Whether they realize it or not, the Yankees are digging a hole for themselves that may be impossible to crawl out from. Consider this…
With last night’s embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay, the Yankees are now nine games behind the Rays in the loss column. To state the obvious, games that are already lost can’t be won back later, and those nine games have great significance as the remainder of the 2023 season is played out.
Now, follow along with me as I have a point to make.
The Yankees (21-18) and Rays (30-9) played their 39th game last night. In September, each team has 27 games on the schedule. September is the traditional do-or-die month in baseball when all games suddenly become “critical.”
But between now and then, there are sixty-six games to play, and to state the not-so-obvious, here’s what the Yankees need to do to make up those nine games to regain an even advantage with the Rays going into September.
Yankees: Read It And Weep
The Yankees must go 42-24 (.636 and eighteen games over .500), while Tampa Bay can put it on cruise control, playing .500 baseball (33-33) and (still) remaining tied with the Yankees on September 1.
Would you take a wager to Las Vegas, betting the Rays will suddenly collapse into a .500 team?
I think not, and neither would I.
Translated, this means the Yankees must play .700 ball over the next three months even to get close to Tampa Bay.
This is why the fallacy drives me crazy when fans say, “It’s early.” It wasn’t too early last night at Yankee Stadium for the Yankees to make a statement, but they didn’t.
With what they have, this team is not ready to seriously compete in the American League East division.
Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner tell us to hold on and not count us out yet. And yet, as a fan for sixty years, my heart says one thing while my head says another.
We can wait forever for Luis Severino to stop scrapping with the Yankees as he paves a path out of New York during the offseason, and we can wait for Carlos Rodon to throw his first pitch for the Yankees. At the same time, we can observe as Josh Donaldson plays out the dream that somehow he hasn’t forgotten how to hit.
We can wait, too, for Yankees like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Willie Calhoun suddenly transform into anything more than what they are – pedestrian major league ballplayers.
The problem, of course, is that we can’t wait.
Time Is The Enemy – Not The Rays
We were distracted in April by all the fun and hope surrounding the emergence of Anthony Volpe as a star in the team’s future. Now, in May, we are distracted by the return of Aaron Judge from the IL, as though he and Anthony Rizzo are enough to carry this team.
And then, there is the trap of the July trade deadline, when all the talk will arise – “What will the Yankees do”?
But by then, two more months of the season will have passed, and the rest of the league won’t care what the Yankees are doing because they’ll still be mired in fourth or fifth place, trying to make up for lost time.
Yankees: I Still Want To Believe…
I still want to believe the Yankees are in it to win it, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe in the Yankees’ mantra when well more than a decade has passed without a World Series appearance, much less a World Championship.
The aura of the pinstripes is one thing, and the ties to icons like Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, and Lou Gehrig; are another – but I can’t let go of the current corporate facing of the Yankees today.
Four million fans will walk through the turnstiles at Yankee Stadium again this year. The fact they continue to come is fantastic and of itself.
Even more revealing is this set of facts. The Yankees’ payroll in 2022, when they made the Amazon Prime deal was $156 million. Their payroll in 2023 will be $261 million. The team’s gross revenue last year was $657 million. They earned $143 million alone in their deal with the YES Network.
I’m not naive enough to know no company or corporation should be faulted for making money. But at the same time, I know when I’m being tricked into thinking the Yankees are all about me and their fan base.
To reiterate, the Yankees are digging themselves a hole that is nearly impossible to crawl out from – and no one in the hierarchy seems to care enough to do something about it – Now!