If not for the torrid start by the Boston Red Sox (14-2), the Yankees (8-8) disappointing and mediocre start to the 2018 season would not be as glaringly depressing or alarming. More than ever though, all this means is the Yankees need to play them one at a time, patiently chipping away.
In the same way Giancarlo Stanton cannot hit a six-run home run three times in a game to break out of his mystifying slump, so too with the Yankees who cannot overcome a six-game deficit in the loss column (already) to the Boston Red Sox in one or even two weeks, given the level of baseball the Sox are playing and the way they have gotten out of the gate.
The Red Sox are beating anyone and everyone at home and away, it doesn’t matter. Last night, they visited the Angels, beating Shohei Ohtani while this year’s MVP to be, Mookie Betts hit three home runs. This while the Yankees couldn’t even muster up a second straight win over the Triple-A Florida Marlins.
For anyone who has followed baseball for some time, it happens. On April 18. 2017, this is what the AL East standings looked like:
The Yankees were in the midst of compiling a 21-9 record sweeping the team to the top, burying the perennial fading Orioles and showing the Red Sox a thing or two. As we know, the Yankees did not maintain that torrid pace, and it took a monumental September that followed two and a half months of .500 baseball for the Yankees to make the playoffs.
The Red Sox are playing over their heads, and they will come back to earth. How fast and how far back to earth is an unknown and something which should be of concern to the Yankees. A mere 76-70 record in the remaining games for the Red Sox will finish them with 90 wins, which should be good enough.
But the more relevant question is what will the Yankees be doing in the meantime. To get to 90 wins for the season, the Yankees need to go 81-64 the rest of the way. A tall task, indeed. Despite the lack of contributions from Stanton, Gary Sanchez (right), Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, and Brett Gardner, the team still ranks sixth in the major leagues in batting.
It’s in pitching, though, where the Yankees are wearing thin, which is precisely the area fans taunted Brian Cashman about improving on during the offseason. Only four teams have a worse ERA than the Yankees in the major leagues to date.
And yet, take away the joke of a start by Masahiro Tanaka last night and maybe a couple more, and it’s hard to recall a Yankees starter stinking up the joint. And that’s the problem. The starters are pitching well enough to lose instead of the other way around. The problem has been they are not getting deep enough into games, and the bullpen has had to pick up the slack filling innings.
Luis Severino, whether he wins a Cy Young or not will not carry the Yankees to their 28th title. Brian Cashman has never been satisfied with the staff as a whole, and it is likely he’ll be a significant player seeking a second ace to support Severino in July, or sooner depending on how long the slumber continues.
No one on the starting staff has stunk up the joint completely, though Sonny Gray and his WHIP of almost two and an ERA of nearly seven can easily be singled out as the whipping boy if we choose to.
The Yankees are simply not firing on all cylinders. It’s not an Aaron Boone managerial problem. Not is it a clubhouse problem with someone causing a negative stir. No, it’s a matter of production, or in this case a lack thereof.
All of these things will even out as the season stretches beyond the spring and into the summer. Giancarlo Stanton (right) is not just a stand-in for last year’s MVP and challenger to the home run records of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. But naturally, the longer it goes on, the harder it is to catch up later.
The hype about the Yankees was overstretched throughout the offseason when they made the trade for Stanton. And if there was a time for the team to come down from all the hype floated over the winter that this was the “new” team of the Nineties, it’s good the downside is seen now.
The road back will be long and challenging. A .500 record today puts the Yankees on the same plane as where the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, each of whom is a legitimate playoff contender, stand today.
Their plight is not different from that of the Yankees. And it’s likely fans in each of those cities are, shall we say, restless. But these are good teams, and with less than ten percent of the season played, who would challenge the ability of any of them, including the Yankees to bounce back and make some noise as the baseball pendulum makes its way back to the center?