In one corner, the New York Yankees, blessed with a roster full of riches but playing every day like it’s Game 159 of a fourth-place season.
In the other? The Boston Red Sox, a team with far less talent but far more zest for the game of baseball.
After dropping three straight at home to the Baltimore Orioles to open the season, a far worse fate than anything Aaron Boone’s Yankees have had to battle back from, Alex Cora’s Sox reeled off nine straight wins. They swept a road double header. They won two games in which they trailing in their final at-bat. They even came back from 3-0 down in the eighth in the one game they lost.
Why? They seem to have simply decided…they’d rather win than lose. The Yankees haven’t even begun to plumb those motivational depths.
There is clearly some intrinsic connection Cora has with his roster in Boston that allows them to seriously punch above their weight — even if only temporarily.
So how does Boone channel the same energy? While Cora plays the hits that worked so well in 2018, why doesn’t the Yankees manager also dust off his greatest work yet and throw things back to 2019?
How can Aaron Boone motivate the Yankees like Alex Cora?
Not for nothing, but there’s a clear and obvious parallel to the 2019 season with this current bunch, and we’re not sure why Boone isn’t using their pathway to light a fire under this roster.
Is it “too early” to panic? Of course. But this team won’t reverse course if the players continue to hear that “hitting is hard” instead of some motivational notes that might really strike a chord.
In 2019, the Yankees — with much the same roster, albeit one decimated by injuries — sat at 6-9 following a grimy loss to the Chicago White Sox. Giancarlo Stanton was out. Mike Tauchman’s tenure was just beginning. Miguel Andujar had been hurt during the season’s first series. The injuries were piling up, which would continue all year long.
Still, though, that team won 103 games, mostly because every single player who showed up to fill a starter’s place wanted to be the most effective weapon he could be. Tauchman. DJ LeMahieu in Troy Tulowitzki’s place. Cameron Maybin. Why not evoke the story of 2019 while trying to get this roster back on track?
How hard would it be for Boone to say, “This team can follow in their footsteps, but they won’t if they don’t self-assess and push it to that extra gear. Nothing will change unless we stay hungry and act like someone’s always coming up behind you. Next Man Up, right?”
Is this a more talented roster than an under-.500 bunch? Of course!
But perhaps they already need to be reminded to remain in the fight rather than wait for things to normalize.
Thus far, Alex Cora’s Red Sox have been prone to going out and taking what they want, whereas Boone’s Yankees seem content to wait for the ground ball percentages to get back to their typical levels. That won’t work. The Bombers shouldn’t press, but they need to be reminded of what it takes to battle back.