Yankees manager Aaron Boone knows an underdog story when he sees one.
The New York Yankees are entering an ALDS series with the Tampa Bay Rays that, truly, no one believes they will win.
No, really. This is a Yankees team that went 2-8 against Tampa Bay this season. This is a Yankees team that learned TB knows how to punch back — the Michael Brosseau incident against Aroldis Chapman further defined this season when Brosseau hit a ball a long way the next day in a first-inning rally.
And, perhaps most importantly, this is a Yankees bullpen that wasn’t up to the task of stopping the Indians in Game 2 on full rest. How will they possibly match up with the Rays in up to five consecutive games without an off day?
So when Aaron Boone firmly planted his tongue in his cheek on Thursday while discussing where his team stands in the upcoming series, he was joking, but he wasn’t kidding.
That’s it, Boonie. Set the tone.
Coming off a Game 2 win that would’ve been among the most demoralizing playoff games in recent team history if it hadn’t been salvaged in the ninth, the Yankees absolutely do need to be playing the goofy underdog card entering this neutral-site battle with their division rival.
No, the Rays won’t be in their concrete carpeted dome in Tampa. No, they won’t be the scrappy upstart anymore — they’re the literal top seed, and they’ve dominated the season series.
Just because the Yankees have the payroll advantage does not mean they have the pedigree. The money’s going on the Rays ahead of this clash, and it’s perfectly acceptable for Boone to acknowledge that the tables have turned.
Will people hate this? Sure. But people hate everything Yankees, and that will not change.
So why not have a little fun, and make it clear you have nothing to lose, right? If Kevin Cash feels confident enough to push his “stable” comment about the threatening Rays ‘pen, then Boone gets to co-opt his underdog narrative. Only fair.