The Yankees are in the throes of a dive that will get worse before it gets better. Make no mistake; injuries matter. But don’t count them out.
On June 6, 2022, The Yankees were setting the pace in baseball with a blistering 39-16 (.722) record, a full 7.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. All the talk centered on a team that looked destined to erase the jagged memories of seasons gone wrong, ending a thirteen-year drought with a parade down the Canyon Of Heroes in New York City.
But as we know, the Yankees proved subject to the laws of gravity and a long baseball season. The team cooled off, and no one in the American League East could mount a charge to threaten that lead. Still, the Yankees team we saw in October in no way resembled the one we witnessed in June, and once again, the Yankees watched the World Series from home.
Yankees: Injuries Mount As Team Flails
This year, everything is upside down, and the Yankees find themselves in a tie for last place in the AL East and at or near the bottom of nearly all team offense stats.
It’s not an accident. Make no mistake; injuries are the main reason for the Yankees’ performance.
Before all the Yankees haters cry foul, look at the report compiled by CBS Sports listing the players currently on the Injured List for all 30 major league teams.
Not only is the Yankees list the longest, but it is the most severe, with several key players losing time.
The Baltimore Orioles, for example, have only three players on the IL, with starting pitcher John Means expected to return by the end of May. The Tampa Bay Rays have been hurt only by the loss of Tyler Glasnow, but he is expected to be ready by May 19.
The Toronto Blue Jays count only four players on the IL, and only starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu counts as a critical loss. The Boston Red Sox, the remaining AL East team, has a list comparable to the Yankees, but only Trevor Story counts as vital to their team, and most are expected back in the next week or two.
Most Yankees fans are more than familiar with the names on the team’s IL. Fifteen Yankees are currently down for the count, including three-fifths of the starting rotation that was counted on to begin the season. Luis Severino, Carlos Rodon, and Frankie Montas have yet to throw a pitch in 2023.
Among position players, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, and Harrison Bader remain absent from a weakened Yankees’ lineup. At the same time, Aaron Judge is listed day-to-day after awkwardly sliding into third base in Minnesota.
Yankees: Where Is The Next Man Up?
Typically, teams in a spot like the Yankees point to the “next man up” to hold the line until injured players return. But that hasn’t been the case with this group. Except for Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees are fielding a lineup lacking a consistent threat and the ability to put together a string of hits.
The bottom of the Yankees lineup is causing fans, presumably Aaron Boone, to cringe. Fill-ins like Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Aaron Hicks, Willie Calhoun, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are not doing the job.
Moreover, even if these players are playing at or beyond their ability, they are still no better than pedestrian off-the-street major league players.
Of the Yankees regulars still in the lineup, Gleyber Torres remains disappointing, earning praise from Aaron Boone for “quality at-bats” but has little to show in production. Anthony Rizzo is putting up decent numbers but is not a player who can carry a team.
Nor is DJ LeMahieu (.250, 3 HR, 11 RBI). Anthony Volpe is still learning the ropes and remains an exciting figure in the Yankees lineup. At the same time, Kyle Higashioka is a fine defensive catcher who may never be consistent with a bat as a force in the lineup.
Cole, Cortes, And Three Days Of Rain
Beyond the wilting offense, the Yankees starting pitching is in shambles, with only Gerrit Cole (5-0) showing up every start. “Nasty” Nestor Cortes has been anything but his last two starts, while Clarke Schmidt seems to have those deer-in-the-headlights eyes recalling the days of Sonny Gray when he pitched here.
Jhony Brito is trying like hell, and he receives the praises of his teammates, but he is, after all, just Jhony Brito. Ditto Domingo German, who continues to take a nap after mowing hitters down the first time through the lineup.
And so, Yankees fans have only to hold on tight, hoping the team reassembles itself while taking the fall gently and without the extent of disrepair that can easily dismiss them in the blink of an eye in the ultra-competitive AL East Division.
Yankees: Tomorrow’s Cup Is Full, But Not Now
As a team expected to win now, the Yankees do not have the luxury enjoyed by the Baltimore Orioles, who promoted several players from their farm system well before they were major league ready over the previous two seasons.
This week, the Yankees called up journeyman Jake Bauers (27), who was putting up big numbers (.304, .448 OBP, 9 HR, and 20 RBI) at Triple-A Scranton, so maybe they can get something out of him.
In addition to Anthony Volpe, the Yankees have mega-hyped Jasson Dominguez, who should crash the outfield next season. New York has also spent its last four first-round choices on offensive-minded players, and catcher Austin Wells (23), shortstop Trey Sweeney (23), and outfielder Spencer Jones (21) could team with Volpe to form nearly half the lineup of the future.
But that’s the future, and this is now.
Yankees: The Quagmire Ahead
Between today and May 19, the Yankees play 11 of their next 17 games against the Rays and Blue Jays. Thus, Yankees fans should prepare for things to get worse before they get better because this team is not currently on par with either of their division rivals.
In perpetual win-now mode, the Yankees have finished better than .500 in each of the past 30 seasons and made the playoffs in six straight. But for a franchise that measures itself by championships, they haven’t won or even played in a World Series since 2009.
In contrast to last season, when they sputtered after a terrific start, the Yankees must show better when the team’s full complement of players is on the field.
There will come a time soon when there are no reasons (I won’t say excuses) for not being better than the third and final Wild Card team to make the playoffs, much less wallowing behind the Rays, Jays, and Orioles.
For sure, though, Aaron Boone will earn his money now when the chips are down as he seeks to hold the team together until the Yankees clubhouse is whole again. I say again – Do Not count this team out yet.