If there’s any New York Yankee fan out there who isn’t terrified when it’s evident manager Aaron Boone is “taking over a game,” please reach out to us. We’d love to hear your side of things. Because many of us can’t stomach it.
Whenever the offense doesn’t provide enough firepower and the game is tight, the Yankees force Boone into a corner and leave him to his own devices. When he actually presses the right buttons, the reaction is, “Thank God.”
When he doesn’t? Well, that’s fairly often. If the Yankees aren’t staked with a big enough lead, it’s always a “hold onto your butts” situation. You saw it in Games 2 and 3 of the ALDS, both losses. And then you saw it in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The Yankees were never supposed to win on Wednesday night against the Houston Astros. They played the evening prior, celebrated their ALDS win, then traveled to Texas. They had only Jameson Taillon lined up and ready to go. No time to even think about the assignment, which, at first, seemed like some sort of an advantage.
So when this was a 1-1 game in the fifth and Taillon was only at 67 pitches, you thought for a second, “Woah, can we pull this off if we hold strong?”
Aaron Boone clearly cannot handle tight games for the Yankees
First thing’s first. The lineup. Josh Donaldson batted fifth for five of the team’s first six playoff games. The other game, he batted sixth. You know who bats fifth for the Astros? Kyle Tucker. How about that drop-off!
Donaldson finished a dreadful 5-for-29 (with one of those hits being the single he pimped and got thrown out after being caught in a pickle) with 16 strikeouts. He notched zero RBI. He didn’t have a single extra-base hit. He had a career-worst season and it got worse and worse by the at-bat. Yet, the hope that he’ll “run into one” remained as strong as ever.
Then, Boone had the gall to defend Donaldson from criticism, claiming the offensive woes in the playoffs were a team-wide struggle. They were! But Donaldson’s contributions have been consistently bad from start to finish! He’s never showed up outside of the walk-off on Opening Day and the walk-off against the Rays after the rain delay.
Donaldson was never acquired to be featured in the heart of the order. He was always a luxury meant to deepen/lengthen the lineup.
Secondly, the pitching decisions. Once AGAIN, Clarke Schmidt was used in a scenario he should’ve never been brought out for. After he somehow escaped with a double play when the bases were loaded, Boone tried to steal outs with the right-hander in the sixth.
The result? Two solo home runs that gave the Astros the lead. Lou Trivino was fully rested. Miguel Castro and Domingo German had yet to pitch in this postseason. Trivino finally came in after Schmidt blew the game and Boone used him for SEVEN pitches. Sound familiar? Happened twice in the ALDS. Trivino is supposed to be the valuable fireman, not the guy pitching briefly in three losses.
We’ll continue to stress this. Managing for the long haul in a Game 1 you were probably never going to win is probably the smarter chess move. But Boone didn’t do that. He used his fourth-most valuable reliever when the team was down two runs as the coffin was nearly closed.
Had Schmidt come in, blown it, then he went to say, Frankie Montas, German or Castro, it would’ve made more sense. But using Trivino clearly showed there was a willingness to keep Game 1 in reach. And if that was his “plan,” then Schmidt should’ve never been used in the first place. That should’ve been Trivino’s spot. Assuming he escaped the sixth, then you go from there and determine who your next best available arms are and how they best fit into the equation.
But that never happens, does it? Boone hasn’t been dealt the greatest of hands. His bullpen is decimated. The lineup has far more injuries/ailments than most average fans realize. That doesn’t change the fact his job is to navigate those shortcomings/deficiencies. For example, the Yankees should be on a budget, but they are. They back themselves into a corner at times. If they don’t have a manager to fight against a disappearing offense, unexpected injuries or regressions, then what’s the point of the job?
Fast forward to Game 3. Boone took out Gerrit Cole on 96 pitches with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth. And goes to Trivino. Does Trivino have a better shot at getting out of that jam than Cole? Trivino immediately gave up a sac fly and a two-run single to make it 5-0. Oh yeah, and Matt Carpenter, who was 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts at that point in the postseason, started in the fifth hole. It was the third time the lineup was drastically changed in this series. All three games were losses and the hitting has been the No. 1 problem. Not all Boone’s fault, but he clearly isn’t helping.
Did we mention Boone allowing his mental skills coach to show the Yankees players highlights from the 2004 collapse against the Boston Red Sox as motivation for them to climb out of an 0-3 hole to the Astros. Unforgivable.
The Yankees could’ve stolen Game 1 in Houston. They got steamrolled in Game 3 at home. They could’ve ended the ALDS in three or four games. They didn’t. And though there’s plenty of blame to go around, there’s nothing more glaring than the skipper’s decision making when the Yankees are approaching or on the ropes.