If pressure is, indeed, something you put in your tires, then former Toronto Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah's tires exploded on Tuesday afternoon against a lineup of nine teenaged Yankees.
Manoah talked a big game in 2022 and largely backed it up, dominating the Yankees (2.31 ERA in four starts) en route to a third-place Cy Young finish. 2023? Different story; Manoah subtracted 1.2 bWAR from the Jays in just 13 starts, a stunning pace that would make Mike Maroth jealous.
Last year, this man was ... feeling himself. He called out both Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole from the comfort of the dugout, but declined to actually meet any of them on the field of play. He claimed Cole was the "biggest cheater" in the history of the game, a history that includes a team throwing a World Series (1919) and a team stealing one (recent!). He claimed to be beyond ready for his playoff debut, uncorking that corny sound bite about pressure and his truck's tires before the Seattle Mariners battered him around a bit.
This year? Uh ... it's, uh ... it hasn't been great. After being sent all the way down to the Florida Complex League in early June to deconstruct his mechanics and start from near-scratch away from the limelight, it seemed this week that the hurler was nearing a potential return window. Jays insider Shi Davidi said the team liked what they saw in a simulated game, and that this week's start would be "a really important test and [would] determine the next steps for him."
That start came on Tuesday. Uh ... NEXT.
Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah has nightmare vs 17-year-old Yankees prospects
Hmm. Maybe time for Manoah to start cheating?
To be fair to Manoah, it is a pretty talented Rookie Ball roster. Not every Florida Complex League team features Roderick Arias! Better luck next time (Arias homered).
Five runs through the second inning is as bleak as it gets ... unless you're 2023 Manoah, in which case it can definitely get bleaker. By the end of his outing, his ERA had ballooned to 37.13, and even positive memories of Roy Halladay (who needed a similar reset earlier in his career) couldn't provide hope in this case.
It may be quite a while before the Yankees see Manoah again, at this rate.
At least he can take comfort in knowing that, as long as Aaron Judge is out, the Yankees' Rookie League team might actually have a more threatening lineup than the big leaguers.