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Monday, January 17, 2022

The Yankees No Longer A Championship Caliber Team

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By Marvin A Azrak As we as a family watched in dismay the Yankees season come to an end in their 6-2 wild card letdown in Boston against the despised Red-Sox on Tuesday, my mom said the following “It’s very embarrassing to not even make it to the postseasn”. But technically speaking, the Yankees did make the playoffs but were just eliminated in the one and done wild card round. However, the Yankees standard compared to other teams is unfair because fans won’t settle for the fact this franchise has had 29 straight winning seasons, rather “What have you done for me lately” is the calling card for the 27-time world-champions.


But anyone who had watched this Yankee team all season long could tell you that for the first time since their intentional rebuild in 2016, that they didn’t believe a championship team was in front of them. Sure there were great stretches where they saved faced by going 22-8 from mid-April to the middle of May, acquired Joey Gallo, and Anthony Rizzo, before going 23-4 including a 13 game win-streak that catapulted them into the playoff picture. But even through all that winning, we had close games which ultimately showed in the inefficient 70 losses this team suffered throughout the 162 game season prior to the Wild Card game.

As they now enter a long winter, being picked apart by a squad with the same record as you when it mattered the most showed just how deep the issue is the Bronx.

The reason for confidence entering Tuesday night was because the Yankees had swept the Bosox at Fenway Park just a week earlier, and had their $324 million ace in Gerrit Cole on the bump who was second in CY Young voting this season. Meanwhile, the pitcher Boston had put on the mound in Nathan Evoldi was one the Bronx Bombers hammered for seven runs in 2.2 innings last time out.

But all it took what a bounce of bad luck to make that completely disappear , as a potential first inning bomb by Giancarlo Stanton was denied by the Green monster at Fenway Park, holding him to a single. Boston would capitalize on the opportunity, and pound Gerit Cole in the bottom of the first, when a Rafael Devers two out free pass set the stage for Xander Bogarts, who ignited the 38,324 horde of Yankees and Boston fans in the crowd to elite decibel levels of happiness and anguish with a long HR to center field, putting the Red Sox ahead for good at 2-0.

In the third, Cole-killer Kyle Schwarber blasted off to right field to extend the lead to 3-0, bringing back memories of when he crushed one off of Gerrit in the 2015 Wild Card game, while with the Cubs, and Cole was in Pittsburg. To the disbelief of the baseball world, the man NY is paying $36 million per year for moments like this was asked to hand the ball to his manager after only recording six outs, and allowing three runs. But anyone who watches Gerrit in September wasn’t astonished by this, for he was coming off clunkers against the Indians(7 runs, 5 innings), Boston(A workman like 3 runs in 5.1 innings), and Toronto(Five runs in five innings) to finish off the regular season, allowing multi-run bombs in each start. Cole departing meant the strength of this squad in the bullpen to keep it close which did happen, as Clay Holmes went two scoreless, and Luis Severino pitched a scoreless fifth to keep it a 3-0 affair.

Meanwhile, Nathan Evoldi brought his “Magic” that Boston knew he could as Gerrit Cole alluded too before the game. The aggressive Yankee approach wasn’t working through the first few innings of the game, as the Boston hurler retired 11 straight through 5.1 innings of work, and was humming with eight k’s before the focus needed to set down this New York lineup started to wear on him. An Anthony Rizzo bomb put the Bombers on the scoreboard, before an Aaron Judge hustle single knocked Evoldi out of the contest, as the Yankees were suddenly threatening. But more often than not under the bright lights, your true colors will show which is exactly what happened on the very next ball put in play. Giancarlo Stanton rocketed another line drive that ricocheted off of Green monster something that didn’t go unnoticed in the mind of Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin. Seeing the ball get by the outfielder in Alex Verdugo, Nevin waved Judge(Who began the play on first) home, but Verdugo recovered and one-hopped it over to Shortstop Xander Bogarts, who fired home to catcher Christian Vazquez to nail Judge in plenty of time, sending the Fenway faithful into hysteria. “That changed the game,” Bogarts said later. “As Judge was out at home, I saw Stanton, and he was pretty mad standing at second base. He probably wanted a homer there, but also an RBI, and he didn’t get that, now feeling like his efforts were for nothing.” A Joey Gallo pop up that followed made it official, as you could now feel Yankees universe sinking to its knees. “That crushed their confidence said one fan They knew Boston owned them from there on out.” That was the Yankees 23rd out at home this season, with their previous 22 tying the Kansas City Royals for the most in baseball, and it came true here in the Wild Card game. As you would expect in this rivalry the Red Sox promptly karma’d them, as Verdugo doubled to right field, scoring the speedy Xander Bogarts from first base, and putting Boston up 4-1. At that point, only the most diehard of New York fans were expecting a comeback, but Tanner Houck and Hansel Robles made quick work of the Bombers in the seventh and eighth, before a two run single off of Chad Green by Verdugo put this edition of the rivalry to bed making the Stanton oppo-taco bomb in the ninth useless. Rubbing it in, Alex Cora finished off his second straight victory over Aaron Boone(Both started managing in 2018) by using former Yankee Garret Whitlock, who’s flyout he induced to Gleyber Torres set off a “wild” celebration inside the home of Red Sox nation.

Boston is now 8-1 in postseason games against their rivals since they lost game three of the 2004 ALCS 19-8, before rallying to win that series, that title, the 2007 one, the 2013 championship, and 2018. But this one didn’t only present the Yankees getting outclassed by a team with the same record as them on the field, but also in the front office with GM Chaim Bloom completing his turnaround after the Bosox finished last in the AL East in 2020. Meanwhile, Yankees GM Brian Cashman decided to be stubborn and stick with what has been the Bombers bread and better since this new championship window opened back in 2017; being building around the home run ball, which once again backfired when it mattered most. The beatdown combined with the revamped Rays enjoying another AL East championship, and Boston turning themselves around in a 365 day span (For the third time in 14 seasons, winning it all three times in that span to the Yanks one) ring now raises questions of the personal in the organization, starting with manager Aaron Boone who is now a free-agent. There are also questions of who the long-term catcher is with Gary Sanchez(.205/309/426/ 23 HR) and Kyle Higashioka (.181/246/389/ 10HR) clearly not proving capable of being capable. Other questions include who the long term shortstop will be, as an error -filled Gleyber Torres was overwhelmed in 2021.

As for the bosox, they will be the ones that get to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS that begins Thursday night at the Trop, with the Yankees watching from the couch wondering exactly what went wrong, and why they are not seen as championship contenders any longer.

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