Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is a powerhouse when he’s “on,” but more importantly, he’s a pent-up ball of fury and a creature of habit — something Aaron Boone still doesn’t seem to realize after nearly four years of trying to facilitate his success.
Whether it’s a bum fingernail, a decided lack of stickiness, or something else entirely, Chapman has been off more often than he’s been on lately, throwing up all sorts of regression on the mound that has turned his fantastic start into a distant memory.
Seriously, what happened to his splitter? It feels like we see one per week at this point.
Bottom line, Chapman is an All-Star closer who also needs to have things set up perfectly for him to succeed. If a ball bounces the wrong way or a hitter disrupts his rhythm — or a runner, like Michael A. Taylor at first base on Wednesday — things seem to go awry rather quickly. Ditto for rest; not enough, and he’ll struggle, but too much, and he won’t sweat (which is also bad).
We understand it’s tough to balance all of these factors together to get a perfect Chapman outing when you need it most.
Being a manager is tough, though, and the job is only made harder when you forget all of the ingredients and ruin your own closer’s outing with indecision, as Boone did on Wednesday night.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone disrupted Aroldis Chapman’s rhythm.
Let bygones be bygones after a big win, but man oh man, was this ever a bailout by the Yankees’ offense.
With two outs and a runner on first, just after a beautiful 3-2 breaker to Hanser Alberto recorded an all-important out in a one-run game, Whit Merrifield was all that stood between Chapman and victory. Merrifield, a great hitter, got ahead of a fastball and plunked it into right field, just in front of Aaron Judge.
Two on, two out, the red-hot and patient Carlos Santana up … with a backup catcher batting .000 behind him instead of Salvador Perez. We completely understand the decision to intentionally walk Santana, but what we didn’t need was a baked-in two-minute delay while everyone assessed the situation.
Chapman paced. His manager gathered everyone on the mound. Rougned Odor lingered a little too long, as he usually does. Santana finally stepped into the box, ready for a pitch. Everyone stood around some more. Santana slowly removed his leg guard, asking everyone if that was OK. After what felt like an eternity, he finally walked to first, removing all of Chapman’s margin for error in the process and clearly unnerving him.
According to the YES Network broadcast of Thursday’s matinee, Boone wavered between the dugout and the mound and completely flipped his decision after settling on allowing Chapman to pitch to Santana. The long pause was even more destructive than we thought.
Sometimes, the “right” call is only right if it doesn’t make your players paralyzingly uncomfortable — remember JA Happ’s complete unwillingness to follow Deivi Garcia in ALCS Game 2? That’s a part of managing, too. Find a plan that works for everyone — and if you can’t, let your players know you have the final word with a show of force.
Waffling does nothing except throw Chapman off his axis enough for a four-pitch game-tying walk that unleashed the wild man inside him.
After allowing a dribbler to third base that scored the run that pushed the Royals ahead, he got even more fearsome in the dugout.
By the book, walking Santana to face a hitter who’s never had a hit before was the right call.
But the decision wasn’t reached quickly enough, it wasn’t reached decisively enough, and the man asked to execute it wasn’t on board and needed a cool-down summit in the wee hours after a walk-off win.
Probably the right managerial move by the book with the wrong execution, all factors included. But what else is new? Feel for the game isn’t this fella’s strong suit.