Is this rock bottom?

I’ve had the pleasure of owning the title of Yankees Fan since age seven, when I stayed up past my bedtime to watch the 1996 World Series with my dad while my mom fell asleep on the couch.  Tino Martinez was one of my first crushes.  Hearing the name Jimmy Key still brings tears to my eyes.  Joe Torre was one of my childhood heroes.  I watched the Don Zimmer brawl in shock while rooting for him the entire time.  I remember why Curt Schilling became known as “Ole’ Ketchup Sock” (you can thank Yankees Facebook for that nickname).  And my dad and I were in attendance at Game Two of the 2009 World Series, where we reminded Pedro who his Daddy is.  In my time as a fan, I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of highs and lows with the Yankees, feeling for them, hurting with them, celebrating with them.

Photo credit: Newsday

The past two days have marked one of my saddest times as a Yankees fan -- and I don’t think I’m alone in that statement.  Jomboy sounded absolutely crushed.  
It wasn’t as sad as the end of the 2001 World Series when Randy Johnson crushed the Yankees’ dreams and a 12-year-old me cried into her pillow.  It wasn’t as sad as the end of the 2003 World Series, when my parents, aunt, uncle, cousins and I all processed out of my grandmother’s basement like we were walking out of a funeral once the Yankees lost to the Marlins. 

… but it came close.  Close enough that I had to shut off Twitter for the evening last night because tears were starting to creep out of my ducts with every tweet.  Close enough that I told my boyfriend to just not bring up the Yankees right now.  Because…

#NextManUp just stopped being funny and inspiring.
No, really, it did.  Gleyber Torres yanked from yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury that landed him on the I.L.  James Paxton needed an MRI which revealed a Grade 1 strain of the left forearm flexor.  While Jon Heyman reported that Tommy John might not be necessary, an I.L. trip still is in the cards.  Zack Britton is on the I.L. with a hamstring strain.  Most recently, Luis Avilan was sent to the I.L. for left shoulder inflammation.  The already injury-prone Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are still on the I.L. -- and there was some hope for Judge earlier in the week.  Tommy Kahnle remains out of the bullpen with Tommy John recovery.  DJ LeMahieu, who led the #NextManUp efforts of 2019, remains on the I.L.

Let me be clear: no one asked for #NextManUp 2020, especially in a 60-game season where every win and loss matters.  It was fun last year.  It brought the Yankees all the way to the ALCS last year.  The Yankees managed 100 wins last year.  But this season is different.  It’s different because LeMahieu was a leading contributor to that effort with .327 BA/26 HR/102 RBI, as was Torres with .278 BA/38 HR/90 RBI/.  It’s different because last year, we had 162 games to play with.  It’s different because the bullpen was mostly unaffected.  And it’s different because, as was highlighted on today’s edition of the WFAN Morning Show with Boomer and Gio, the Yankees broke the record last year for the most injuries by one team in one MLB season, with 30 trips to the I.L.  That shouldn’t happen at all, let alone two years in a row.

So, who needs to be held accountable for the fact that the Yankees are falling apart thanks to injuries?  The medical staff?  The training staff?  The coaching staff?  I’m not sure if the responsibility belongs to one of the above or to all three -- but it belongs to someone. 

The Yankees are no longer in first place.
Okay, this one doesn’t seem like such a tragedy; it’s happened before and I probably shouldn’t expect the Yankees to remain in first place in the A.L. East throughout the entirety of the season. But a) the season is only 60 games and b) the reason why they are no longer in first place is that they cannot figure out how to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.  The three-game sweep of the Yankees by the Rays marked the first three-game sweep at home for the Yankees since the Cleveland Indians swept them at home in 2017.

We also cannot forget that the Rays are 6-1 against the Yankees.  The Yankees record is 16-9 -- 15 of those wins came from beating teams other than the Rays.  Six of their nine losses came at the hands of the Rays.  With a division rival that can ruin the Yankees’ chances of finishing first, in a 60-game season… they need to figure out why they can’t beat the Rays, yesterday.  There’s no time for this madness.

The Mets have positive COVID-19 cases.
As if, somehow, 11 guys on the I.L. and a three-game sweep removing the Yankees from first place were not enough, the Yankees most likely will have to wait a few days to redeem themselves -- thanks to the news that an unnamed Mets player and Mets staff member have both tested positive for COVID-19.  All three games this weekend are cancelled.  So, instead of spending this weekend watching the Yankees making up a few easy wins against their little brother crosstown rivals and enjoying the yearly ritual that is the Subway Series, my brain will be swimming in more worst-case scenarios… and the Rays will be playing baseball. 

The Rays have chances to move even further into first place this weekend as they head into a four-game wrap-around set against the third-place Toronto Blue Jays.  So, by the end of the weekend, the Rays could be more than a half a game in front of the Yankees, and the Yankees might not even have the opportunity to tie for first place because they…. can’t play games. The Mets series will be rescheduled, but not in enough time for the Yankees to tie for first place this weekend.  The one potential positive to this situation is that the injured Yankees will have more time to recover this weekend, and time on the I.L. for everyone could be reduced.

Of course, the Yankees will have no choice but to pick themselves up and deal with this mess.  In a season that started so hopefully, the sadness is as quiet as Yankee Stadium without fans.  But in a 60-game season, the only time that the Yankees have for wallowing and self-reflection comes right now, with the cancellation of this weekend's series (and hopefully, only this series).  After that?  They need to give us #NextManUp 2020 that literally no one asked for, exceed last year’s expectations (reminder: even 100 wins didn’t lead to the World Series) and figure out how to beat the Rays.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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