The 2023 season is a month old and the Yankees are, drumroll please, tied with the Red Sox for last in the AL East!
Granted, the Yankees are still a game above .500 at 15-14 and there’s still plenty of time to turn things around. April rarely decides who wins it all. Plenty of baseball left to play.
But losing three of four to the Texas Rangers hurts a little bit extra. The lineup and pitching staff are both beset with injuries. It’s still early, but the uncertainty is starting to become a little too much.
Court adjourned. A big reason the Yankees struggled in Texas was because team leader and reigning MVP Aaron Judge did not play. He exited Thursday’s series opener (and the Yankees’ sole win) with hip discomfort and was diagnosed with a “mild” strain. He is not on the injured list.
We’ve all seen this movie before, dear readers. Aaron Judge and/or Giancarlo Stanton are injured and the lineup vanishes. Josh Donaldson also being out means Anthony Rizzo is literally the only consistent power bat and nobody else has any protection.
Better this happen in April than in August like last year but even so. This series just magnified that when the Yankees lineup is down bad, it’s subterranean.
Don’t sleep on the Rangers. I mentioned during our MLB preview that 2023 would largely be about the Texas Rangers re-establishing a winning culture. Well, they just dominated the Yankees in three of four and have a two-game lead over the Astros for first place in the AL West. Veteran manager Bruce Bochy seems to have been the secret ingredient, a la Mets skipper Buck Showalter.
Granted, this four-game series does not at all mean Texas is the better team. Nathan Eovaldi pitched a shutout Saturday, but to a lineup without Judge or Stanton. The Yankees should be healthier when Texas comes to the Bronx in June and will surely perform better.
But that also goes for Texas, who will have star shortstop Corey Seager back by then.
The Yankees have a depth crisis. The Yankees got lucky after Jake Bauers avoided the IL following his big catch on Saturday. Had he not, New York would have been in a scary situation with Judge already sore. The Yankees’ outfield depth down on the farm is so little that trotting out Aaron Hicks or Isiah Kiner-Falefa might be more effective.
To say nothing of the fact that the Yankees are already leaning on an ineffective Clarke Schmidt and an inexperienced, streaky Jhony Brito while Luis Severino and Carlos Rodon work their way back. It’s bad enough there’s little to no pitching depth, and now it’s spread to the bats.
Who’s the next man up? The unpredictable Deivi Garcia? The untested Andres Chaparro or Elijah Dunham? Does Estevan Florial get yet another chance to prove he can handle major league pitching?
Again, one small stretch of bad games early on rarely sinks a team’s season. Injuries, on the other hand, do.