BBB Reacts to Yankees early October exit and the renewal of Aaron Boone's contract

The New York Yankees entered the 2021 season as World Series favorites but struggled through mediocrity and general malaise over the course of the entire season before fizzling out well short of their goal in the American League Wild Card Game at the hands of hated rivals Boston Red Sox.  Two weeks after their playoff elimination, it was announced Manager Aaron Boone's contract would be renewed for three more seasons with a fourth-year option.  Writers of the BBB weigh in on both below: 

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Mary Grace Donaldson

 

Ugh... not again. At this point I’m wondering if my emotional state over the Yankees’ latest postseason collapse is my own fault. As if to say, why do I bother anymore? I know I’ll be back to the drawing board along with the Yankees themselves next season, but not before I play Armchair Manager and Owner.  

Yankees fans across social media as well as sports talk radio were calling for the immediate “cleaning house,” resulting in the potential firing of both Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. Much to the dismay of those folks, neither of those scenarios took place. While I see their point, there is an aspect of the Yankees’ situation that has to change, before they focus on playing “small ball” as opposed to hitting home runs or bust at every at-bat. The Yankees need to once again, collectively, become afraid to lose. They need to model Gio Urshela’s body-defying catch in the last game of the regular season. They need to take Aaron Judge’s seriousness... seriously. They need to believe that they can put the bat on the ball every time, a la Giancarlo Stanton. Yes, the 2021 Yankees faced injuries. They faced COVID outbreaks. Those are simply this season’s excuses for the fact that they seem to be okay with losing.  

However, the Yankees need to do whatever it takes to shift their attitudes.  The removal of Phil Nevin, Marcus Thames and P.J. Pillittere could help – in fact, any new blood is probably a good move.  But if this shift involves having a motivational speaker on retainer, do that as well. The Yankees lost because of their lack of offense, because Gerrit Cole choked, because DJ LeMahieu was hurt... yada, yada, yada. It starts with attitude. It starts with grit. The rest will follow.  

 


Matt Zumbolo

 

Year in and year out... The Yankees continue to disappoint in the same way. Always getting my hopes up to start, and then ripping them to shreds with a loss to a team that I never want to see win. It gets super frustrating but of course I am going to be right back locked in to this team for 2022. 


Things need to change in the organization. They took a good start to those changes already. Marcus Thames and Phil Nevin both were told that they would not have their contracts renewed, and the Yankees are officially on the market for new coaches.  


I am sure many Yankee fans feel the same way in that the only person whose job should have been safe on that coaching staff was Matt Blake. It seems Aaron Boone’s will be safe as well, but that will definitely be okay. Boone can do the job well with a better supporting class.  

That’s the coaching staff... but, what about the players? You have a guy in Aaron Judge. This guy is special. He proves it day in and day out on and off of the field. He means a lot to this organization and the organization means a lot to him. The Yankees need to take advantage, and build a really good championship roster around him. 


The first step – get more athletic. Look at the Dynasty teams in the late 1990’s. You don’t have athletic guys on this roster like you did on that one. They need to find those guys. They can come in many different shapes and sizes, but they have to find them. The homer or die strategy will not work for much longer. 


It was a long season for sure, but the offseason is always a glimmer of hope. Let's hope Hal and Cash can make the right moves to get this team where they need to be and where I haven’t seen them since I was 8, the World Series. 


 

Matt Graziano

 

This Yankees season was one of the most thoroughly unfun and exhausting seasons I can remember. After disappointing endings to the previous two seasons, the Yankees were regarded as potential AL favorites heading into this one. They did not meet expectations and they didn’t meet them in ways that were frustrating, boring, infuriating and often times confusing and nauseating. While previous Yankee seasons may have been derailed by injuries, the Yankees were mostly able to keep their key pieces on the field this season. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each played 140 games and carried the Yankees the last two months of the season, but it wasn’t enough to take the Yankees to where they wanted to go. This Yankee team simply was not good enough. They were one dimensional and predictable on offense and they were embarrassingly below average on the bases and on defense. They were tied for the league lead in outs made at home plate and near the top in overall outs on the bases. They were fifth overall in errors and these deficiencies were too much for the team to overcome. They reared their head early and often and wound up costing the Yankees in the game that ended their season at Fenway Park. The Bullpen was also a key culprit in blowing games throughout the season that were painful to the Yankees in the standings. Numerous games were blown with multi run leads in the late innings and those games caught up to the team in the end.  


Where do the Yankees go from here? The team needs to diversify their skillset and simply get better players. There are too many players that they Yankees rely on from the beginning of this core group that have simply not gotten better or regressed since 2017. The Yankees had a payroll north of $200 million this season and it's hard to say they got their money’s worth. There is fat that needs to be trimmed from this roster and some hard decisions that need to be made. A key focal point for GM Brian Cashman will be the infield. The Gleyber Torres move to shortstop was clearly a failure, he looked better at the plate and in the field after moving back to second. DJ LeMahieu had a down year and needs to bounce back, where he will play in the field is a question we need answers to considering he’s under contract for five more years. Simply put, the Yankees need more production from their infielders. Anthony Rizzo will want a decent sized contract and he is a tremendous fielder but he didn’t produce enough at the plate, same scenario for Gio Urshela. This is a great year for FA shortstops and it's about time the Yankees went big game hunting for one.  


We now know that Aaron Boone will be back but hitting coaches Marcus Thames, P.J. Pilittere, first base coach Reggie Willits and key lieutenant Phil Nevin will not be. Who else may not return remains to be seen. A key factor in all of these moves is the CBA negotiations between the league and the players. If those talks drag on, it could be a while before we see them do anything of consequence. I would expect them to make moves on their coaching staff first and then get to work on what should be a total revamp of this roster. If you’ve been watching the playoffs, you can see the Yankees have a lot of work to do to catchup.  


 

The ending of the season was incredibly tough to watch, but honestly, is anyone even surprised? The 2021 Yankees were simply not good enough to advance any further than the Wild Card Game. Plain and simple. I think we all had hopes that they would go on a run, like they did in 2017, but this team really was not built for a run. Ever since the beginning of the Aaron Judge era in 2017, we have all had problems with the way the team is run; too many strikeouts, relying too much on home runs, baserunning mistakes, inconsistent pitching and offense, subpar defense, you name it.  


However, this season seemed like a culmination of all those problems wrapped into one. The Yankees statistically were one of the worst baserunning teams in baseball, their offense was below average most of the year, their defense suffered especially from playing Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez every day, and overall, this was not a World Series caliber team. Changes need to made, and they have already, with the firing of Marcus Thames, Phil Nevin, and P.J. Pilittere, but coaching shake ups are not going to boost this team over the other three teams they had to fight for in the AL East. The Yankees need to make drastic changes this offseason if they want to move above mediocrity. Whether or not they actually do so remains to be seen.  


 

Andrew Natalizio

 

Another year, another disappointing playoff exit, another season of unfulfilled promises and potential, another season of heart break. But the difference this year was that it wasn’t just an abrupt, unexpected end to the season in October we all expected to last much longer than it did.  Nothing about this season was fun. They were one of the least fun teams to watch in my entire lifetime, even though they were able to scratch out 92 wins.  It was, in the words of Aaron Judge, a true roller coaster of a season, but even the highs were just okay, and the lows were unbearable.  I’m sick of it. I’m over it.  


Every year we find ourselves in this same situation in October, meanwhile Boston went on another deep run that had me fearful of them winning their second championship in four years and fifth overall in recent memory.  It’s agonizing and nothing changes.  We continue to bring in the same types of players, follow the same philosophy, use analytics the same (wrong) way.  I’m not saying analytics are bad. They’re not. Analytics by nature are nothing more than information and data and both of those are very good things. But this team year after year tries to imitate the Rays, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers etc rather than just be the Yankees. Figure out what YOU do well and focus on that.  There is more than one way to win a title, and the Yankees need to figure out what works best for them, not what works for others. 


I don’t need to get too deep into what everyone on television, radio and across the internet are saying: that we were too home run reliant, that we lacked speed and athleticism, that we were a bad baserunning team, that we played defense like crap.  Blah blah blah blah blah.  This is who the front offense deems worth of donning the pinstripes and who they pour all their hopes and resources into to bring a championship home. It’s busted. It’s wrong. It needs to change. 


I was very critical of the acquisition of Joey Gallo this year, but he’s just one example of the type of player Brian Cashman, Michael Fishman and their teams value.  Meanwhile the Red Sox went out and signed guys like Hunter Renfroe and Kiké Hernandez who played massive roles for them this October.  And oh, by the way, we just re-signed Aaron Boone to a new three-year deal with a fourth-year option despite his boring post-game platitudes, his perpetual optimism in the face of consistent failure, and his inability to get the absolute most out of his players.  I am thrilled that the hitting coordinators Marcus Thames and PJ Pilittere are gone after the Yankees grossly underperformed at the plate this season, but that’s only a start.  We need to rethink about how we build the roster and that comes from the top.  The Yankees have gaping holes at catcher, at shortstop, in center field and at first base that need to be addressed this offseason, as well as shoring up the back-end of the starting rotation.   


The shortstop class is historically deep, the first base market both in free agency and trades has potential, but the catching market is not very good at all.  Surely Gary Sanchez cannot return as the everyday backstop yet again, right? The Gleyber Torres shortstop experiment has been deemed a failure and he’ll return to everyday duties at second base.  And what of Gio Urshela and Luke Voit if the Yankees get a new first baseman and shift DJ to the hot corner full time?  It’s a tall order in any year, but made even more difficult in an offseason that also will feature a labor dispute and new CBA negotiations.  I’m not sure I fully believe this team can figure it out and return to prominence in the short term. Not with the current personnel calling the shots.  I hope I am wrong. 


 

Matt Luzzi

 

What else needs to be said that hasn’t already been said 1000 times? Alex said it perfectly: are we really surprised? The way the season ended was sadly always the expected outcome. This team was favored to win the AL coming into the season, and failed to make it to the ALDS. Inexcusable. As much distain as I have for Aaron Boone, he is the manager for the foreseeable future and we all just have to deal with it. Besides, Boone isn’t the main problem. The way this team uses analytics and Hal’s unwillingness to spend and go all out in the offseason like his father always did is the main problem, and until those two things are addressed nothing will change. 


Until the Yankees analytics department, who think they are the smartest guys in the room yet have failed to win the AL in over a decade, change the way they view the game of baseball and until Cashman goes out and gets more “athletic and contact” orientated guys like he mentioned in his presser, nothing will change. 


Let’s see if they prove us wrong, but it is tough not to think that this organization will still be stuck in their old ways come next season, fielding teams with absolutely no speed or guys that do the little things correctly. Just a bunch of slow, high home run high strike out guys, which usually works from April-September, but simply isn’t the formula for a good offense in October, as we have seen year after year. 


 

Maxx Hotton

 
My feelings on this season are about the same as the club produced: uninspiring. From preseason “favorites” to that nausea-inducing start to the spring, the team felt destined to suck the fun out of every evening. They would go on to give us the false sense of hope over the summer peppering multiple “worst loss of the season” between roaring streaks or dominant play—what a tease. The warning signs were there all season, but the most optimistic of us, including myself, thought they would snap out of it any day now, and they would….for a short time. Then it ended like it started, in a whimper with a loss to *that team* from up north. 

We all knew changes were coming after the season, but how much? It seems more similar to Aaron Boone remaining at the helm for seemingly the next few years. Maybe these new assistants can have a similar impact as Matt Blake did for their respective areas, but who knows. Both the skipper and Brian Cashman took responsibility for the faults of the Bronx Bombers, which I don’t know whether that’s humorous or pathetic. 


Fans would love to see a 2008-2009 like offseason from the Yankees, who dearly could use a jolt, but will they? Hal Steinbrenner and the front office seem to be beholden to their golden idol of the salary threshold, but if they make an actual move in the AL, they will have to change their ways. This is the offseason to make these changes with prize jewels at shortstop and others, but we won’t know the club's plan for at least a few weeks. 


If anything, this season should serve as a wake-up call for the Yankees; they are not the dominant club-like iterations before them and hopefully provides an extra edge this team seemingly lacks in critical moments of the season. Whatever changes are made this offseason, they better work, or else we are all in for another uninspiring year in the Bronx. 


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