When Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge sat at his locker proclaiming 2019 a failure, it was news. This year, no one needs to tell us, we know.
On October 19, 2019, the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS in Game 6 by the Houston Astros. The crushing blow came from Jose Altuve off Aroldis Chapman. Ingrained in our memories is the photo of Chapman smiling as Altuve circled the bases.
Chapman understood that Altuve did not guess at the pitch – he knew what was coming, as did the entire Astros team playing out an epic sign-stealing scheme that would rock the world of baseball for the entire offseason.
“It’s a failure. In spring training, we talked about winning the division, putting ourselves in a good spot in the postseason and the World Series, and we came up short. So no matter how many games we won in the regular season or anything else we did, the season’s a failure.”
Putting the cheating scandal together with the fact the Yankees had just concluded their second straight season of one-hundred wins or more, many concluded that Judge’s feelings rose to the level of overdramatic, and talk quickly turned to the 2021 season.
The Yankees Failed In 2021, And Judge Doesn’t Have To Say It.
This year, the Yankees didn’t get close to knocking on the door of a World Title. Eliminated one round before last year, the entire Yankees franchise deserves to be put on a pedestal, not to be cheered but to be called out as an underachieving team that gets beat by an overachieving team.
The Anatomy Of A Failed Yankees Season
In 2020, the Yankees managed only a .550 win percentage, not the .635 they had last year. They finished the season at 4-6 over their final ten games and a full seven games behind the Rays who went 8-2 over their last ten.
Do you recall September 8, 2020? It wasn’t that long ago, and the Yankees cannot win. At that point, they had lost five straight games and 15 of their last 20, reaching what the local media would deem “rock bottom.”
Hell, even J.A. Happ was pitching well. We overlooked quite a bit, though, didn’t we?
A Crack In The Yankees Organization
We had no idea at the time a glaring crack in the Yankees organization would surface. How could we have known the mighty Yankees would become “tricksters” instead of bombers against the Rays’ brain trust?
The Yankees only fooled themselves by inserting Deivi Garcia into Game 2 as an Opener, the very same strategy Rays manager Kevin Cash had himself invented. In fact, the only thing Cash found odd was that Boone lifted Garcia after a single inning, bringing in a clearly flustered Happ to all but hand the game to the Rays.
Alex Rodrigue Finally Takes A Stand
The evisceration by Rodriguez continued, telling Joel Sherman of the NY Post:
“I’m sorry for ranting here, but we used to say, ‘If a manager can stay out of the game, that’ll be great.’ Now we have to say, ‘Front offices have to stay out of the game.’ Frustrating,” he said. “That last thing I’ll say is it’s unfortunate that Aaron Boone has to sit there and explain to the media what he’s doing.
“I would love the smart Ivy Leaguers to come down — the front office — and explain to us why that was a smart move for the New York Yankees and that fan base.”
The Crack In The Yankees Starts At The Top
Assess blame on the players if you wish. The offense effectively disappeared in Game 5 and was pretty much giving into gravity after the Cleveland Wild Card Series explosion.
Christian Broussard did not know in advance the pitch he belted off Chapman to win Game 5, and Gerrit Cole, despite fanning nine over 5.1 innings and tossing 94 pitches on three days rest, could not do it himself.
Hey Yankees – Hello, This Is Not Working
Hal Steinbrenner will never fire Brian Cashman. If anything, he’ll kick him higher upstairs to oversee a new general manager – because as Steinbrenner will say – the Yankees need a change.
Aaron Boone? Pinned with the reputation now as Cashman’s lackey, the good man he is might be relieved to learn he was being dumped for “poor decision making” this year.
Plucking someone from the broadcast booth with no managerial experience whatsoever was an experiment, to begin with. Like the Yankees themselves, it failed.
Saddled with long-term deals contracts, the Yankees do not have control of their destiny. It would be nice if Stanton elected to opt-out, but with almost $200 million on the table, why would he – unless he wants to win (hello Dodgers).
Luis Severino and Hicks both have six years left on the $70 million perplexing deals they signed before last season. Both appear to be familiar with injuries, and it’s only a matter of time before either (or both) become a liability for the Yankees.
A World Title or at least a World Series appearance probably would have meant the Yankees pursuing Tanaka as a free agent. Still, it may utter blasphemy; the Yankees can do better by going into a rebuilding mode searching for a younger team.
DJ LeMahieu, once a certainty to be surrounded and gulped down by the Yankees in a new multi-year deal, is now in question. After all, even with the AL Batting Champion, the Yankees won nothing this year.
This Yankees Failing Will Produce Lasting Tremors
If you have any ideas what to do with these Yankees, please share them – because I sure don’t.
We’ve learned one thing, though – the Yankees do have holes, and those deficiencies are not confined to the playing field.
Change is needed, and with all the success he’s had, Brian Cashman is “getting old.” Cashman’s ego has always outstripped his height, but when it drips down to the clubhouse and playing field, you’re looking at a recipe for disaster – and this year is only a taste of what is coming.
Always heralded as the well-oiled machine in which Steinbrenner, Cashman, and Boone worked in tandem, something else is closer to the truth.
Fail they did. You can’t say it enough – the Yankees failed in 2020 – and there can’t be any whitewashing of the truth therein – even though the suits will try.