Karpin’s Korner: Are Yanks Built for October?

For a fourth straight season, the Yankees are going home without a trip to the World Series. Was it the pitching or the offense that did them in again? Aroldis Chapman is a goat for giving up a season ending home run for a second straight year, but the Yankees only gave up two runs. That should be good enough to win a do or die game, right? The one constant during the whole of the past four post seasons has been a lack of timely hitting.

You can certainly make the argument that the game two pitching fiasco threw the Yankees off track, but, once again, the offense failed to deliver.

The narrative is that the Yankees are built to hit home runs and that’s how the game is played nowadays. That doesn’t have to be how the Yankees play it. The Yankees should be setting a narrative, not following it. The Yankees need to diversify their offense and get away from the abundance of the same type of right handed hitters in their lineup.

The Yankees opened the post season like a house afire. They pounded Cleveland’s pitching staff, including likely AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. The Yankees looked unstoppable, but then they reverted back to their “Jekyll and Hyde” self from the regular season and the offense was shut down by Tampa’s pitching depth.

The Yankees are noted for their deep lineup but is it really that deep. It looks good on paper with the marquee names, but you don’t win on paper and their bench is nothing to write home about.

A lack of left handed hitters was exposed greatly during this series vs. the Rays. Tampa Bay uses their right-handed pitchers to challenge the Yankees’ right handed hitters inside. That sets up the breaking stuff on the outside corner. They also change the eye level of a hitter by utilizing the top and bottom portions of the strike zone. You saw the way they attacked Luke Voit, Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela. (Giancarlo Stanton stepped up in the post season. To blame him for that final at-bat in the ninth inning is completely unfair. He did his part)

Left hand hitting Brett Gardner had a solid post season, but when he does get on base, he’s basically frozen there. Gardner cannot distract opposing pitchers when they have no fear that he’ll steal a base. Supposedly, Gardner has a green light but never runs. Aaron Hicks was better than in previous post seasons, but only two of his eight hits were for extra bases and one of those was misjudged into a triple vs. Cleveland.

The Rays are proving you can win without being so reliant on the long ball. Yes, the Rays hit home runs, just like the Yankees. Yes, the Rays strike out a bunch, just like the Yankees, but the Rays know how to cash in when they get scoring opportunities. The Rays can generate a rally, something the Yankees haven’t done much recently.

Kevin Kiermaier admitted that he knew what was coming when he homered off of Masahiro Tanaka in game 3. During an interview after the game, Kiermaier mentioned Tanaka always starts him off with a breaking ball. It was Kiermaier’s second at-bat of the game when he homered. Did the Yankees fail to make an adjustment after feeding Kiermaier a first pitch, breaking ball in his first at-bat?

The Yankees also let the umpires get into their collective heads. No matter how egregious the ball and strike calls appear to be, you can’t keep chirping at the umpires. The manager is the only one who should be addressing this issue during a game, not the players.

Clint Frazier did not earn the playing time over Gardner in the series, but Mgr. Aaron Boone basically buried him. Frazier’s home run in game one stunned former Cy Young winner Blake Snell and the Yankees were able to pile on after that. Using Mike Ford in game 3 to pinch hit for Frazier, who was already announced as a pinch hitter, was ridiculous. So was the decision to use Ford in game five to bat for Kyle Higashioka. Take a shot with Sanchez there. He was coming in the game anyway and maybe he “runs into one.”

Moving forward, an unexpected issue surfaced during the truncated season as Sanchez regressed offensively and looked totally lost at the plate. He couldn’t hit a fastball and was still unreliable on defense, despite what the advanced data may say. Despite Higashioka’s admirable defense during the playoffs, he is better suited as a back up. The Yankees have to be concerned about where they stand at the catching position.

Can the Yankees count on Judge and Stanton to stay on the field? Can they count on Aroldis Chapman, who is eminently hittable, despite lighting up the radar gun with triple digits, and has now given up season ending home runs in two consecutive post seasons?

The Yankees claim they are built for October, but the results of the last four seasons refute that claim.

ALCS pick: Rays in 6
NLCS pick: Dodgers in 6

2020 has been an unbelievably depressing year and this week, baseball lost a fifth Hall of Famer when Yankee great Whitey Ford passed away.

Ford was the starting pitcher for the first game I ever went to in 1964. Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Al Kaline have all passed in 2020. A large chunk of my childhood also passed with those men.

NY Post Yankee beat reporter George A. King III covered his last game Friday night. Most of you only know King from his outstanding work covering the Yankees, but I’ve gotten to know him and work alongside him for a long time. King was covering the football Giants in the 1980’s and that’s where I first met him.

I want to wish him well in retirement and wanted to finish this column with this story from 24 years ago.

After the Yankees won game 6 of the 1996 World Series, I was part of the media that was working the victorious clubhouse. Suffice to say, it was a bit chaotic. Players were celebrating, the room was packed to the gills, and it was a fascinating and exciting scene for someone like myself who was experiencing it for the first time.

I was standing right outside the Manager’s office, speaking to the late Arthur Richman, who was the Yankees VP at the time. George King was standing less than five feet away, waiting to interview a player or Yankee exec. All of a sudden, King was arguing with a former major league pitcher, turned reporter, who was trying to secure an exclusive interview in a packed locker room.

King and the former pitcher got into a debate because I think both wanted the same interview subject and the protocol does not include exclusive interviews for non rights holders. The beat reporters develop a relationship with the players they cover and feel they should get first “dibs.” King had every right to protest this reporter who was not there all year. All of a sudden, things heated up between the two men. King is not a big man, but he is tough as nails and doesn’t back down from anyone, including a 6’4” former major league pitcher.

I thought they were going to come to blows and I’m standing right there with Mr. Richman, who was no youngster. Luckily, security stepped in and ejected the other reporter before things got nasty.

King earned a ton of respect from his peers because he was straight forward and a terrific reporter. There was a rare show of respect from the players on the field when they acknowledged him in the press box during the final regular season game.

Best of luck with your retirement, George. Good luck my friend, gonna miss you.

(Photo courtesy of twitter)

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