Aaron Boone
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Yankees must remember a key philosophy as the dog days of August begin with some poorly timed injuries.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Yankees are on an absolute tear. They won back a series from the hated Boston Red Sox. Next comes a week of the AL East cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.

With a cushiony lead in the division, the Yankees are in an excellent position despite season-long injury issues.

And speaking of injuries, they just keep coming. Center fielder Aaron Hicks was just put on the 10-day IL with an elbow strain. First baseman Luke Voit has a sports hernia and Edwin Encarnacion will miss a few weeks with a broken wrist.

Not only that, the Dog Days of August are upon us. This is when fatigue sets in for everyone and games, regardless of who’s playing, become a battle of wills. Talent doesn’t matter. Whoever wants it more wins.

Fortunately, this Yankees team is built for overcoming adversity. The injury bug didn’t slow the team down early in the season, nor should it now.

This team embraced the “Next Man Up” philosophy back when Aaron Judge went down with a strained oblique, maybe even earlier than that. Now, embracing it matters even more with the playoffs just around the corner.

Why? Simple. Because the Yankees can’t afford to forget.

Enter the dog days

The Yankees would prefer to forget how they performed last August. New York started the month on a five-game losing streak, including a four-game sweep at the hands of Boston. The Yankees went 17-13 in the month, but the team looked half-dead more often than it did strong.

August is different this year. Starting Monday, the Yankees go on a seven-game road trip to face the last-place Baltimore Orioles and then the Toronto Blue Jays. Later in the month, they go out west to face the Seattle Mariners, Oakland A’s, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Oh, and did I mention there are only two days off in August?

Don’t get me wrong. The Yankees should have a great week, but this is not the time to get cocky. Division lead or no, the wheels could still fall off. Opponents aside, of which only two are currently playoff teams, this is when the Yankees need to be locked in. The AL East crown is within reach and the fight must go on despite recent injuries.

Luckily, this team is all set for the latest setbacks.

Next man up

Let’s get back to the “Next Man Up” philosophy the Yankees embraced earlier. The core meaning of it was and still is injuries aren’t a problem. The team is deep enough it can be a top contender regardless of who’s in the lineup.

Take Giancarlo Stanton, for example. He slugged 36 homers with 100 RBI last year and was the National League MVP in 2018. A plethora of injuries worthy of Evel Knievel has limited him to a mere nine games this season.

And yet, the Yankees are in first place by a decent margin. They’ve gotten on just fine without Stanton and will without Hicks, Voit, and Encarnacion. It’s really quite simple if you think about it.

The outfield situation takes care of itself. Brett Gardner moves to center in Hicks’ place. Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin rotate left field and into right when Judge needs a night off, or at DH.

DJ LeMahieu probably becomes the everyday first baseman with rookie Mike Ford sometimes spotting. The DH spot, with Encarnacion out, probably becomes a revolving door to give someone a half-day off.

Everything is in place for the New York Yankees to continue playing well as Hicks, Voit, and everyone else recovers. People are hurt at an inconvenient time? It doesn’t matter. Next man up, plain and simple.

Final thoughts

There’s something special about this New York Yankees team. GM Brian Cashman doubled down on that by not trading for a much-needed pitcher at the trade deadline. Manager Aaron Boone said it himself, per Lindsey Adler of The Athletic.

Which is why, as August kicks the temperature to Hades’ level, the Yankees need to remember who they are. They know how strong the team is. They all believe in each other.

Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit are important lineup fixtures. Nobody disputes that. But the team’s performance doesn’t go down with them. Now is the time to floor the gas pedal and run away with the division.

And, if someone gets tired of driving, it’s simple. Next man up takes the wheel.


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