BBB Writers reflect on the 2020 season

Another season has come and gone and the Yankees are once again title-less. The writers of the BBB weigh in on what went right this year, what went wrong and what this team needs to do to finally get over the hump next season.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/AP



Mary Grace Donaldson

Well, it wasn’t the year. In spite of my somewhat naïve positivity… it just didn’t happen. Again. 

The Yankees’ postseason losses just get more heartbreaking every year. In 2017 it was a “rebuilding year.” In 2018 I wrote it off as Aaron Boone’s Inaugural Yips. In 2019 and now in 2020, it was just… crushing. We’ll hear the theories from now until the next season opener. Excuse after excuse. Injuries. Gary will find his stride, don’t you worry (yeah, okay). Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t carry the offense on his back. Judge was injured all season so that’s why his offense was sub-par in October. Foot stuff for Voit. Clint had the Yips too. Starting pitching minus Gerrit Cole isn’t made for depth. The Deivi Garcia game? What Deivi Garcia game? 


But the excuses sound tired and empty. There are no excuses for the lack of trust in Gary Sanchez and Adam Ottavino. There are no excuses for an offense that is home run-or-bust; the Yankees’ lack of small ball has not been addressed for years. Masahiro Tanaka — will we see him again in Pinstripes? After those two sad excuses for outings, the nostalgia junkie would be crushed if the Yankees dispensed of Tanaka’s services, but I would understand the decision. Tommy Kahnle could have been a much-needed asset to the bullpen, but why wasn’t the problem of his absence addressed prior to the postseason? What about Johnny Lasagna? What happened to him? Easy — he wasn’t prepared for high-leverage situations. And so the 2020 implosion of the Yankees was just one excuse after another coming together (in perfect 2020 style). The offseason could be exciting and it could be brutal. The Yankees need to have a few goals in mind: 


1) Keep DJ LeMahieu at all costs. Okay, so he wasn’t perfect in the postseason, but his batting title-level hitting and ability to hit situationally (he’s one of the few guys who isn’t home run-or-bust) makes him possibly the Yankees’ most important asset on the offensive side. And he’s a great fielder, too. Don’t let anyone get to him before resigning him. 

2) If free agents Tanaka and James Paxton are not resigned, don’t wait until the last minute to solve the starting pitching problem. Cole can’t do it all by himself and can’t be burned out to the point of Tommy John. And no one knows what Luis Severino and Domingo German will look like after a year off. 

3) If Brett Gardner doesn’t retire, keep him. He managed to show how much he still has to give in a disastrous postseason situation. 

4) Fix the excuses with everyone who is left. The #ChaseFor28 is still on. This is still the New York Yankees. 



Andrew Natalizio


Another season that came with so much excitement and so much promise once again falls short of the ultimate goal.  This time at the hands of the division rival Tampa Bay Rays.  2020 was always going to be an odd year for obvious reasons, but it still found a new and painful way to hurt me.   The Yankees started the season out hot, winning 16 of their first 22 games, but then collapsed in the middle of the season and were barely even a playoff team, let alone one that could challenge for the division title or a championship.  Nonetheless they battled back, winning 10 straight and getting healthy late - albeit in spite of another collapse in the last week - to make the playoffs.  Aaron Boone talked about the team’s ability to flip a switch when they needed to and I was so sure that that was such total bullshit until the team went into Cleveland and swept the Indians in the AL Wild Card Series, defeating the AL Cy Young favorite Shane Bieber in the process.  We all know what happened next, the game one win highlighted by Giancarlo Stanton’s ninth inning home run, the debacle in game two, Tanaka’s no show in game three, the season saving win in game four, the complete and utter no-show by the offense in game five.  Something just never felt right with this team this year and at this point it’s fair to wonder if this collection of guys has what it takes to win a championship after another empty October.


The team has a lot of work to do in the offseason, not the least of which involves retaining it’s best hitter in DJ LeMahieu.  But beyond that there are question marks abound.  Can they rely on Luis Severino to return next year to be the Robin to Gerrit Cole’s Batman?  Can a nearly all right-handed hitting lineup work? Will pending free agents Brett Gardner, Masahiro Tanaka or James Paxton return next season? Who can they rely on in the bullpen outside of Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman? Do they have enough starting pitching? Can they make the roster better despite what seems like an increasingly likely attempt at getting under the luxury tax threshold?  I just don’t have the answers to any of those and it’s impossible to say what this team will look like when they take the field next season.  


Aaron Boone keeps talking about how this team is “knocking on the door” to winning a championship, but this is his third consecutive early postseason exit without a trip to the World Series, and two of the three years without even making the ALCS. The Yankees are committed to their manager for the foreseeable future, but it’s fair to question if he will be the guy that brings this team back to glory or if this collective of players has the mental makeup to succeed in October.  For now, it’s another year of pain and another year of what ifs.  Hopefully this feeling ends soon and that long-awaited championship season is on the horizon.



Alex Weir



This was arguably one of the weirdest seasons of Yankees baseball I can remember watching, and not just because of the extenuating circumstances of the effects of COVID-19. This is also saying a lot, because the 2013 season exists. 2020 had boatloads of promise when the Yankees were coming into Spring Training, and then everything seemed to go downhill with the season being put on hold. Once June and July came around, I think we really didn’t have many expectations for the team and baseball in general, because let’s be honest, everyone had the thought in the back of their mind that the season was not going to be finished. No one knew what was going to happen this season. 


However, the Yankees started off absolutely crushing it, and giving us all hope that the hype that they had built earlier in the year was for real. Cole proved to be the real deal. Judge hit everything 900 feet. Stanton hit a couple of bombs to start the season. Urshela was crushing it. Voit proved that he belongs at first base every day. Everything was clicking. And then as fast as everything clicked, everything fell apart. Everyone on the team either was injured or struggled, with the lone exception of Voit. The 5-15 stretch mid-season has got to be one of the least fun stretches of Yankees baseball I can remember. It seemed like the second the game started, the Yanks were digging themselves a hole that they had a very slight chance of climbing out of. The entire team was just a nightmare, and it didn’t seem like there was any hope in sight.


To finish the season they had another stretch of games where they murdered the ball, and another stretch where they sucked the life out of viewers. Like I said before, I can’t remember a weirder season. Has there been any other season recently where the team was so bipolar? I can’t think of any.


As for 2021, the Yankees have a LOT to work on. Obviously they need to resign DJ LeMahieu at all costs. That is a given. However, one of the big reasons they lost the ALDS to the Rays was not because of their offense; it was their pitching. The Rays have put on a clinic in the 2020 postseason, mixing and matching their pitchers and showcasing just how much depth they have in terms of effective pitchers. The Yankees don’t have that in their bullpen. When it came to the ALWCS and the ALDS, they had...Green, Britton, and Chapman. Who at most could pitch maybe five innings in a game, and then be down for the count the next game. The Rays have two or three times that amount of pitchers. I think that, if the Yankees really want to compete with the Rays next season, they need to build up a boat load of pitching depth. Not just a bunch of random pitchers though; guys that can actually give length and pitch multiple innings. Green, Britton, Chapman, Ottavino, Holder...they are best suited for one inning. Loaisiga is a huge question mark. Nick Nelson isn’t the answer. Cessa….is Luis Cessa. Michael King and Clarke Schmidt struggled in their first tastes of big league action. The Yankees really need to address this, and also hope their young guns can learn from this year. If they don’t, the bullpen might be in just as bad of a position as they were at the end of this year. 



Matthew Luzzi



Well….that was weird. Like we’ve said countless times, this season was unlike any other. Yet, it ended almost exactly like previous years; a better team hitting a big home run off Chappy late in the game to send us home. To be honest, I wasn’t as upset this year as I was the previous two years when the Yanks got eliminated, and there are several reasons for that. On one hand, the Yankees winning the World Series in Texas would have been a bit underwhelming, and I’d rather see them win it all in front of either 50 thousand cheering or booing fans, it just feels right. However, credit to the Rays, they were the much better team and deserved to win that series while the Yanks simply did not.


So what does the future hold for this team? Do they bring back DJ? Will the front office go out and get another big time name in free agency such as Trevor Bauer? Or will they go with moves that don’t make the front page of ESPN, but are moves that add depth in spots? For me personally, I want the Yanks to go after another bullpen arm or two such as Liam Hendricks or Blake Trienen, especially with Tommy Tight Pants out for all of 2021 and Otto being awful, this team needs more bullpen help, the position group that was supposed to be our strength this year. 


Oh and did I mention Re Sign DJ? That should be priority #1 before you do anything else. Don’t do what you did to Cano and go out and sign Jacoby before you lock up your best, most consistent hitter the past two seasons. Give the man what he is worth. 



Maxx Hotton



At the end of the day we got to see baseball, something we weren't sure heading into mid summer, but we all left with a bad taste in our mouths. The team was primed to take that leap to finally get to and win a world series, but blame it on injuries, COVID, weird schedule, or just bad luck, they came up well short. 


However, where do they really improve? Resigning DJ has to be the most important thing for Cashman and company to complete, but after that there's some question marks. Do they build up the bullpen to return to the best in baseball? Do they go and get someone like Trevor Bauer to sure up the rotation? What happens to Gary Sanchez this offseason, did we see his last game in pinstripes? 


Who knows what direction the team will head towards 2021 where the expectations will be as it highest yet. There are no excuses this time (as long as COVID doesn’t impact the 2021 season too). The baby bombers we fell in love with are not so young anymore, this window of “championships not championship” is starting to close, and it's time to put up or shut up.



Nick Simonelli


                 

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, but this was one of the wildest seasons of baseball that I have ever seen. We got to experience some really great highs, but also got the lowest of lows. We got to see the entire sport change, as the MLB debuted the universal DH and a new playoff format. We saw the Red Sox finish last in the AL East, and the Astros make the playoffs with a losing record. We saw the Yankees start off the season 16-6, and then proceed to go on a 5-15 stretch, followed by a 10-game win streak. It was a season filled with excitement and anxiety, but ultimately we lost our last game of the year, and that isn’t good enough.

 

This was the fourth season since the Yankees made their return to the playoffs, and this year's finish might be the most disappointing of all four. Every time I think back to the ALDS, it still makes me sick to my stomach that we had Gerrit Cole on the mound pitching a gem on three-days rest in Game 5 and only gave him one run of support. Shameful. 

 

As for the offseason, top priority should obviously be resigning DJ LeMahieu. The man has been the Yankees’ best and most consistent hitter since he signed with the club two years ago, and has been the professional hitter that the lineup needed. I wish the Yankees could sign 9 DJ LeMahieus, but, alas, the man is one-of-a-kind. Other than re-signing our leadoff hitter, I think that the Yankees should look to improve their starting pitching. With JA Happ, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka becoming free agents, I think the Yankees should go out and try to get the soon-to-be NL Cy Young, Trevor Bauer. He has said in the past that he wants to sign one year contracts for the rest of his career, and if that is the case, then they need to go out there and be the Yankees and win a bidding war. 

 

Finally, getting and remaining healthy will be huge for the team (once again) this offseason. This season was another marred by injury for the Bombers. If the team can find a way to remain at least somewhat healthy for a majority of 2021, it may finally be the year that the Yanks can make their long-awaited return to the World Series. We can only hope.



Matt Graziano



It's been stated already that this was an odd, frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying Yankees season. Another season that began with optimism ended in an earlier than hoped playoff exit. It’s at the point where the regular season is fairly meaningless for this core of players. We know they’re going to hit a ton of home runs and win a lot of games during the regular season but they have continued to stall out in the playoffs. There are important roster decisions to be made this offseason and it's time the Yankees confront some of them.


First thing they must do is to resign DJ LeMahieu. Get him signed and move on with your offseason, he’s too important. After that Brian Cashman should seek another proven arm to add to the starting rotation. While the Yankees should have Luis Severino and Domingo German available to them next season, a proven arm like Trevor Bauer would be a huge boost and take the pressure off Gerrit Cole. It might be time to move on from familiar names such as JA Happ, James Paxton and even Masahiro Tanaka. While all three might have some use in a 5th starter role next season, I wouldn’t let them be a priority over others. Sometimes you need to move on from safe familiar names and this may be one of those situations. The Yankees do have several young promising arms that could be useful in their rotation next season but a proven number two starter would add needed depth and take the pressure of these young guns as well. 


Cashman also has work to do in the bullpen. While the Yankees still had a pretty decent bullpen this season, it was noticeably not as deep as seasons past. While Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Chad Green were all solid in their roles, the rest of the bullpen was not good enough. The team needs to decide what to do with Adam Ottavino. He gets paid too much money to be as inconsistent as he has been for well over a year now. Depending on what happens with the rotation, they might be able to shore up the bullpen with some arms they have in house already. This should be a priority for Cashman. You saw this weakness rear its head against the Rays when they were going to Jonathan Loisiga and Jonathan Holder in close games. 


Lastly the offense. I’m not sure what can really be done here. A major problem for the lineup has been not having players available due to injury. Aaron Judge feels like he’s coming to an early crossroads. He suffered another injury this season and was brutal in the playoffs. He needs to find a way to stay on the field because the player we saw pre injury looked nothing like what we saw when he returned and in the playoffs.


It’s another crossroads for Gary Sanchez as well. He was brutal this season and was benched for Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs. While it would be acceptable to say that the COVID-interrupted season may have had some players out of their rhythms this year, Gary

is approaching what’s probably his final chance here. He needs to be better next season or he’ll probably be gone before long. 


For the rest of the lineup there’s not much to say. They need to stay healthy and hit. They need to find a way to score more than one run in an elimination game. It’s time that Clint Frazier be an everyday starter, end of season slump or not. If Brett Gardner is back next season it needs to be in an exclusive 4th OF role. It’s getting to be a moment of reckoning for this Yankees core. Brian Cashman envisioned multiple championships and we’re still waiting on the first. Cashman has hardly been shy about pursuing bold moves and this offseason, after a few disappointing seasons, calls for those bold moves to get this Yankees club to the next level. While it may be tough to see some familiar names move on, I believe it’s what is necessary to get this Yankee team where we all want them to go.



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