The New York Yankees might be staying alive with Aaron Judge on the shelf, but they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. The pitching has largely been great while the offense has managed to come through just enough to have the team nine games over .500 heading into Thursday's game.
But the Bombers were dealt another blow on Wednesday night. Jake Bauers suffered a shoulder injury while diving for a line drive in left field. It was a double whammy, too, as Bauers' misplay resulted in a run scoring (and the inning being extended, allowing the Orioles to score two more runs).
It's not Bauers' fault, though. He's not a natural outfielder! He came up as a first baseman and has had a few part-time stops as an outfielder with the Rays, Guardians and Mariners, but it wasn't enough to establish himself as a reliable defender. He still looks shaky out there with his routes.
The Yankees, somehow, are short on outfielders -- the most abundant position players in the game. They liked Bauers' bat, signed him to a minor-league deal in the offseason, and before they knew it, they needed him eating meaningful innings on a nightly basis.
But how could they not use him more as a DH/backup first baseman as time went on? Giancarlo Stanton has been injured longer than he's been healthy, so there was an opportunity to do so. This team is constantly injured even when players are in the most comfortable positions. Yet the Yankees, who watched Bauers injure his knee in his very first game after getting the call to the big leagues, have trotted him out there 40 more times. Now he's headed for an MRI.
Yankees tempted fate with Jake Bauers and are paying for it now
Once Bauers established himself as an important bat on this team, the Yankees should've figured out a plan to get Stanton out in the field more. They should've better situated Bauers on the other side of the ball when they had the chance.
Even with Stanton in the fold occupying the DH spot more times than not, the Yankees can afford to give Anthony Rizzo a breather here and there with how bad he's been. Getting Bauers at-bats never would've been an issue because the injuries continue to pile up even as guys finally get back to full strength.
Yes, we've previously advocated for the Yankees to sign/play the best guys available and figure out the configuration later on. But Bauers doesn't even have a season of more than 117 games under his belt. He's only played in 377 career games. He's a solid major leaguer without a doubt, but it'd be a stretch to call him "established." That's the difference, and that's where the Yankees have gone wrong.
They continue to open the door for injury prone players and know that's a risk they take far too often, and they've now parlayed that with utilizing a few others out of their natural habitat (remember Isiah Kiner-Falefa nearly killed Harrison Bader on a diving play he had no business making right when Bader returned from the IL?).
Down another player with the All-Star break approaching, the Yankees badly need a reprieve from the arduous 162-game schedule. Maybe the pause in play will have Brian Cashman realize that acquiring oft-injured players or playing more and more guys out of position isn't the answer for a team that battles enough negative cosmic energy.
That might be asking too much, though.