Title to the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as home-field for the Wild Card best of three series beginning next Tuesday.
Yankees Fans: A Trip Back To The Year 2000
As they always say, it could be worse, and in 2000 it actually was. Fans will recall when the Yankees held a nine-game lead over the Red Sox on Sept. 13. New York lost 15 of its final 18 games, including six in a row. The Yanks won just one of seven games to end the season.
There was a fairy-tale-like ending to the 2000 season, though, as the Yankees finished with a 2 1/2 game lead over the Red Sox and then beat the Mets in a nerve-wracking Subway World Series.
Can we believe these Yankees are capable of accomplishing the same feat? More importantly, do the Yankees themselves believe they can?
The Yankees lackluster performance in a 4-3 extra-inning loss to the Marlins Friday night will not cut it. Especially in the fielding department with four errors that included two by Kyle Higashioka on misguided throws, another by Gary Sanchez for catcher’s interference, and one each by Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres.
Frustration even caught up to Aaron Boone:
Moreover, the Yankee’s knack for hitting home runs that destroy their opponent’s morale in tight games has disappeared, a drought that covers four games without a bomb.
Aaron Judge (no home runs and two RBI) and Giancarlo Stanton (one HR and three RBI) have been “no-shows” since their return to the lineup. Luke Voit is finally feeling the weight of the team he has carries on his back, and Gary Sanchez – well, that’s an old story.
So, Who Are These Yankees?
All of which brings us back to the original question – who are these Yankees?
The expanded postseason this year offers an opportunity for eight teams in each league to participate in a crapshoot that begins with a three-game Wild Card Series.
One false move means returning home with the same empty feeling the Yankees have experienced since 2009, more than a decade removed from their last World Title.
Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly have every right to be delighted about their Marlins team, everyone’s write-off when the season began. For the Marlins, there is no pressure as they have already exceeded expectations, and the only way from here is further up.
The Yankees, however, are no one’s underdog. Winning is underwritten in each of the contracts their players’ sign. For teams like the Yankees and Dodgers (who count 2013-2019 with playoff appearances – and losers of each), this is not horseshoes, and close is not good enough.
There is reason to hope, though not necessarily believe, the Yankees can flick the switch to the on position next Tuesday. They’ll get a stellar start from Gerrit Cole in Game One, but will the bats be there to overcome a 2-1 or 3-2 loss?
The Yankees have wasted an opportunity to roll into the postseason with positive momentum. This means they have a job to do in trying to turn the page, taking each day and each game one at a time. Easier said than done.
Yankees: That Was Then, And This Is Now
Alluded to before, the Yankees play in 2000 was a fluke. They were running away with the division, and the only question was how many wins they would rack up during the regular season.
That’s not the case with these Yankees who have been all over the place in 2020. The good news, of course, is they have demonstrated the ability to crawl back from a .500 team on a losing streak to where they stand today.
The trouble is, though, you don’t get the chance to do that in playoff baseball, where it’s all or nothing, and it’s over with quick, win, or lose.
To compound things in this COVID-influenced season, the Yankees are restricted to their hotel rooms and away from their families, close friends, and relatives. until further notice.
Already, this has garnered displeasure from Aaron Judge, who told the New York Daily News:
“And to kind of be put into a bubble before the playoffs and during the whole thing, I felt we’ve kind of already been doing that this whole season and now we’re all kind of getting taken away from our families to go do this,” Judge continued. “I am not a fan of it.
Fan of it or not, it is what it is, and the team that can best endure this and other hardships during the postseason will be the team that emerges (alone) on top.
The Yankees have a seasoned team, and except for Deivi Garcia, they all have playoff experience. With that comes the ability to tune out the noise once play begins.
Execution, however, is another matter. Judge and Stanton must contribute more, Gary Sanchez has to put his bat on the ball, their defense has to be errorless (mental or otherwise), and the much-heralded Yankees bullpen needs to be faultless.
A Turn For The Better – Or Just Another Game
More like it is what we saw in today’s box score from a Yankees team that pummeled the Marlins by a score of 11 to 4.
The message Aaron Boone brings to his team never wavers. Always upbeat and sometimes to a fault, Boone’s words are predictable, but helpful in putting the postseason into perspective:
“We signed up for this, and my family is very supportive, and you know, with school back in and things going on in their worlds, being very busy right now too,” Boone said. “So we’ll try and make the most of Facetime, and hopefully, I’ll come home with a prize.” (New York Daily News)
Hopefully, is, of course, the keyword. Nothing and no one is guaranteed when it comes to the postseason in baseball.
Which is why the Yankees, if they can pull this off, will have a memory to last a lifetime – telling their grandkids – “I was on the Yankees team that played through a pandemic, and we won it all that year”.