The moment the New York Yankees confirmed Luis Severino would be starting on Friday (and then that Aaron Judge would be benched), you knew you were about to watch a classic Aaron Boone punt game -- a true pastime ever since he took over as manager.
Punting games is sometimes necessary. Guys need breathers. The roster is banged up. There's a spot start or a bullpen game on the horizon. Baseball is a 162-game season. Preservation is most important.
But those punt games should be strategic. Not just, "Oh well, guess it's happening (eyes closed and points finger on random calendar day) ... NOW!" That's how it feels Boone goes about these. They typically come at inopportune times that create a more deflating result.
For this weekend's four-game set against the Astros, Boone played checkers instead of chess with his Friday decision. He was right to bench Judge with Severino on the mound -- the Yankees have about a 5% chance of winning against any given contender when Sevy pitches, sadly. If you have to rest Judge with his toe injury, that's the night to do it.
But the Yankees will face Justin Verlander, whom they're incapable of defeating, on Saturday. If there was a true desire to give Severino one more start before making a decision on his future, why not just trot him out there for the game against Verlander and bench Judge that day?
Here's how Aaron Boone played checkers instead of chess for Yankees vs Astros
Wouldn't you rather have a chance against Hunter Brown, who's still a very good pitcher but is definitely beatable? Severino gave up a three-run homer in the first inning and then hit a batter with the bases loaded in the second to put New York in a quick 4-0 hole. That's it, folks.
Instead, the Yankees' saved Nestor Cortes' return for Verlander's first start with the Astros in 2023 (we can probably call that a punt game, too, because Cortes will be on a strict pitch limit since he never got a rehab start at Triple-A).
If Boone really wanted to manage with a purpose (or, if Brian Cashman is calling the shots and wanted to be helpful), he would've went with Randy Vasquez on Friday vs Brown and then started either one of Cortes or Severino on Saturday (and had one follow the other) vs Verlander, and both pitchers probably would've gotten their necessary work in.
Assuming the Yankees lose on Friday (and it feels that way), fans are sensing they'll be looking at a best-scenario split with a win on Sunday (Carlos Rodón vs Jose Urquidy). After winning Game 1 in the manner they did (to follow up a comeback victory against Shane McClanahan), this is not how the rest of the series vs a top AL contender should've gone for a Yankees team desperate for wins.
Meanwhile, Dusty Baker, just for fun, is playing Candy Land in the dugout, simply because he can with how Friday and Saturday was teed up for him.