It was right in front of them. The New York Yankees, coming off a series split against the Houston Astros that somehow felt like a combination of an unforeseen success and massive disappointment, had a layup of a three-game series before a nine-game stretch against a number of playoff contenders.
All they needed to do was beat the Chicago White Sox, one of the worst/most disappointing teams in MLB, a possibility which couldn't have been better teed up for them. The Sox' toxic culture was put on blast and Tim Anderson got knocked out by Jose Ramirez this past weekend shortly after they cleaned house as much as they conceivably could at the trade deadline.
It was nicely lined up for the Yanks, too. Gerrit Cole vs Dylan Cease. Clarke Schmidt vs Touki Toussaint. Anybody but Luis Severino vs Mike Clevinger. Any team serious about their playoff hopes would've swept.
Perhaps we were greedy in asking for a sweep, but with a nine-game set coming against the Marlins, Braves and Red Sox, the Yankees needed all the free wins they could get. Instead, they lost two out of three, left 29 men on base, went 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position, and had no plan for Luis Severino, who was sent out there to die once again.
It gets worse, too. Before the first game in which Cease took down Cole, White Sox manager Pedro Grifol called out the departed players who were offloaded at the trade deadline ... and then White Sox analyst Ozzie Guillen called out Grifol for doing that.
White Sox manager, media calling out team makes Yankees series loss even more sad
This is the team the Yankees couldn't take two out of three from? The White Sox certainly do not have renewed energy by parting with better players. This same core of guys has failed to get the job done for two years running now. Grifol has clearly made as little an impact as Tony La Russa.
But they were licking their chops to face the Yankees, who are a high-profile piñata for basement-dwelling teams looking for some sort of jolt. They know the Yankees won't step on their throat. They know the Yankees incessantly will leave the door open. They know the Yankees will be more focused blaming an umpire than getting one (1) singular hit with runners in scoring position.
Then, of course, there's the trash talk factor, which always backfires for this team. Former White Sox reliever, Keynan Middleton, now with the Yankees, called out Chicago for its "no rules" culture, which was immediately confirmed by former White Sox pitcher Lance Lynn and immediately denied by White Sox GM Rick Hahn. Even if it's true, the fact he said that on Sunday doomed the Yankees for Monday-Wednesday. It's science.
The story of the 2020-2023 Yankees -- constantly failing to capitalize. Constantly failing to elude embarrassment. Constantly playing down to their competition. Constantly letting their own poor play and the media criticism get in their head.
Brian Cashman's roster is indeed not good, but it's better than whatever the White Sox have, especially in the midst of a circus of controvsery.