BBB Reacts: Yankees' disappointing end to the 2018 season

Well, it's been just about a week now since the Boston Red Sox eliminated the Yankees from playoff contention and we've all had some time to stew on it.  Obviously not the ending any of us wanted and made even more painful due to the fact that it was our arch-rivals who put the nail in the coffin.  Some of our contributors weigh in below about how this season ended, what to make of it all, and where the Yankees go from here heading into 2019.

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Gus Wetekamp

Obviously not the ending to the season we expected nor will accept. Lots of questions, lots of things to address. I’m going to focus on someone who was bemoaned by Yankees fans and had unquestionably the worst season of his young career in 2018. Let’s talk about Greg Bird. Our beefy boy Luke Voit provides Bird with something he hasn’t really felt in his major league career yet. Pressure. The oh-crap-I-might-lose-my-job type of pressure. 2019 will show us the real Greg Bird. If he responds well to the pressure and finally puts it all together, we’ll finally see the consistent left-handed power bat that made scouts first fall in love with him. If he doesn’t, then I wouldn’t bank on seeing him in pinstripes for the foreseeable future. The free agency period will be fierce and full of intrigue, but when spring training finally rolls around the fight for first base will be one of the most compelling storylines of the 2019 season.

Mary Grace Donaldson

Most Yankees fans have clear idea of who we each think is to blame for the collapse of the Yankees in the ALDS. Popular choices include Aaron Boone, Larry Rothschild, Luis Severino, Gary Sánchez, Giancarlo Stanton, C.C. Sabathia and even Angel Hernandez. Others will say a combination of all or some the above.

However, the greatest fault didn’t lie with any one person. Did Boone leave Severino in for too many innings in Game Three, and leave Sabathia in for a few too many pitches in Game Four? Yes. Did Severino look much more like second-half Severino than he did in the A.L. Wild Card game? Absolutely. Did Sabathia look sloppy and inefficient? Of course. But the Yankees’ pitching staff, as well as Boone’s management, was far from the core problem that allowed the series to end on a losing note. While Cash probably needs to go look for another starter in the offseason, the bullpen, for all intents and purposes, did its job.

The collapse can be blamed on a problem that plagued the Yankees through the entirety of the 2018 season: RISP, and in turn, situational offense. Save for Game Two, in which one David Price gave his usual sub-par performance against both the Yankees as a whole and Sánchez as an individual, the Yankee bats were far too quiet. But the remedy for “too quiet” does not necessarily equal “hit more home runs.” Sure, it’s great to break the single-season home run record. But home runs can’t be the only run-scoring method in the playbook.

Getting back to the ALDS, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi both pitched games that they will remember for the rest of their respective careers; however, while Game Three really wasn’t winnable, Game Four was. All the Yankees had to do, once Porcello came out of the game, was capitalize on RISP situations, brought to them by a weak bullpen (minus, of course, a surprise appearance from Chris Sale). Even Craig Kimbrel didn’t have his best stuff. A four-run deficit was far from insurmountable, and a series of well-connected singles and doubles with RISP would have gotten the job done. Instead, Sánchez aimed for the grand slam and found himself with a sac fly when it was already too late. Stanton struck out yet again. If the Yankees’ power hitters focused more on situational offense (i.e. a sac fly BEFORE it was too late, or just a single to move a runner), it would have been enough to defeat the Red Sox bullpen, even if not in Game Three (though, in retrospect, it probably would have helped there too). They didn’t do it in the regular season, they didn’t do it in the postseason, and Lord knows… they really need to work on it in the offseason.

Isabella Anton

It’s difficult to comprehend that this team won 100 games during the regular season after experiencing their short-lived postseason stint. Even in the second half, it seemed like the magic was lost. Gleyber regularly blasting three-run bombs and Sevy dominating every batter he faced are distant memories in my mind. Most games became nerve-racking and frustrating to watch–even if the Yankees were winning. Still, I had faith that everything would turn around if they made it past the Wild Card game.

I went into the postseason with a similar mindset to the beginning of the 2018 season. I wanted to believe that this Yankees team could win any game no matter the amount of adversity being faced. I believe that Games One and Four could have gone our way. In both ball games, Boston’s starter only went about five innings, leaving plenty of time for the Bombers to get to their subpar bullpen. Inability to score with RISP was an issue all season and must be addressed. However, the 2019 lineup and starting rotation may look completely different with the number of free agents and unexpected news of Didi’s TJ surgery. I would love to see the Yanks re-sign Gardner, D-Rob, and Happ. There is also a need for a lefty bat in the lineup in the absence of Didi (Harper, maybe?). The Yankees will obviously look into the viable selection of starting pitchers available, including Patrick Corbin and Charlie Morton, should they decide to not bring CC Sabathia, Lance Lynn, or J.A. Happ back. Overall, I think Cashman will make some important moves in the next six months to help bring #28 to the Bronx.

Nick Simonelli

Obviously looking back at the disappointment of the ALDS loss there can be a lot of blame placed on pitching. Happ essentially single-handedly lost Game 1 in Fenway when he was hyped up as a “Red Sox killer” and we all know how Game 3 went in New York; however, the offense refused to show up for the first 17 innings played in Yankee Stadium and no team should win any series without performing at home. But the series was still there to win. Games 1 and 4 were both decided by one run each. A few bounces go differently in either of those games and the team could be returning from Houston right now getting ready for Game 3 of an ALCS rematch. And that is why I choose to look at some of the positives of this year:
  • Even when playing as poorly as the Yankees did in that series (against a 108-win ball club) there was still chances to win the series
  • Gleyber, Miggy, and yes even Giancarlo got their first postseason experience to learn from and build off of
  • Aaron Judge can BALL in October
  • Gleyber Torres is going to be a very special talent and will be a lot of fun to watch for the next 20 years
  • Greg Bird will (hopefully) not be starting at First Base next year
  • When this team was clicking, they were nearly impossible to beat
That last bullet point is key for me. After the ALDS ended, everybody was calling for a big splash in free agency such as a Machado or a Harper. Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to add one of those soon-to-be $300 million men (especially after finding out about the Didi injury), but I don’t think the Yankees NEED one of these guys to win the World Series next year. The first and last bullet points suggest that the team itself can win the big one, and the real problem is getting them to play their best baseball in October instead of in May. That falls on coaching, and what we saw from Larry Rothschild and Marcus Thames as pitching coach and hitting coach was pitiful. All year we saw pitchers lacking control, and nothing got fixed. All year we saw hitters swinging for the fences with two strikes and falling for the same pitches. But guess what? Nothing got fixed. The 2019 New York Yankees team photo doesn’t need to look very different for the results to be different, but they need to be able to make adjustments in-game and in-season, which is something that the 2018 New York Yankees failed to do.

Matt Graziano

While the season didn’t end the way we all wanted it to and while this may have been the least fun 100-win season in a long time, the 2018 season was not a failure. The decision to replace Joe Girardi with rookie manager Aaron Boone was controversial and it might not look great now that they’ve failed to advance as far as they did in 2017. The Yankees still did improve by 8 games in the regular season though, despite players like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge missing significant portions of the season. The Yankees big acquisition from last year, Giancarlo Stanton, did not repeat his 2017 MVP performance and had some ugly moments in the playoffs but I think with a season in New York under his belt and some good luck on health, Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez can be the dangerous trio we thought they would be this season.

This Yankee team entered the 2018 season with significant hype after the acquisition of Stanton but still underwent significant changes during the season due to the failings of players like Sonny Gray and Greg Bird. Needs at 1B and in the rotation brought back Luke Voit and JA Happ, both of whom could be factors on next year’s team. The 2018 season could also mark the end of some longtime Yankees like Brett Gardner, David Robertson and even CC Sabathia. Gardner struggled badly for much of the season and was relegated to bench at the end of the season after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen. While Neil Walker and Brandon Drury were on the opening day roster all those months ago, it was top prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar who seized the second base and third base jobs. They should be mainstays on the roster for years to come.  

This upcoming offseason will be a very important one of the Yankees and I believe it will shape their future for years to come. The Yankees have already announced that all of their coaches will return, so there will be stability on that front. The rest of the roster could see significant changes though. The futures of left field and first base are unclear and the Yankees will almost certainly seek to upgrade their starting rotation, which didn’t live up to expectations in the playoffs. The injury to Didi Gregorius shocked us all and now leaves a gaping hole at a position we didn’t anticipate. That injury will mean the Yankees will likely need to replace Didi’s production until around midseason. With several high-profile free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper looming on the market and with a good amount of money coming off the books, this Yankee lineup could look significantly different on opening day of 2019.

The end of the 2018 season was disappointing but none of us anticipated the emergence of the Red Sox as the power they became. Sometimes you just lose to a better team and that series against the Red Sox exposed the flaws that the Yankees will need to address this offseason. The bullpen remains a strength, but the rotation will need to be strengthened and the offense requires some more lefty righty balance and the ability to produce runs in ways other than the home run. While many knives were out for Aaron Boone this year, he will be back, and we can only hope he has learned a lot this year and will apply those lessons in the years to come.    

Overall, I would say the 2018 Yankee season is more of an incomplete than it is an outright failure. Take a look at the Red Sox and the Astros and you’ll see teams that made high profile trades for ace pitches and big bats. The Yankees have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and certainly have the ammo to pull off a trade like that if they want to. Thus far they have declined those opportunities. They haven’t made a splashy free agent signing in a few years and have elected to build primarily through home grown talent. When you choose that route, you will have to deal with the time and growing pains. That is the route they have chosen so far, but with needs at several positions, a lot of money coming off the books and several young studs on the market, the Yankees are in a position to go big game hunting this offseason and put themselves in a position to contend again next season.

Ryan Thoms

After the year of being the underdog, the 2018 Yankees were a juggernaut. With a rookie manager, a 25-man roster worth of injuries, and frequent slumps from key players, the Yankees still managed to win 100 games. If all had went well, it was extremely possible this team could have won 110 games or more. This was an extremely good baseball team, one of the better regular season teams in the team’s history, but regular season success does not always translate into postseason success. The team’s biggest weaknesses were exposed during the playoffs, and this is where the team should focus on improving.

The home run or bust team was fun to watch and see break records, but the Yankees frequent “#RISPFails” of the regular season were a thorn in the side of this offense come the postseason. Other than the blowout game at Yankee Stadium, every game versus Boston was a winnable game if the Yankees came through with the big hit. Unlike Boston, the Yankees were unable to string together a bunch of hits and have prolonged innings. Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Luke Voit were some of the team’s most clutch hitters down the stretch, but it is very difficult to rely on rookies to carry the offense in a postseason series. If the Yankees add to the offense, which doesn’t need much improvement, they should seek situational hitters that have proven to be solid contributors with runners in scoring position in order to help balance this lineup. Adding Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would only improve this team, but the Yankees need to be careful that they don’t find themselves in a similar situation in the 2019 postseason.

The rotation was not as bad as people made it out to be, the players just simply did not perform. Happ and Severino could match up with most team’s top starters in a playoff series, but they had to do their job. Both Severino and Happ were rocked by Boston, and that was just the reality of the circumstance. They were both All-Star pitchers in the regular season, so the talent is there. In the words of John Sterling, “that’s baseball Suzyn.” With all that being said, it’d still be foolish if the Yankees did not make a huge rotation splash with their current financial situation. Severino and Tanaka are locks for 2019, but the Yankees should try to trade for or sign at least two solid starters. JA Happ would be a solid rotation member for a full season, and then the Yankees can look at players like Patrick Corbin to slide in next to Severino.

The final issue of the postseason that was prominent in the regular season as well was the coaching. This staff was all new coming into 2018, other than Larry Rothschild, and there were definitely some deficiencies as a whole. While, I’d argue the Yankees should’ve made some minor changes in regard to the coaches, the Yankees like their group and want to give them a second chance. If this team wants to take that next step, they have to learn from their mistakes in 2018 and not repeat history in similar situations moving forward.

Calling 2018 a failure is foolish. There were so many positives, success stories, and fun moments that came out of this season, but calling 2018 a disappointment is not an unfair statement. The team made several improvements just to take a step backwards in terms of how far they ended up in the postseason. This team was certainly better than the team that lost in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, but they still have some improvements to make if they want to bring home the team’s 28th championship.  

Andrew Natalizio

A week later and losing to Boston is still proving to be one tough pill to swallow.  After coming into the season with sky-high expectations on the heels of pushing the eventual World Champion Astros to seven games the year before, a first-round exit is going to leave a sour taste in my mouth for a long time.

The 2018 version of the New York Yankees was, on paper at least, head and shoulders better than their 2017 counterparts that came within a single win of reaching the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009.  By all accounts, the Evil Empire had returned.

The Yankees began the offseason by clearing salary and 40-man spots only to acquire the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, Giancarlo Stanton just days later.  If that wasn’t already enough, the Yankees knew that top prospect Gleyber Torres would soon make his Major League debut, that Luis Severino would further build upon his third-place finish in the 2017 AL Cy Young race, and that the team could challenge for the all-time single season home run record.  They of course did achieve that record, and Torres had a breakout rookie campaign despite dealing with a hip injury that forced him to the DL for some time, but the Severino, like the entire squad unfortunately, seemed to peak around the midpoint of the season.

The Yankees opened up the season 9-9 and an astounding 7.5 games back of the Red Sox, who began the season white hot at 17-2.  Everything changed over the next few weeks, however, On May 9th, the Yankees sat at 26-10 - a remarkable 17-1 since their slow start - and were somehow one game up on Boston for first place in the AL East.  The team looked to be on their way to one of the greatest regular seasons in Major League history.

Of course, we know how the story ends, though. Severino fell off after his incredible 14-2 start, the team was dealt one injury blow after another, and the bullpen struggled at times.  All the while, rookie manager Aaron Boone continued to make questionable in-game decisions that may have cost the team anywhere from 5-10 games.  Still, somehow, the team won 100 games but that was only good enough for a Wild Card berth and eventually an ALDS defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.

Didi Gregorius’ Tommy John Surgery is a huge blow to the 2019 team that hasn’t even fully been fielded yet, but the Yankees were, if nothing else, able to reset their luxury tax standing in 2018 and enter this offseason, one with the deepest free agent class we’ve seen over a decade, with loads of cash to spend to improve the roster and get back to the Fall Classic.  Cashman will need to do his best to plug all the holes on the roster currently (hello SS and SP), Aaron Boone will need to make significant strides in his second year at the helm - specifically in terms of bullpen management, Larry Rothschild will have to figure out Severino’s pitch-tipping issues, and the team will need to learn how to hit in the clutch, or else it won’t matter how different this team looks in 2019.  If they can achieve those goals, however, the 2019 New York Yankees just might be the squad to finally bring home #28. Only time will tell.

Shane Black

What a whirlwind of a season. The highs were high and the lows were really, really low. The success of the team from Boston in a way overshadowed this 100-win Yankee squad. This was the first time the pinstripes hit triple-digit wins since the ‘09 WS run. From Didi to Andujar to the late emergence of Luke Voit, this team always provided a new and exciting element. Even Stanton, who people are crapping on because of his poorish postseason (and rightfully so) had 38 yabos and 100 RBI in his first season in the Bronx. Setting the home run record was definitely special, yet this historically great offense could not get it done when it mattered.

It is clear this team has holes, specifically in the starting rotation. Cashman did what he could in acquiring J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn, but ultimately you need a top of the line guy when October roles around. Brian Cashman must go out and get a guy like Zack Grienke, Patrick Corbin, or Dallas Keuchel. This rotation does not have to be dominant - the offense and pen are dominant. The rotation must be serviceable enough to get you five innings of minimal damage baseball. I fully expect the Yankees to make many moves this offseason and guys that are shipped out/brought in may come as a surprise to the fanbase, but as always, #InCashWeTrust.

In conclusion, it was obviously not the finish we wanted. We were dominated by the team from Boston dating all the way back to their four-game sweep in early August. Deep down I never truly felt this team had that “it” factor. However, we are poised for some offseason drama and a great run in 2019. Hang on because the dong hittin’, gold chain wearin’, evil empire is back.

Connor Thoms

I was heartbroken last season as the Yankees fell to the eventual champion Houston Astros, as I fully believed we were bringing a 28th championship to the Bronx. The postseason was magic and to see it end messed me up for quite a bit. Heading into this season, I had sky high expectations and envisioned a division title, an American League Pennant, and to demolish some scrub National League team en route to #28.

As we all know, things didn’t go as planned. Boston exploded into perhaps the league’s best team, forcing us to play another wild card game which might as well be named the New York Yankees Annual Invitational at this point. We had ups and downs throughout the season with different players struggling at different times, the mysterious Judge wrist injury, and J.A. Happ of all people becoming a solid presence in our rotation. On the up side, Andujar, the rightful rookie of the year, and Torres emerged as presences in the most potent home run hitting lineup in MLB history. The team won 100 games behind a rookie manager and with the newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton who brought star power to the best Yankee lineup in a long time. The rotation had its issues and ultimately may be what’s holding this team back. I believe in Cashman to address this issue, although the return of Rothschild is not one I’m a fan of.

Despite these positives though, the result was the same. A team, which had championship level talent, failed to capitalize when it was needed and bowed out of the postseason before the World Series. The taste left in my mouth after this season isn’t as sour, as I didn’t have to watch us fall just one game short, although losing to the Red Sox stings more than I can say.


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