Was Anthony Rizzo's collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. what derailed the New York Yankees' season? Absolutely not. But much like the 2021 campaign, a few bounces here and there really could've changed a lot for one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
To the surprise of nobody, Rizzo was officially ruled out for the remainder of the year on Tuesday when Aaron Boone revealed the news to reporters. Rizzo is still working his way back from "cognitive impairment" suffered from that incident with Tatis, which dates back to late May.
Rizzo, however, didn't go on the injured list until the first week of August -- over two months since sustaining the injury. Somehow, this slipped through the cracks despite the Yankees possessing ample evidence that something was terribly off with their slugging first baseman.
Rizzo proceeded to hit .173 with a .538 OPS in June and then .167 with a .457 OPS in July. He was statistically one of the worst hitters in the entire sport, but it was because he was compromised with the concussion-like symptoms that persisted for months that nobody picked up on.
Had the Yankees exercised a shred of caution and put Rizzo on the IL right when the collision occurred (he missed the next three games anyway, so what would have the harm been?), they might've been able to preserve what's now a lost year.
Yankees' mishandling of Anthony Rizzo probably cost them a playoff berth
Had they replaced Rizzo with anybody capable of hitting over .200 and OPSing over .600, the Yankees might have a few more wins under their belt. Had the Yankees detected what was wrong with Rizzo back in May, he could've been back and performing up to his usual standards by August, which would've potentially helped the Yankees avoid their worst month of the year.
Throw in the 10-15 games the Yankees blew in spectacular fashion this year -- the unthinkable Marlins and Rockies losses in the ninth come to mind right off the bat -- perhaps 5-10 additional (and reasonable) outcomes in their favor would have them all over Toronto and Texas for the final Wild Card spot.
In 2021, one game cost them home-field advantage against the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game. In 2023, Rizzo's return could've coincided with the import of promising Yankees' top prospects that led the charge on a late playoff surge.
It's probably for the best we don't have to watch this team in the playoffs this year because of how truly inferior they are compared to legitimate contenders at this very moment, but we must focus on the principle of this organization constantly shooting itself in the foot, not addressing the wound, and then developing a flesh-eating disease that takes mere days to consume the brain.
Rizzo's situation should be one of many the team's shot callers need to be answering for when curtains officially drop on 2023. Because if this organization really thought they were in it to win it after the trade deadline, you won't convince anybody they're not thinking about what might've happened if Rizzo got the rest he needed and had a competent bat serve in his absence before being able to return fully healthy for a tight stretch run.