Yankees: NYY must beware the Blue Jays as season wraps

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone #17 looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at Steinbrenner Field on March 3, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone #17 looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at Steinbrenner Field on March 3, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Yankees’ 2020 “cakewalk” regular season has officially turned into a nightmare!

“Pathetic” is a word Yankees fans are likely using to describe their ball club. “Frustrating” is certainly another. A ball club that was 16-6 on August 17 is now barely above .500 and fighting for a spot in the October madness that is this year’s MLB postseason. Fighting is probably too strong a word, as all too often over the last 21 days, this team has lumbered through games like extras from The Walking Dead.

Let’s face it, the clock has struck midnight this season for a team that magically overcame all those injuries last season. When your best players are not on the field, your chances of winning ballgames are drastically reduced. It’s not rocket science.

But unlike last season, this team appears to have no spark. Maybe it’s the slapdash circumstances of this weird season with no fans, a tier 3 college-like travel radius and prorated salaries that has these players mailing it in. Whatever the case may be, this team needs to wake up now or start scheduling tee times for October.

Starting September 8, Labor Day, there will be 19 games left in the regular season. Nine of those games will be against the upstart Toronto Blue Jays, who the Yankees currently find themselves battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the American League. The Mariners, Tigers and Orioles are also nipping at their heels. Suffice it to say that dropping six or more of the team’s 10 total games vs the Jays will likely put the final nails into the 2020 Yankee season. Again, it’s 2020, so let’s keep it surreal.

The Jays have a solid young team, especially offensively. Guys like Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Vlad Guerrero Jr, Randal Grichuk and Cavan Biggio, to name a few, can flat out rake. Hernandez has been en fuego in 2020, hitting .308 with 14 HR, though he’s now out with an oblique injury, likely long-term. This team is going to score runs. And after a disturbing weekend series in Baltimore where the Yankee lineup made the O’s no-name pitching staff look like the ’96 Atlanta Braves, who knows if these Yankees can even produce a multi-hit inning, let alone score runs!

Equally disturbing have been some of the head scratching decisions made by manager Aaron Boone. It was wild to see him sitting the team’s best hitter, DJ LeMahieu, on Saturday, before giving more rest to a newly-activated Gleyber Torres on Sunday. Torres made Camden Yards his personal playground in 2019, hitting .400 with seven homers and a 1.667 OPS in nine games! Whether these were organizational decisions or just Boone’s, they seem to have been made without regard for the dire and urgent situation this team has found itself in. Note to the Yankee ‘Geek Squad’: Adjust your algorithms!  It’s 2020!

As for the Blue Jays pitching, aside from Hyun-Jin Ryu (Monday’s starter, who the Yanks took to task), nobody has really lit it up. But given the way the Yankees have been swinging the bats, the Jays could trot 65-year-old 1993 WS champ Jack Morris out there. Ol’ Jack would probably give them seven strong (at least) vs. this anemic bunch!

The Yankees’ pitching, of course, has played their role in this tailspin. A collective ERA of 6.00 over the last seven days and a bullpen that ranks 25th in holds and eighth in losses is certainly part of the problem. Chad Green and Adam Ottavino have been particularly awful.  Both counted on as “High Leverage” guys, they have all too often burned the few leads this team has had over the last three weeks, and made a likely victory into a disaster on Monday night.

Beyond all the repulsive numbers, this team has just been flat, listless. They’ve certainly not provided any type of entertainment, or even a balm for their shell-shocked fans who’ve looked to them for an escape from the carnage that has been 2020. Toronto, on the other hand, has been an entirely different and more resilient story. They’ve simply got a better attitude — as do the Tampa Bay Rays.

This certainly has been the roughest patch manager Aaron Boone has had to endure since taking the helm in 2018.  Boone’s placid demeanor and strictly by-the-book style has also frustrated fans, many of whom have already started calling for his exit. While angry fans clamoring for a manager’s dismissal is nothing new, especially in New York, missing this expanded postseason when the team is one of the heavy favorites could push Boone back to the booth at ESPN. At the very least, it will weaken his staying power should things get rocky in 2021.

Perhaps a few emptied bat racks or Ditka-esque press conferences could fire things up, or at least show the team and its fans Boone is as angry and frustrated as they are. Let’s hope something turns this around, or it will be a September to forget. After all, it is 2020!