Some will disregard this baseball season as an experimental farce (and it basically is), and they will do it even more so and with more passion as their teams slip further down the standings. So you can expect a lot of cries of “Charlatan!” from New York in the coming days, and it’s not like Yankees fans and observers need anything more than a stiff breeze to attach a disclaimer to anything that doesn’t involve the pinstripes as much as they see required. Slipping down to the No. 8 seed and having to actually consider competing with the Baltimore Orioles is probably not what those who don’t recognize any accomplishment outside of The Boogey Down to be legitimate had in mind. But that’s where the Yanks find themselves after losing their seventh game in the last nine, and 14th in the last 19, to the Toronto/Buffalo/Wherever They Lay Their Head Blue Jays.
Last night’s loss was an example of the Yanks’ latest problem, which is their usual cavalcade of lockdown relievers has turned into a cheap Vegas buffet for Aaron Boone, as both are producing an unacceptable amount of runs. Adam Ottavino and Chad Green gave up 10 runs in the sixth last night, and New York’s 4.21 ERA out of the pen is only good for sixth in the AL. Given how much lower it is than their FIP (that’s Fielding Independent Pitching), they’re even lucky to be there. This used to be the team’s strength, as Boone could spin his Price Is Right wheel for five or six innings per game and always land on someone who was taking out their childhood trauma on hitters through strikeout-therapy. Not so this year.
As it always seems with the Yanks, another problem is that their two biggest weapons are playing “Connect 4/My Leg Muscles” in the trainer’s room again. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are out, as is tradition, and the offense hasn’t picked up with whatever guy they find at Stan’s Sports Bar across the street like they did last year. Maybe Stan’s being closed due to the pandemic is the problem?
Gio Urshela would have picked up some of that slack, but he’s down with gremlins in his elbow. Gary Sanchez can’t hit a bull in the ass with a banjo right now, or in his case, can’t hit someone in the nuts when they’re not looking. Brett Gardner and Gleyber Torres aren’t far behind.
If it were a normal season, this would just be a blip, or just north of one. There would be over 100 games for everyone to get healthy, to locate a starter behind Tanaka and Cole who wasn’t heading out to the mound with a leaking gasoline canister, and the pen to ride out the kinds of waves most relief pitchers go through that the Yankees have avoided by having 12 or 13 guys the past few years who can go on a heater.
And it may all work out that way. The Yankees could stay in the 8th seed, have Stanton and Judge return and go supernova for a couple weeks and then no one cares. Which is why it’s important to enjoy the moments when they’re behind the still-rebuilding Blue Jays and have been thoroughly dusted by their polar opposite Rays. They won’t catch the latter, who have a 6.5-game lead with just 18 to go. You don’t know how many opportunities like this we as a society will get.
While the utter fantasy, maybe even erotic one, of the Yanks missing the playoffs when over half the teams make it it worth dreaming about and hoping it can be a beacon of light and hope in a world literally covered in smoke and wreckage, it’s unlikely. Though the Orioles and Mariners sit on their shoulders, neither is likely to outplay the Yankees down the stretch. But then again, the Yankees weren’t even supposed to be here. And if their bullpen continues to play with fireworks in a confined space, maybe we’ll all get a pick-me-up in a couple weeks.
-Another little baseball nugget was Javier Baez’s post-game tirade against the banning of in-game video for teams. It’s a less-discussed aspect of the Astros’ fallout, but it is a major tool for a lot of players and perhaps the one having the most effect throughout the game.
It seems unreasonable that baseball has punished every player, or every player who would use video during a game, because the Astros cheated. Obviously most have not.
Baez may have been letting off steam, as he’s been nothing short of a calamity to watch at the plate this year, but he’s also not the type to look for excuses. He almost certainly isn’t the only one feeling the effects. We know how routine-based baseball players are, to the point of lunacy in some cases.
The solution would be simple, someone from MLB monitoring every video room to make sure signals aren’t being sent to the dugout. It’s only the Astros who should be going without, even if it is only their manager and GM. But baseball’s ham-handed approach to disciplining them and preventing a sequel has hampered players who did nothing wrong.
Surely crusty old baseball men would scoff about how hitters of yore didn’t need video to hit, just an IV of fluids and a bucket of amphetamines. But this is how the game has been played, and guys have been using video mid-game for their entire pro careers at this point. Everyone’s taking the fall for the Astros misdeeds, which is far more unfair than simply not seeing any Astros suspended for it.