As someone that has rooted, watched, and covered the Yankees since my childhood of the late 1980’s and early-to-mid 1990’s, I’ve seen my fair share of Yankees teams, players and personnel come and go. I’m not one of those “If it’s Yankees, it’s right” type of fans. I consider myself one of their harshest critics, and will be the first to call anyone within the organization out when they aren’t doing what they should be, being paid to do, or simply playing to the back of their baseball card.
This season has been one of many thoughts and feelings for me as a fan, and a blogger. In the spring, I predicted this team would win 74 games. I was completely wrong there. They started strong out of the gate, with renaissance seasons from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. By the way, all last winter, I predicted A-Rod to go .270/20/70. Two out of three isn’t bad is it?
The Yankees kept chugging right along, getting contributions from the least likely of candidates (Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Nathan Eovaldi), while others continued to struggle to find their way (C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley), and found themselves with a very comfortable lead in the American League East on August 1st. The Yankees had a five-game lead on second place Baltimore, and the Blue Jays were six back.
Now don’t jump the gun, and say that GM Brian Cashman didn’t pull the trigger for a big name at the trading deadline. He stuck to his plan, and refused to part with top prospects Gregory Bird, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge, rather than gutting the farm system for a rental (David Price) or someone whose mental makeup might not have fit well in the Bronx (Cole Hamels). Instead, two of those three were promoted to the big club and have shined. We’ll get back to Cashman in a minutes.
So what happened between August 1st and September 1st? The first-place Blue Jays caught fire (thanks to savvy moves for Price and Troy Tulowitzki), but by also making smaller moves that went under the radar that helped add depth to the bullpen (Mark Lowe, Darwin Barney). Their offense continued to crush at a record pace, their pitching came together, and the Yankees…they just stopped. Pitching good enough to win games, failing to hit whatsoever, and management failing to use the waiver trading deadline to add any significant pieces for bench and bullpen depth.
No, Joe Girardi continued to burn up his big three (Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller), while showing very little confidence in his starters, when going to anyone else in the bullpen just made very little sense. We witnessed that during the Yankees’ most recent series with the cross-town rival New York Mets. Instead of letting Big Michael Pineda continue to pitch, when he was cruising, Girardi unnecessarily went to the bullpen. He’s simply burned them up.
This article makes it appear as if the Yankees are in contention for nothing. That is not true. They will most likely finish with the top Wild Card spot in the American League. I’m sorry, but when you control your own destiny, and close the deal, that’s a choke job, not a reward. In the past, the former Wild Card format rewarded the team playing the best baseball at the time with an opportunity to get into the postseason and make some noise. The 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins come to mind, as do the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Each of these teams were white-hot and went on to win that season’s World Series title.
Don’t think for one moment the 2015 New York Yankees will play anything more than a one-game Wild Card, before their season is over. The offense has been lost since the start of August. The pitching has been decimated by injuries to Eovaldi and ace Masahiro Tanaka. Joe Girardi manages the team out of games better than anyone in the game, and yes, back to Cashman. Solid players were available for the adding during the waiver deadline period, and he did…nothing. No J.A. Happ, no James Shields, no bench depth, no nothing. Stood pat with the team that found itself looking up at arguably the most dangerous team in Toronto.
To make matters worse, the Blue Jays actually began to cool off a bit once August turned to September. The division was ripe for the Yankees’ taking, and yet they continued to stumble over their own lack of heart, guts and balls. Jacoby Ellsbury is going to look like another Carl Pavano contract before it’s all said and done. Add him to the other albatross contracts of Sabathia, Teixeira, Beltran, and Headley. Guys who were given big money to be elite-level players, and if they weren’t hurt, they weren’t performing sans Tex and Beltran of late. The Yankees had plenty of chances to catch the Blue Jays and even perhaps surpass them in the standings. They didn’t. While Toronto continued to play solid baseball, the Yankees continued to play .500 baseball. Their home schedule and record should’ve given them an advantage down the stretch. It didn’t. They didn’t.
It’s time for a change in the Bronx. It’s time for a new direction and a new set of voices. It’s time for the too comfortable Brian Cashman to be on his way, replaced by the young upstart visionary, Billy Eppler. It’s time for Joe Girardi to be shown the door for a manager that actually has some in-game instincts rather than living by his best friend, the black binder. It’s time to rid the Yankees of the dead weight, and invest in the future: the Severinos, the Birds, the Judges, the Refsnyders, the Jagielos. Even at the cost of missing October baseball while they mature into solid big league players. While I’m at it, the Steinbrenner brothers have wiped their collective butts with their late father’s legacy, and it’s time to sell his team. Sell it to someone who will continue the Boss’ way of spending big money, while augmenting the young, quick-rising talent that is knocking on the door at the big league level.
I as a lifelong Yankees’ fan, would rather watch a rebuilding project underway in the Bronx, than to see a pathetic attempt at trying to convince me this current version is a playoff-caliber team. When October 6th rolls around, the Houston Astros will come to the Bronx. Dallas Keuchel will toe the rubber for the ‘Stros, the Yankees will send the last man standing to the mound on their end, the offense will be shut down for six, maybe seven innings, the Astros will get their four or five runs, the Yankees will make a feeble attempt to tack one on in the bottom of the ninth, and their season will end after 163 games. The Yankees are finished, and they have no one to blame but themselves. Congrats to the Blue Jays for their improbable run. Perhaps the folks in the Bronx could take some lessons on how to excite the fan base, and how to build a team that will last into October, not just get there and limp out.