The Yankees have to be wondering – what the hell is happening here? Don’t ask the players, though – this debacle goes right to the top.
The Yankees are not getting beat by the Rays in the ALDS; they’re beating themselves.
Facing elimination tonight, the Yankees have run out of moves with their starting pitching, leaving untested and erratic Jordan Montgomery (right) alone to make up for his boss’s ill-conceived “strategy.”
Whether it was Brian Cashman, Mike Blake (pitching coach), David Grabiner, the team’s Director of Quantitative Analysis, or Aaron Boone, the current fall guy, someone has to answer why two starting pitchers were burned up in one game while pitching only three innings.
Yankees Fool No One
How could he not be curious when he learned that veterans Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ were being passed over in favor of a 21-year old rookie with only 34 innings under his belt – and no playoff experience?
As it turned out, as Cash said afterward, “I was surprised, personally, that they went [to Happ] that early.”
Now, if the Yankees intended to maintain the ruse of Garcia’s use as an opener, that means Boone had to keep Happ in hiding, and not up and to throw while Garcia was throwing his 27 pitches.
How could Happ have been fully warmed up and ready to enter the game? Here’s a guy who has made 300 starts over his fourteen years in the big leagues, and a mere 26 appearances as a reliever.
Yankees Violate A Major “Rule” In Baseball
Starting pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. They don’t just sit around for four days in between starts. They build up to that fifth day, and on the day they start, they are ruled by the clock.
For instance, Jacob deGrom is noted for standing in the outfield on his day to pitch a night game, watching the clock until it clicks to precisely 6:45 pm. Only then does he proceed to the bullpen to warm up.
Happ is already in hot water with the Yankees, who didn’t take kindly to his veiled accusation the team was underusing him to negate an innings pitched option in his contract.
Which if it kicked in, would earn Happ $17 million to pitch for the Yankees in 2021.
Even so, his words were less than tempered and judicious following his 2.2 inning outing in which he surrendered four runs on five hits, on 69 pitches, as well as making a costly throwing error.
Yankees Fans: Who “Infuriates” You?
Brandon Kuty of NJ.com quotes Happ as saying, “he told the Yankees we would have preferred to start tonight’s game but that he was ready to pitch. Wouldn’t answer when he was asked if he felt like he was put in a position to succeed”,
Kuty goes on to blast Happ, writing, “That’s absolutely infuriating to me.” Presumably, Kuty and others who hold the same view refer to the long-held notion that a professional ballplayer needs to be ready in any situation when he is called on for duty.
Agreed, but this argument overlooks another baseball “rule” that says a manager must put his players only in situations where they can succeed. The logic is pure. After all, why would Boone ask Giancarlo Stanton to bunt with runners on first and second and no one out? Brett Gardner, Tyler Wade – yes – Stanton, Judge, Gary Sanchez (can you imagine) – no!
Yankees And The Crux Of The Matter
Thus, the crux of the matter. Did the Yankees (to be defined in a minute) use Happ in a situation where he is more likely to succeed – i.e., do his job?
Aaron Boone insists that Happ was “on board” with the controversial plan in leading up to Game 2. Translated, this means Happ was informed he was slated to be the “bulk man” of innings.
In turn, J.A. Happ indicated he wasn’t fully sold on the plan of him entering the second inning, following Deivi Garcia. Aaron Boone stood by the decision, but that doesn’t forgive how the plan was executed.
All of this ignores the real question, though. Which is, who has ownership of the failed plan?
Predictably, Boone is claiming it was the Yankees “team effort” that was debated at length. This makes sense, but why is it that Boone is the only member of the Yankees out there on defense?
The fact is we know little about the inner workings of the Yankees. We are well aware of the hype promoted by this writer and others that the Yankees are a well-oiled machine, in which Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Aaron Boone are on the same page every time.
Steinbrenner and Cashman are certifiably bonded, but where does Boone fit into the equation? Is he, as many reader’s comments from yesterday’s columns suggest, the lackey who is being set up to take the fall for yet another futile attempt by the Yankees to seize that elusive 28th World Title?
Or, in the view of other readers, is Cashman Boone’s puppeteer deserving the blame for making and off-the-field “error” causing his team to (potentially) be knocked out of playoffs competition?
And if Cashman is indeed the prime mover of who starts where and when for the Yankees – one, will we ever know that? And two, if he is, will he own up to it and be held accountable in the same manner as Aaron Boone is likely to face this offseason?
It’s Still In The Hands Of The Players
These are heady questions, especially when a need arises to have them posed in the middle of the 2020 ALDS.
We’ll watch tonight to see if the ever-resilient Yankees can win two in a row against the spirited Rays. I haven’t looked, but I’m pretty sure Las Vegas says – hell no – the Yankees are finished, and they’ll find a way to lose either tonight or tomorrow night.
At the same time, however, there’s an X-Factor about the Yankees.
Which is, everything discussed beforehand has nothing to do with the 28 players in the Yankees clubhouse.
The Game 2 decision and its cascading effects have nothing to with them, and despite the quiet raising of eyebrows among some in the clubhouse, the Yankees lineup is still the same.
To be sure, that lineup will have plenty to say tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow night in the one-game shootout to take the series.
Of course, that assumes that Boone doesn’t receive the word “from above” that golden boy Gary Sanchez must play tonight – as the Yankees catcher!
So, we’ll take it one step at a time, assuming the only important thing about the Yankees in Game 4 tonight.
But the strategy employed by the Yankees in this series, no matter how it turns out, should not and cannot be misplaced or ignored.