BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JULY 29: Manager Aaron Boone of New York Yankees relieves starting pitcher Gerrit Cole #45 during their game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 29, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees have hit rock bottom and need a quick turnaround as key players continue to recover from injury.

Josh Benjamin

Wherever the real New York Yankees are, people would appreciate it if they showed up.

NJ.com’s Bob Klapisch said it best following Thursday’s devastating loss to the New York Mets, in which the Yankees blew not one but two leads. For a team that has lost five of its last six and is 5-10 since Aug. 26, the Yankees are playing with no sense of urgency.

Klapisch also said taking three of four from the Baltimore Orioles this weekend would be the kickstart the team needed. Moreover, star infielder Gleyber Torres’ return from injury provided at least some optimism.

Well, the exact opposite happened instead. The New York Yankees lost three of four thanks to an absolutely anemic offense. The team scored 11 runs in the entire series and averaged under six hits per game.

Needless to say, this is not going to be an article pointing to stats as to what’s wrong with this injury-riddled team. There will be no suggestions for how to right the ship. There will be no heartwarming pop culture references or comparison to make this rough patch sting just a tiny bit less.

The long and short of it is that this is an abbreviated season, and the New York Yankees were not prepared for how to handle adversity in it. This team has hit rock bottom, plain and simple, and enough is enough.

 

A season with an asterisk

It’s almost soothing that the 2020 MLB season is abbreviated and will have an asterisk next to it regardless. After all, nobody knew what to expect when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down professional sports.

Teams are only playing within their divisions or their opposing league’s equivalent. Days off come at a premium and are an absolute luxury. Injuries, as the Yankees are now experiencing, can pile up like gangbusters.

The 2020 season is, more or less, a fluke. Everyone knows the New York Yankees are playing below their true potential. Even they finally seem to realize that. Per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, manager Aaron Boone finally acknowledged that his players are “p***ed off.”

And why wouldn’t they be? This was supposed to be the year, what with the signing of Gerrit Cole in free agency and both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton healthy. Instead, Judge and Stanton are both on the shelf with leg injuries (again), the Yankees are slumping without them (again), and there’s seemingly no end in sight (again).

Oh, and did I mention Cole is 0-3 with a 5.62 ERA in his last three starts?

Lackadaisical lineup

And do you know what the worst part of the New York Yankees slump is? 2019 spoiled everyone. The “Next Man Up” mentality gave everyone hopes that the team’s outstanding depth could weather any maelstrom of injuries.

Well, the depth has barely shown up this year. Mike Tauchman, who hit 13 home runs as a reserve in 2019, is 2 for his last 26. Brett Gardner looks old for the first time in his career. Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada might as well be automatic outs.

And the problems extend to the starters too. DJ LeMahieu, who was hitting over .400 before injuring his thumb, has seen his batting average drop 40 points since coming back. Gary Sanchez is a strikeout machine who was finally benched by Boone on Sunday.

Furthermore, no relief is coming. Judge and Stanton don’t have set return dates, though both are participating in baseball activities. Luke Voit, the team’s most consistent hitter in their absence, is playing on a bad foot and starting to slump himself.

Things aren’t going to get better anytime soon, and these New York Yankees seem to have missed the memo.

What’s next?

The good news is following Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, as we saw with Boone’s comments, the Yankees are finally acknowledging the obvious. They aren’t just in a slump but playing absolutely terrible baseball. For context, only three people in Sunday’s starting lineup are currently batting above .250.

Gardner called the team’s performance “not acceptable,” while Cole said he and his teammates were “not happy.”

And why would they be? No one is hitting well, particularly those who were expected to step up in Judge and Stanton’s absence. Up until Sunday’s postgame press conferences, there was no leadership or accountability coming from anyone.

Someone has finally said it: the New York Yankees are playing awfully. I could use an old high school coach of mine’s analogies involving his 88-year-old grandmother along with some, er, colorful language, but this is a family show.

Something has to change, and fast.

Final thoughts

For the Yankees, even though Judge and Stanton are still recovering, the only worse fate would be missing the playoffs. New York is currently the No. 8 seed, the final spot in the American League playoffs. Now, cut to several future matchups with scrappy second-place/No. 6 Toronto.

All remaining games are against either the Blue Jays, Orioles, Boston Red Sox, or Miami Marlins. These are all teams the Yankees should beat, regardless of who’s injured.

Plus, given Toronto just lost top slugger Teoscar Hernandez to a rib injury, the Yankees’ pitchers have an arguable advantage. That’s a .308 batting average and 14 home runs gone from a rival’s lineup.

Yet, the pitching can only do so much if the lineup doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Boone also knows that and understands the urgency of the upcoming Toronto series, as Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported.

“We need to go play well,” Boone said after Sunday’s game. “We need to go put together a game and start playing the way we’re capable of, or none of it matters anyway.”

The season wraps on Sept. 27, three weeks from today. If there’s a solution out there, the New York Yankees had better find it. I’s time to refocus.

Shake off the bad vibes. Start playing better. Get it together.

Now.

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