These are not the New York Yankees that GM Brian Cashman built to win with 12 players and three starting pitchers on the injured list. Wednesday evening in the Bronx, his team was sitting last in the AL East.
If it weren’t for a Willie Calhoun game tying single in the ninth inning, and Jose Trevino coming off the bench with a game-ending single in the 10th, the Aaron Boone managed Yankees would be heading to Tampa 9 and a ½ games behind the first-place Rays.
That walk-off single and 4-3 win over the Cleveland Guardians, for now a temporary reprieve from the boos asking for the ouster of Boone and Cashman. Yeah, it’s early and one-fifth of a season does not mean surrender, but the late owner George Steinbrenner would not tolerate a 17-15 start with a multi-million dollar team payroll.
Heck, remember those Steinbrenner tirades? Because by now, as the Yankee departed for a brief three-game series down in Tampa Bay, the Aaron Boone watch would be ongoing. And the watch would be ongoing for the GM.
Or the shakeup would have commenced with a change in the coaching staff. Regardless, the Yankees are underachieving. They have a starting rotation decimated with injuries, their lineup is without Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Josh Donaldson, just a few who make up the $152 million payroll on the shelf. Questions about a lineup that, fortunately got solo home runs Wednesday night from Triple-A call-ups Willie Calhoun and Jake Bauers in the fifth inning.
Not what the Yankees were constructed to do, at the bottom of the heap with two runs or less in 13 games. Last in almost every offensive category since stats became that important aspect for players and the manager.
Two more could be headed to the injured list, Harrison Bader, just two games back from a long injury stint left the game after a ninth inning collision with Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the outfield. Oswald Peraza limped off the field after injuring his ankle as a pinch-runner in the game-tying ninth.
So, the Yankees after 16-consecutive games will get a needed day off Thursday. Seven of their next ten are against those first place Rays, a team with the best record in baseball and finding every way to win,
But Brian Cashman said Wednesday night to the media “Don’t give up on us. That’s all I can tell you. Don’t count us out.”
He said about his Yankees, “We’ve got a solid group of players. We’ve got a good group of people. Player-wise, staff-wise, support-staff wise. It’s a championship caliber operation from that perspective, but we are not currently playing at that level that we would have expected because we’re missing some pretty important people.”
Obviously, Cashman was referring to Judge and Stanton. A bulk of Yankees runs and wins come when both are healthy and in the lineup, except their injury prone years much too often prevent them from being in the lineup at the same time.
Let’s be honest here because Kiner-Falefa, Franchy Cordero, and Calhoun, who has homered in two consecutive games, were not supposed to have a bulk of time in the lineup. The return of Stanton is uncertain, Judge could return next week at home with a series against the lowly Athletics and the Rays next weekend.
Calhoun and Bauers would not have envisioned a week ago hitting short home runs to right-field in the fifth inning off Guardians’ starter Shane Bieber that knotted the score at 2-all.
Calhoun got the game-tying single in the ninth inning. Trevino was the last non-Yankees pitcher who came off the bench and said those were true Yankees fans that stayed to the end.
But their loyal Yankees fans are running out of patience. They are getting tired of this misery. We haven’t seen this solemn mood at their cathedral ballpark in the Bronx in quite some time, and the late owner would have noticed. Changes would be coming now and not later.
But Brian Cashman said, “We’re patching holes as best we can at this time of year. Ultimately, myself and our staff are constantly looking to see what’s available.”
He said the months of April, May, and June are tough to patch those holes. In other words, trades are difficult to make at this time as opposed to a deadline in late July. He commented that injuries early in the season are unfortunate. He assured that the doctors and trainers are not at fault.
There were no questions about the reliance on analytics, possibly a flaw with the Yankees and management of the bullpen. Fans booed the manager again when he went to Clay Holmes for a second time in this series and could not shut down the Guardians after relieving Ron Marinaccio with two outs and no one on in the ninth.
“Obviously, we’ve got to get him to the Clay we know,” Boone said. “But he’s a lot closer to that than the noise.”
The noise of a discontented Yankees fan base, They can’t tolerate what is going on with their team, then again, neither would the late owner.
But Cashman said, “Injuries happen and ultimately we’re getting a lot of injuries right now. That’s certainly killing us. But I have nothing I can convict. If you want to convict somebody, convict me. This is my responsibility.”
Perhaps his responsibility and an early season of losing because of consequences inherited from transactions that have not worked to the Yankees benefit.
He’s right, though, don’t count the Yankees out of the picture because it’s much too early to panic. The Yankees will eventually get healthy again, but these seven ball games with the Rays are important.
Because if the losing continues, October baseball will be tough to achieve. Then again, Cashman could be the one to convict as he makes his case to fans about not giving up.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso