Monday, April 19, 2021

After worst start in 24 years, the Yankees face a troubling precedent.

The '97 Yankees - as reigning world champs -  were heavily favored to win the AL East. 

Then April happened

They opened the season at 5-10, at one point losing five straight - a mix of blowouts and soul-crushing defeats that would haunt and hobble them all year. They finished second in the division to Baltimore, two games behind - two games they never made up. That forced them to face Cleveland in the Division series and lose the deciding Game 5 to an unknown commodity named Jared Wright. It was the lost season in their end-of-century run of championships... and you can argue that it all went kaboom because of that lousy first three weeks. 

The tribal elders claim you can't lose a season in April. Then again, they can't explain TikTok, r/Gamestop or Non-Fungible Tokens. Last night, the Yankees went to bed with their GM trending on Twitter, sports talk radio ablaze, and the second worst record in baseball... their worst start since 1997.

Across the Yankiverse, everyone has a remedy. To me, though, the most frustrating part of our situation is the lack of quick fixes. The Yanks have made their bed with concrete and epoxy. No quick change will transform this team. Some suggestions:

1. Move Aaron Hicks from number three. Fine. Hicksy has been terrible. But who takes over the 3-hole (and I do mean hole.) Mike Ford? Chris Gittens? Paul O'Neill? One of our "skyscrapers?" The heart of our order looks dead. We can shuffle the deck furniture. The Titanic will still sink.

2. Bring up Deivi Garcia. Sure. Can't do worse, right? But let's face it: We have no options beyond Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. The season rides on one or both becoming serviceable starters. If they continue to fail, there is no plan B. Just Plan Nine... from Outer Space. 

3. Move Gleyber back to 2B. Okay. That puts DJ on first, until Luke Voit returns. Then what? And will 2B magically restore Gleyber's bat? Can Tyler Wade play SS? We've never tried him on a regular basis. Also, he's never hit, including this spring. Actually, we have no pure SS on the roster. So... bring up Oswald Peraza? He's 20, hasn't played above Single A. Yeesh.

4. Convert Jonathan Loaisiga into a starter. Or Mean Chad Green. Whatever. It means stretching them out over a month, and hope they stay effective. Meanwhile, one of these days, El Chapo will hit a funk and blow a few games. He always does. Chris Britton is far, far away, and Luis Severino might be a mirage. Double-yeesh. 

5. Bench Gary Sanchez. Well, that's sort of happening. Can Kyle Higashioka become a frontline catcher. He blew a couple pitches yesterday. We have no replacement in the high minors. Actually, we have almost nothing in the high minors.

6. Fire Aaron Boone. Of all suggestions, this might pay off in the short run. Maybe a fire-breather would rile these country club Daughters of the American Revolution. But how do you can a guy who was basically following your instructions? Hope the pacemaker was installed properly.

The 1997 Yankees rallied to win the wild card. They suddenly heated up, won eight of ten, and finished April a game above .500. The Yankees have 11 days left in this miserable month. The ultimate tribal elder - Yogi, himself - had a saying: It can get late, early. 

Well, here we are... 


Celerino Sanchez said...

Whether it's Cruz, Losaigia, Kluber, Tallion or Montgomery, they will all be on a innings limits, so come August & September what do you do? Unlike 2016, there is no one to trade to get young players back. Plus what did you actually get back for Miller? Here was a guy with 2 years left on his contract and you essential got Frazier and a year of Big Game James Paxton, woohoo! My guess is Boone will be fired and they will hire an African American, maybe Willie Randolph, to change the narrative for this year.

TheWinWarblist said...

The weekend was absolutely disgusting. This team looks alike a collection of has-beens and never-was.

Anonymous said...

A rehash (with two eggs over easy) and a new thought or two...

Before diving in here's a quick observation. The Whole American League East Stinks!

The Red Sox dropped two yesterday. The only team Tampa can beat is US! Likewise Toronto and Baltimore is Baltimore. Sadly we stink more but at least no one is off to an insurmountable lead.

That said, we really do stink so let's dig in.

1) "But who takes over the 3-hole (and I do mean hole.) Mike Ford? Chris Gittens?"

Yes. Our collective issues with Hicks are well known but there's something especially up with him this year.

As I said yesterday it would be ok with me if they traded him for a no hit / good field SS to fix our other problem and then make do with a platoon of Tauchamn and Gardy in CF.

In some ways this is an AYG/HAB issue. Even though everyone else is really really bad right now, Hicks doesn't even inspire foolish hope.

If we're honest about it we still think Frazier will come around, likewise Judge, Gleyber, (more on him below) etc. Hell there's a part of me that knows that Sanchez will at least hit his Home Run - Even Odor found a walnut - but having Hicks in the 3 hole is wrong. Just flat out wrong and we know it and the other team knows it.

It's the textbook definition of insanity.

2) Bring up Devi

Yes. But let's do the Kluber 3-4 innings then Tallion 3-4 innings in the same game. Not so much an opener as a double starter. Saves the BP. Lets them both air it out for their innings etc. Until one or both builds up or flames out.

3) Move Gleyber back to 2B

Yes. Clearly the pressure of playing SS has gotten to his head. He's not up to the task. Get him comfortable again and let him get back to hitting.

What happens to DJ when Voit returns? He was initially signed to be a super utility man. That was the plan. Go back to it.

4) Convert Jonathan Loaisiga into a starter

Not this year. We have too many guys who can get out of the 4th.

5) Bench Gary Sanchez.

You nailed it. Higgy is ascendant. It will play out.

6) Fire Aaron Boone

Ain't gonna happen. But it should. Really. His decision making is just awful. He's the wrong manager for this team. He lacks urgency.

Doug K.

Anonymous said...

BLOW IT UP. trade anyone who does have a no-trade clause. See if west coast teams will take Stanton if we pay 90% of his salary; he may waive his clause. The Angels will need someone to replace Albert Pujols.Trade for some contact hitters and perhaps one or two minor league pitchers who have the potential to be #2 or #3 starters. I suspect that some teams in pennant races in July will look for some of these players

Der Kaiser said...

Q. What happens to LeMahieu when Voit returns? A. Someone else will be injured by then.

There won't be any logjams on this team, except at DH. The only thing that can stand in the way of a good player getting playing time is managerial foolishness.

ranger_lp said...

@Doug...what makes you think Boone is making all the decisions?

Anonymous said...


"@Doug...what makes you think Boone is making all the decisions?"

It's a good question.

As far as personnel goes he's not. He has to play the hand he's been dealt.

But batting order? That's got to be on him right?

I'm sure he gets the analytics and the recommendations but I can't imagine that he doesn't have some say. Has he been commanded to bat Hicks 3rd or is he taking a suggestion?

I guess the days off are dictated as well but...

He was a good player in the pre-analytics era and has probably seen some things. To stick with "the book" instead of what's actually happening in the game is a decision right there. A bad one.

And more to the point... if he doesn't make decisions, then what does he do?
Motivate? Not well. Keep the locker room happy? They don't seem happy. Pass out gum?

Is it just a PR job now? Because there are managers that help win games through guile, instinct, and getting the most out their players. I want one of those.

It's a different sport so it's not analogous but look at what Thibodeau is doing with the Knicks. They are one bought in team and are playing above their individual talent. And that makes them fun to watch - even when they lose. You can see the effort.

We need a motivator.

Here's a story about - Tommy Lasorda. Friend of mine was producing the Olympics one year and although he had done huge events in the past this was on another level and he was a little unsure.

He had lunch with Lasorda and Tommy got him so fired up and filled with confidence that he could have produce the Olympics and the Presidential Election at the same time. He couldn't offer advice about producing but he understood how to pump someone up, remind them who they are, and build their confidence. A motivator!

Our guys have talent. A lot of talent. Right now they are demotivated. We talk about what they did/are doing to Frazier.

We need a motivator. Because what the Yankees don't don't have right now, is heart. and as the song goes, "You gotta have heart."

and last time I checked, "The Book" ain't got heart.

Doug K.

Suzyn's Bitch said...

Oldest axiom in baseball: You wanna be strong up the middle. What do we have?! Sanchez, Gleyber, Odor and Hicks. Seriously! Does that in ANY WAY seem like a championship team?? The "powers that be" really need to turn this team, and it's line-up, upside down, or inside out. To keep running this same middle-weak team out, game after game, is just uncompetitive, not to mention unwatchable...

HoraceClarke66 said...

Doug, I sympathize. But I very much doubt that Ma Boone has free rein to set the line-ups. Cashman wants a marionette in the dugout, and if he fires Boone—which he won't, at least not for another year—he will replace him with somebody just like that.

And no, the owner who talks incessantly about getting below the spending cap is not going to just eat Stanton's salary—or anybody else's. Nor is Brain ever going to own up to that enormous mistake.

So what to do?

I love the double-starter idea. And as for the lineup...

How about putting the team's two most productive hitters this year, back-to-back? Yes, you heard right: Judge and Stanton, 3-4.

I know, I know. Crazy, right? When have the Yankees EVER put two guy who bat from the same side, back-to-back in those key slot?

Why not since that disastrous experiment with...Ruth and Gehrig. Huh.

HoraceClarke66 said...

As for the 1997 Yankees, sadly, there's not much of a parallel there.

The 1997 team was very well-designed. They won 96 games, just two short of the Orioles' total. In all the rest of baseball, only Atlanta won more.

The 1997 team was a little short on the back end of the rotation, as Irabu was already flopping, and it had trouble handling juicing-pioneer Baltimore, which they went 4-8 against. But mostly they just had some bad luck in April, AND in the playoffs against the Indians. They could easily have won it all.

This team? It will have trouble coming within 20 games of the 1997 Yankees.

Anonymous said...

The '97 Yankees had a case of the "We are the Champions" complacency disease. It happens often to a lot of championship clubs. They got the boot in the playoffs that year and never forgot it. To their everlasting credit and fame, the key players still remaining from '96 and '97 turned it around in '98 to win three consecutive championships and totaling four in five years. Something which has not been done since and which might never be achieved again in MLB. Quite possibly the last legitimate "dynasty" team.

This current Yankee team was badly mishandled by Brain Cashman & Co. We haven't had the right moves made over the last decade or more. Dead wood that should have been pruned has been allowed to decay year after year. A near total right handed lineup? When was the last time that a lineup this right handed won anything? To make it even worse, the right handed hitters we have are almost all "slugger" types, home run or nothing. There is zero balance here. There are no quick fixes for this team.

That said, as commented above, the whole AL East does stink. I'm not that impressed with Tampa or Toronto. It's just that they're way, way better than us.

The easiest fix I can think of is to bring up Estevan Florial and Tyler Wade. Give Torres a day or two off, put in Wade. Bench Hicks, put in Florial. This shit show is not Gary Sanchez's fault. He didn't put Torres, Hicks, Frazier and Judge into a slump. Sanchez is actually hitting better than the ones who are slumping. Also bring up Deivi Garcia and start him. Bring up Domingo German and start him. We've got nothing to lose, everything to gain. If the young players develop, we're golden. If not, we didn't lose anything. How much worse can it get? If we don't make the transition to younger, more dynamic players, it can and will get much much worse.

The Hammer of God

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

The WinWarb idea to have two mediocre pitchers tackle 3-4 innings each in the same game sounds like a winner.

I hereby nominate him for Manager.

How the F could he do worse than what we're getting? And I'll bet he's cheap enuf for even Hal.

Kevin said...

Regarding up the middle: three out of four are bad. Nothing short of aggressive trading will fix that. IMHO, that leaves no place for Torres to play, unless he has the arm for third. Uh, uh, oh yeah, he doesn't. I have to believe that Cashman knew all this coming in, and was forced by the mentats and Hal to put together this Frankenstein Monster of a team. Thus spake Halathustra.

13bit said...

All good suggestions, but the only really important move would be to stop worrying about this silly moment in time, FIRE BRIAN CASHMAN, hire a real baseball man/woman/person, then let him/she/they rebuild the team.

HoraceClarke66 said...

I like your ideas, Hammer.

As for 1997, they were only 2 games out, and I'd say the problem was more Irabu, Kenny Rogers, and Doc Gooden at the bottom of the lineup.

Still, they lost Game 2 of the ALDS to the Indians when Chad Curtis misjudges a flyball in left field, they lost Game 4 when andy Alomar, Jr., hits that opposite-field homer off Mo that barely clears the fence in right—AND when a routine groundball against Mendoza nicks the pitcher's rubber and goes for an infield hit. And they lost Game 5 when Paul O'Neill hits a ball that fails to clear the fence in right-center by inches, and he has to settle for a double.

If they'd taken just one of those games, well, then it's on to Baltimore with Armando Benitez trying to close out the big games, then on to the World Series against the Marlins, upset winners against the Braves.

Too bad. But these team won't even be in it in September, playing in a much weaker league.

ranger_lp said...

Here's a suggestion...instead of throwing faster, how about slower?

Anonymous said...

"The influence of the analytics department needs to be reduced." Its influence is already zero, I can assure you.

Anonymous said...

If they are using analytics guys, they need to use different analytics guys, that's for sure. It looks to me that they're using a pseudo analytic approach, which is combined with the "we'll do whatever the fuck we want approach" as determined by Prince Hal and the bigwigs in the front office. It is mostly unprofessional, stupid bull shit that we're seeing. There is no focus or direction to what they do. They do one intelligent thing (like find and bring in a Didi Gregorius), then they follow up with about ten different stupid decisions. One step forward, five steps backwards.

The Hammer of God

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