Monday, March 29, 2021

A year older and more fragile, the Yankees look like another wild card contender

It's Crunch Time, time to lay down cards, to ponder the lost year and do what our spiritual leader says cannot be done: 

To predict baseball, Suzyn...  

It seems impossible, but here we are: We survived the pandemic, for now. We watched a dwarf season played before posterboard fans who could not boo, not even for a starting catcher who batted .146. We saw another October apocalypse from a closer who cannot close. We heard our owner continuously claim to be the only billionaire on Earth to lose money. It's over, supposedly. We'll flash our Excelsior Cards and pretend everything is as it was.

For the 2021 Yankees, normalcy means chasing another AL Wild Card. 

I predict 88 victories and second-place in the AL East, five games behind the Blue Jays, and a pop fly ahead of Tampa and Boston. 

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but in this millennium, baseball has become a game of dynamic youngsters - players between 20 and 25 - and the Yankees simply fall on the gray side of that actuary table. 

Once again, pitching will kill us. Our rotation - with three full-scale reclamation projects - Corey Kluber, Jameson Tailion and Jordan Montgomery - is intriguing, if you like casinos. But never did a staff more need one more workhorse - one more certainty in a clubhouse full of dice rolls. But our owner set a budget and refused to budge. The Yankees will gamble on three recovering starters. And that's too many. 

Likewise, the once-vaunted bullpen looks increasingly thin, reflecting the steady decline of Aroldis Chapman. His radar numbers have diminished, while late-inning studs on opposing teams have become common. He no longer possesses overwhelming command. He seldom escapes an inning without drama. Now and then, he gets lit up. With Zack Britton out until June/July, the Yankees will lose late-inning games, because dominoes will drop, and they will have no one to put out fires. 

Once again, our batting order will lean on several key players - Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luke Voit - who have historically failed to last full seasons. For some reason, we seem to think they will stay healthy. Meanwhile, Gio Urshela is recovering from elbow surgery, Clint Frazier still runs into walls, and Gary Sanchez remains an enigma. 

We have no Triple A-level players on the verge of making an impact. (Sorry, folks, but Chris Gittens is not ready.)

Most of  all, our season hinges on Gleyber Torres. If he can play SS and hit like a 2B, he could win MVP and become a premier player. If he fails at either, we have a problem. It's another major gamble, without a Plan B.

I know it's wrong to blame injuries for lost seasons. Injuries, like bad trades, are a part of the game. But MLB's spending restrictions are beginning to crush whatever financial advantages the Yankees once had, and our owner shows no interest in restoring the Yankee legacy. He seems more compelled to prove his business acumen, to wrangle profits out of the franchise. That philosophy will be tested in 2021.

It's easy this year to imagine the Yankees as NYC's "other" team. (In fact, they are already lagging behind the Mets in back pages, something that I have not seen since the count began three years ago. The media of Gotham may already have moved on.) Right now, it's sad to say, but the most exciting aspect of the Yankees is a relentlessly hyped 18-year-old bonus baby, Jasson Dominiquez, who will surely not make an appearance until 2023. 

Who on this team gives the kind of hope that cannot be instantly dashed by a hamstring or shoulder twinge? Sure, we all want to see the 2017 version of Aaron Judge, reborn and ready to reclaim his courtroom. But we have too many players on the shaky sides of their careers. The Yankee talent curve might be a year behind crest. It will be a long, hard season, Suzyn. Stay healthy...


JM said...

I guess I was optimistic the other day calling for 89 wins.

We're fucked. Again.

DickAllen1964 said...

I'm sorry, but when I look around the AL, there's not a single team that scares me. Every single one of them has glaring holes and deficiencies. I still think the Yankees are the cream of a mostly mediocre crop.

Yeah, injuries are still our #1 bugaboo, and are pitching staff remains an enignma, wrapped in something, that...

...maybe it's a tissue paper thin staff, but Domingo and Montgomery will have good years as will Cole, and anything we get out of the emergency room will be a bonus.

Giancarlo and Judge will have good-to-great years, Gleyber will produce big time and all will be well come October when we are getting thrashed by the Dodgers in the World Series.

DickAllen1964 said...

As for the Mutts, they may win the back pages, but they will win little else. Optimistically, they might very well win a WC slot, but the Jeters aren't going to be a pushover anymore in that division.

As it is, I think the NL will be dominated by the Dodgers and Padres. That makes the Mutts the fifth, maybe the sixth or seventh best team in a league: Dodgers, Padres, Cards, Braves are better, and even the Reds and the Marlins will give the Mutts a run for their money.

You can't throw money at a team and hope that will be enough to win. Just look at the Yankees. The Dodgers may be spending more right now, but they have the great advantage of being operated by a management team that wants to win AND be profitable. The Padres are going to fill up their ballpark and be successful. They are the team to watch this year: they have spent a bundle and traded wisely. Nothing would please me more than to see them win the division over the Dodgers.

Carl J. Weitz said...

So far no one is ready to come close to my 105 victories? Wow. Not even one other prediction hitting a hundred? Wow. These predictions are pessimistic. And I'm usually pessimistic. If they don't win 100 games, I'll eat my Yankee cap on Broadway.

Here is Sterling's call for Jay Bruce:
"Bruce just hit the pitcher's deuce (most commonly a curveball). He hit it where there's moose. Ohhh, just made the Yankees day!!"

Anonymous said...

You know, Duque, I was thinking exactly the same number as you: 88 wins. (Scary, I know.) But I think we finish behind both Tampa and Toronto. Just have a feeling that Tampa will torch us same as last year, despite having different players. Kevin Cash is a much better manager ... Boone is not even in the same league ... and Tampa makes genius player moves. They find young guys who come in and play better than our best players. How can you finish ahead of a team that beats you 75-80% of the time in head to head play? That was the difference in last year's abbreviated season. So I predict we'll miss the playoffs this year. No wild card.

@ DickAllen1964 Obviously, you look at the glass as half full. Unlike Duque and me. What makes you think Montgomery will have a good year? He hasn't proven anything to me yet. So far, I've seen only mediocrity. You think Stanton and Judge will play full seasons or something close? (Excuse me while I let out an explosion of laughter.) Hey man, I hope you're right that we make it to the World Series this year, but I think there is a greater chance that I'll win the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding title!

The Hammer of God

Vampifella said...

I got it right for two years in a row so far. I'm retiring on top as I really cannot predict this year to pin it down an exact number.

Yanks has so many gaping holes and they don't really deserve to win because of that, but then again the rest of the ALE is so bad that it's going to hard for the Yanks to fail completely. They'll be handed wins.

So I can see them coasting without much effort and easily being a .575 win team. I can also see them being a .625 win team with a good streak against really bad teams. It'd be amazing if they fail and be a .450-.550 team.

The trouble is that I also feel that the season will end early due to a strike. I highly doubt we'll get a full 162 in. They may only get about 90 games in? Who knows...this is why I just cannot throw out a number as I'm super pessimistic about this year in baseball.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Mr. Allen - I'm just not seeing the any team in the AL that has it together. Maybe Chicago. The rest all seemed as flawed or even worse than we are. The NL looks like it has all the good teams.

We win the division with 98 wins and make the series. Why?

The East

Boston - Not done tanking. Plus The Curse of the Mook! That's right no titles for 100 years because they let Mookie Betts go.

Baltimore - When the Dark Knight makes your starting five it's going to be another long year.

Tampa Bay - They lost 3.5 of their rotation. Look, aside from destroying the game with their great use of strategy, they lost too many players and their reload isn't ready yet.

Toronto - Dangerous so... maybe. They are not going to suck.

The West

Seattle? Name three guys.

Anaheim? I can name three guys. It takes at least 20.

Texas? Fuck Texas.

Houston? What part of “Fuck Texas” didn’t you understand?

Oakland is always good but not good enough.

The Central

Minn - Eventually they will win playoff series against us. Could be this year. Probably not.

Chi - This is a good team. Good pitching. Good hitting. Plus the curse of Yuan (slowly I turn) Moncada. Could be a problem.

KC - Name three guys.

The Cleveland Baseball Team - C'mon.

Detroit - Not seeing it.

So ACLS Yankees 4-2 Over Chicago

WS vs.

Dodgers 4-2 LA
Mets 4-2 US
SD 4-3 US (Maybe)
Braves 4-1 US

That said, I'm generally wrong.

Doug K.

DickAllen1964 said...

Hammer, start pumping man!

Montgomery, I think will be the surprise this year. 2020 was a gift in that he got a full rest and recovery period most TJ survivors don’t. He’s going to be eased in slowly evidenced by a slow spring schedule that so far has yielded great, but perhaps meaningless results. German has something to prove. Cole will have a “breakout” year. Most guys who sign mega-deals usually don’t start producing until the second season of the deal. As for Kluber and Taillin, they represent one combined pitcher and we won’t see much of them until late May. My wild card in all this is Sevy. I simply don’t know what to expect from him, but like Montgomery, I think the bastard 2020 season was a gift.

Giancarlo also has something to prove. If he doesn’t come through big time, he ought to move in with Ellsburu and Pavano. Or stay in the tunnel. Maybe changing his regimen from lifting midgets to yoga will be a benefit. Can’t hurt those hammies.

And I’m doubling down on the mediocrity of the rest of the AL - only Chicago and Toronto pose any real concerns. The rest? Yesterday’s fish. Even the cat won’t eat it.

Yanks win 96 games, crawl their way to the WS, and Stanton wins MVP and Comeback award.

Let the games begin!!

DickAllen1964 said...

And, in case I missed anything, Doug K speaks for me!

Unknown said...

I second Doug’s analysis

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Lose Selig memorial WC playin game. Fire Hose gives up losing run. ICS grounds into shift for DP with one out and bases loaded. Stanton on 3rd from HBP and can't steal home despite 0 infielders on left side, due pulled something from bizarre yoga midget lifting accident. Boone doesn't pinch run because of no players left on bench from triple switch in fourth inning at 'critical' moment. ...which also resulted in 0 runs.