Saturday night, at the end of Game 3 of the Yankees’ ALDS series with Cleveland, discontent appeared to be running rampant in New York’s clubhouse. At the very least, no one could seem to get on the same page or decide whether the page was something they enthusiastically cared about getting aligned on.
Clarke Schmidt had been summoned from the bullpen after Wandy Peralta was entrusted with recording the final seven outs of the game. Clay Holmes was left confused, responding to Aaron Boone’s allegation that he was unavailable and sore by letting the world know that he felt no soreness. Luis Severino, the game’s starting pitcher, told the gathered media that Holmes, his closer, probably should’ve been closing.
It became difficult to envision a way for the team to come back and win two consecutive games against Cleveland. It also became difficult to envision such a scattershot team even wanting to.
Then, Josh Naylor happened, Gerrit Cole dominated, the Yankees galvanized, and all that finger-pointing was water under the bridge (except for Severino, still miffed he wasted a month on the 60-Day IL).
In the wake of the team’s Game 2 loss in Houston, though, Boone decided to go back to the well, seemingly placing blame on one of the team’s top performers for a lack of preparedness that no fan was even aware of until he spoke it into existence. While thoughts about the open roof swirled and Severino and Kyle Higashioka went on the offensive about the Astros’ “luck,” Boone chose to offhandedly mention that Harrison Bader, Thursday’s leadoff hitter, didn’t know he was leading off, and should be “more diligent” about checking those things.
Somewhere, in the distance, Clay Holmes is firing off a text of all question marks to Bader.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone admits Harrison Bader didn’t check Game 2 lineup
Whatever happened to the Yankees being tight-lipped with the press? Whatever happened to the endless fudging of Aaron Judge’s injury status over the years? Being cagey was frustrating enough, but this Bader situation could’ve easily been buried with something like, “There was a minor communication lapse, but we handled it internally.”
Why does the general public need to know that some Yankees — cough, cough, Bader, one of the very few people actually performing in October — need to get more diligent about checking messages from Boone? It’s not like he wandered out to home plate to lead off the game with his helmet backwards and sunglasses on, totally unprepared.
This could’ve stayed buried forever, and no one would’ve known the difference. The fact that it also came during the same press availability where Boone ardently defended Josh Donaldson’s OBP (never mind that he’s powerless and whiff-prone) made it clearer that he’s steadfastly tied to the wrong guys. Sticking up for the wrong half of his players won’t do him any good.
Surely, the 2018-2022 Yankees could’ve performed worse. The team won 100 games in ’18 and ’19 and 99 this season. Most franchises would laud whoever oversaw that production and set early-career win records.
It’s obvious to anyone watching the team on a daily basis, though, that Boone’s bullpen instincts and feel for the game have barely improved, it at all, in a five-season span. Add in a flood of sudden leaks in the locker room, when player communication was supposedly Boone’s strength all along, and it’s another bad look for a leadership group that’s been full of excuses and light on answers lately.