Anthony Rizzo was once thought to be a core veteran member of the New York Yankees. And just like that, a career-worst 0-for-24 slump (and current 8-for-57 slump) have fans questioning what has gone wrong.
Was it Fernando Tatis Jr. crashing into his head back in late May? It is the inevitable age decline that we've all be witnessing with Josh Donaldson? Is it because Aaron Judge hasn't been in the lineup to protect him?
Either way, we're having bad thoughts ... such as, "Why didn't the Yankees simply sign Freddie Freeman for money or trade a package of mostly nothing for Matt Olson, both of whom would've arguably been better fits?"
We don't want to think that, but Rizzo falling off the face of the earth when the Yankees have needed him most naturally brings out warranted frustration from a fan base that continues to see new, unforeseen scenarios derail any and all momentum in its tracks.
Rizzo's play is one thing. But fans at least knew he could be relied upon as a guiding voice. That's why his recent comments on Judge's absence were a bit of a surprise, especially after witnessing the embarrassing 10-2 loss suffered on Wednesday. The Yankees won the series against the Mariners, but once again squandered momentum as they nearly got no-hit, made a comedy of errors, and watched Domingo Germán get tagged for 10 runs in his second straight horrific start. The lineup still isn't producing.
Anthony Rizzo doesn't think it's fair to evaluate Yankees without Aaron Judge
"There’s 30 teams right now that don’t have Aaron Judge on it. So I don’t think it’s any different for any other team. I know the narrative is 'Without Judge,' but I don't think that's fair to put on him or anyone on this team.- Anthony Rizzo via Bryan Hoch
He’s our captain. He’s our leader. It sucks, but one guy doesn’t make the biggest difference in the world."
On the one hand, Rizzo isn't wrong. It's not fair to put that on Judge. He's just one guy, and this isn't the NBA. There are plenty of other players on a baseball roster that can pick up the slack in the event a top player goes down.
However, it's definitely fair to put it on the rest of the Yankees players, because this iteration of the roster has proven nothing when Judge has been out and very little when he's been present. All of Rizzo, Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres can't be disappearing (for the most part) for 15 games -- six of which were against the Red Sox -- when an injury of this magnitude occurs.
If there was a semblance of performance coming from anyone other than Billy McKinney, Jake Bauers and Kyle Higashioka, the Judge "narrative" wouldn't be a conversation. Was it in 2019 when he missed 60 games and the Yankees still won 103? Was it in 2018 when he missed 50 games and the Yankees won 100? No. It's a narrative now, though, because the hits keep on coming. The supporting cast members are doing nothing but reinforcing the idea that this team is .500 or worse without Judge.
And you know what! When Rizzo, Stanton, Donaldson, LeMahieu and Torres are making a combined $95.7 million this year, it's certainly fair to put that on the players who are supposed to be pillars of support around Judge, not barely existing when he's present and then fully disappearing when he's out of the lineup.
Nobody's denying times are tough. But the Yankees' constant failure to respond in the face of adversity is problematic, and that falls on everybody in the dugout -- whether Judge is there or not.