NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01: New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays exchanges words after the final out in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on September 01, 2020 in New York City.
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees had a nice series with the Baltimore Orioles, but it was overshadowed by continued struggles with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The New York Yankees needed a strong follow-up to a shaky Opening Weekend, and fate delivered.

The hapless Baltimore Orioles proved to be the Bronx Bombers’ punching bag once again as the Yankees took two of three from the O’s. Even the final game of the series was lost thanks to the idiocy of starting extra innings with a baserunner now.

But the happiness was short-lived as New York traveled south to Tropicana Field and got a rude welcome from the Tampa Bay Rays. Once again, the Yankees struggled against their AL East rivals and often looked outclassed.

Though it’s still April and far too early to panic, this is something the Yankees need to address immediately.

Beating down Baltimore

The New York Yankees had their high-upside pitching on full display against the Orioles, and the bats helped too. Jordan Montgomery’s six scoreless keyed a 7-0 victory and Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam was the exclamation point. Gerrit Cole followed the next night with 13 strikeouts, and even Jameson Taillon looked strong in his first MLB start since 2019.

Aaron Judge was even kind enough to golf a ball into the bleachers before missing two games with mystery soreness on his left side.

Simply put, after a hard-fought series with Toronto, the Orioles proved a refreshing palate cleanser.

Trouble at the Trop

This will be a relatively short State of the New York Yankees this week, as losing two of three to the Rays over the weekend shined a light on a greater problem. Whatever it is with Tropicana Field, it brings out the worst in the New York Yankees.

Mind you, this isn’t exclusively a New York Yankees problem per se. Tampa Bay plays really well at the eyesore that is the Trop, having gone 197-156 at home in the last five seasons. Combine that with the awful turf and strange overall environment, and it’s a nightmare for visiting teams.

But this is MLB and there are no excuses for one specific ballpark making a team play badly. Much like New York City subway rats, Tropicana Field is here to stay and isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Whatever the players’ issues with the field are, the New York Yankees need to actually address this as a problem.

The Florida Project

It starts with practically admitting defeat from the get-go, even with Sunday’s big win. Go back and watch highlights from the weekend. It’s clear no one is excited to be playing at the Trop, and that easily could have affected team play across three games. This means an attitude change, starting now.

Visiting the Rays is an awful experience, but there’s no escaping it. Figure out just what it is about the ballpark that brings out the worst, be it the turf or the visitors’ clubhouse or even the commute to the stadium. Come to a consensus on why the team plays bad baseball there, and then work to find literally any solution to have a better attitude about it.

In fact, go the extra mile and make this a team-building exercise. The team can even borrow from the 2017 Oscar-nominated film The Florida Project and call it the exact same thing. What makes Tropicana so unpalatable to play at? There has to be an answer as to what’s brings everyone down there.

There are only six more trips to the Trop this season, but tackling this is worth the effort. It may seem silly, but there’s really no reason for the New York Yankees to not address this in some way.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.