Aaron Boone Yankees
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

2021 was supposed to be a big year for the New York Yankees. Instead, it was a major disappointment.

Josh Benjamin

Hello, all. Let us rise and bow our heads.

We’re all hurting today. Badly. And that’s okay. The New York Yankees were no match for the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game and lost 6-2. Even with a short rally in the sixth inning, it wasn’t close. Gerrit Cole didn’t even last three innings and the bats were quiet.

Not only that, this loss leaves the Yankees with more questions than answers this offseason. Changes are almost certainly coming, but there’s no telling from where. At the top? On the roster? Everywhere in between and all of the above? Not even M.C. Escher himself would want any part of this baseball puzzle.

One thing is for certain. The New York Yankees have no choice but to be back with a vengeance in 2022. The front office will make sure of it.

 

The New York Yankees never got going

Forget that glorious 13-game winning streak for a minute. Save for that hot stretch, we all know the hard truth that the New York Yankees were never themselves at the plate in 2021. Even ranking sixth in MLB in home runs, they were 19th in runs scored and 23rd in team batting average.

Now, to be fair, some reasons for these struggles have since come to light. First, the deadened baseball messed with DJ LeMahieu’s production. The usually perennial-.300-or-better hitter was not himself all season, and Fangraphs did a good job explaining much of his power the last two years came with a lower exit velocity. With the deadened ball, his numbers dropped accordingly.

Similarly, Gleyber Torres spoke with Brendan Kuty of NJ.com and admitted he was trying too hard to hit home runs. An injury-prone outfield didn’t help matters, and it’s hard to not wonder if Clint Frazier will ever play again.

Suffice it to say, the New York Yankees had a Top 10 pitching staff that went completely to waste. This winter, the team needs to figure out just what exactly went wrong at the plate.

 

What’s next for the New York Yankees?

It’s a shame Regis Philbin is no longer with us because this is truly a million-dollar question. The Yankees might undergo significant changes this offseason, starting at the top. Manager Aaron Boone’s contract is up and Yankees Twitter would love nothing more than to see him get his walking papers. Speaking to reporters last night, Boone brought his usual aw-shucks nature when asked about his future.

“Obviously, my contract is up,” Boone said. “I haven’t had any conversations about that with anyone, so we’ll see. I love being here. I love going to work with this group of players.”

Shortly afterward, star outfielder Aaron Judge gave a ringing endorsement of his manager, calling him a “special person” and “special coach,” so maybe management will take that into consideration.

Otherwise, everyone else was rightly disappointed. Even as ageless wonder Brett Gardner gave his postgame interview in uniform and spoke of wanting to come back next season.

Maybe Boone will stay and some of his coaches won’t. Perhaps a whole new staff will come in, and maybe Gio Urshela and/or Luke Voit will be packaged in a deal for a pitcher. Could this also mean Anthony Rizzo is extended and Corey Seager arrives in free agency?

Again, the New York Yankees have lots of moving parts this season. Nothing less than greatness is allowed in 2022. Any coming changes will be swift and fierce.

Can the New York Yankees rebound for a strong 2022?

And now, probably for the last time until the winter:

CUE THE MUSIC.

Frustrating as this season was, let’s not forget the fun times we did have. Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo came in when most of us were probably in the midst of rewatching The Sopranos, and all the fans became obnoxiously Italian in the best possible way. Bronxie the Turtle became an internet sensation reminiscent of LOLCats. And how about Stone Cold Luke Voit?

But at the same time, it’s hard to not feel very sad about the end of the 2021 season, and not just because the New York Yankees underperformed. Any other year, we’d brush this off, go into the offseason mad, and rally to be ready by spring training. The Yankees, obviously, want to come back in 2022 and run the table, but not before we pump the brakes.

The elephant in the room is that regardless of what happens this offseason, MLB is almost certainly heading for a labor stoppage. The CBA expires on Dec. 1, right when the offseason usually gets cooking with the Winter Meetings. What sort of offseason can we expect from the New York Yankees or any other team when the very thing that makes the offseason go expires right when the offseason really begins?

At the same time, everything is set so that the New York Yankees really don’t need to do too much this winter. Most of the regular starters (don’t forget Aaron Hicks, now) are under contract for next year. The pitching staff played well despite injuries and is pretty deep, even with Zack Britton out for 2022 with elbow surgery, and Gerrit Cole described his feelings last night as “sick to my stomach.”

 

Final thoughts

It’s like Freddie Mercury’s been singing, folks. For the New York Yankees, it’s certainly not too late to adjust accordingly and win a 28th World Series. But given the impending labor talks, one can’t help but think it might be all too late and resetting might be best.

Knowing the Yankees, a full reset is the last thing on general manager Brian Cashman’s mind. At least, one would hope so.