If Rex Ryan managed the 2021 Yankees, Friday might very well have become the “We’re obviously out of the playoffs” portion of our program.
Only without them actually, eventually making the playoffs.
Woof. This could be one hella ugly second half in The Bronx.
It would help if the Yankees responded to their nothing-left-to-lose status by playing a looser brand of ball, by emulating John McClane in the first “Die Hard” movie. But sometimes a crappy team is just a crappy team, and these guys, first riddled with underperformance and now hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, looked pretty awful as they emerged from the All-Star break by falling meekly to the rival Red Sox, 4-0 Friday night at Yankee Stadium. That dropped them to 0-7 against Alex Cora’s American League East-leading bunch this season and left them nine games behind Boston in the division.
“We’re in a hole,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve got to play really good baseball to get back into this.”
So good that common sense says the Yankees (46-44) are toast. They couldn’t get any sort of groove going before the All-Star break despite Aaron Judge’s best first half since his rookie year 2017, and now Judge headlines the sizable list of positive-testing talent. While you never say never — you can’t predict baseball, after all — this pinstriped season feels deader than Marco Polo.
“Paper is paper and the game is the game, so anything’s possible once it’s 7:05 and the game starts,” said Gerrit Cole, who will try to end this embarrassing funk when he starts Saturday night’s game. “We could get a couple of bounces our way. We could get a couple of bounces that don’t go our way. Whether you have super-talented players or not, at some point you’re going to have to persevere through what the game has thrown at you.”
They’re 0-for-1 in perseverance. Without Judge and Gio Urshela (Cole’s personal catcher Kyle Higashioka also is on the COVID-19 injured list), the Yankees’ patchwork lineup, featuring Rougned Odor hitting third and Trey Amburgey making his major league debut in right field, managed three hits against Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez and two relievers. Giancarlo Stanton struck out three times and grounded into a double play, no foolin’.
“We’ve got to mount a little more on offense to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said, conservatively.
They didn’t miss their quarantined relievers, Nestor Cortes Jr., Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta, as much thanks to a quality start by losing pitcher Jordan Montgomery, yet the absence of those arms further diminish this club’s chances of a miracle run.
This COVID-19 outbreak hit the Yankees, metaphorically speaking, like a truck, “an invisible microscopic truck that sometimes has a lot of horsepower,” Cole added helpfully. With what’s left, the Yankees just can’t stack up on paper to the Red Sox, Rays or Blue Jays, the three teams ahead of them in the division. And as perfect 2021 karma would have it, the schedule lines up the Bosox seven times (Thursday’s COVID-19 postponement will be made up next month) and the Rays three times before the July 30 trade deadline; besides Loaisiga, probably none of those on the IL will be back before the Red Sox flurry concludes. Giving up future resources for short-term upgrades just might not be worth it, and these Yankees simply aren’t built for any sort of significant selloff.
Hence comes the potential freedom of having nothing left to lose. When I asked Cole whether this development might actually alleviate the pressure surrounding this underachieving club, the ace replied, “That can be your opinion but respectfully, we just don’t have much time to think about those things.”
Fair enough. Ryan’s 2009 Jets indeed reached the postseason after their coach announced their obituary. Even if the Yankees can’t pull that off, they’d sweeten a sour season by showing some fight as they take their toughest punch in a campaign already dominated by them. As Odor said after this stinker, “It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish.”
So far, however, so bad. Buckle up and grab a barf bag. The floor of this Yankees season just dropped a few more stories.