I had a hard time believing that the New York Yankees would get by the Houston Astros after their relief-inducing game-five victory against the Cleveland Guardians in the ALDS.
I don't say that to humble brag or express my knowledge about spawwwtts, bro (!), but that's just honestly how I felt. Seeing this Yankee team, the same exact one that eventually was dominated in a four-game sweep, reaching the World Series just felt far too far-fetched. And even with that feeling and foresight, I still didn't expect the ALCS to be over in four games.
So here we are. I've given myself a few days to think and digest thoughts, feelings, and emotions on this Yankees loss before laying out this post. The heat from this fan base thus far has been as expected - loud, emotional, confusing, and in many ways, entitled. Throw in some hints of embarrassing takes, and a few rational responses - and you can confirm the following conclusion: Yankee fans have lost it.
Self-admittedly, I'm a mix of all of the above. But not necessarily of the extreme.
With all of that said, I felt it is only right to unpack everything. The following are my thoughts on the 2022 Yankee season:
Let's go alllllllllll the way back to March when everyone - and I mean everyone! - had the Yankees finishing third or fourth in the AL East division. Ahhhhhhh yes, it was close to a consensus that the Yankees offseason was underwhelming, and the time for the mighty Blue Jays to run things in the AL East was upon us.
I'll be the first to admit, I wasn't in love with the Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Ben Rortvedt trade. It seemed puzzling at the time, and regardless of your thought process, it's safe to say most still are wrestling with it - even knowing the outcomes after year 1.
For me, it hasn't been discussed enough, but the sticking point in that trade for me was indeed the inability to develop Gary Sanchez from what we thought he could be.
Regardless, it's safe to say the Yankees smashed expectations this year. That includes a historic first half of success, as well as a trip to the ALCS. No one saw that coming or expected it. That is a fact.
Even when things began falling apart in August, an ALCS trip didn't seem probable.
It was a confusing year like that. It's probably part of the emotion of it all. But oddly, the Yankees overachieved and underachieved in the same season.
Wanna talk about hindsight? Remember when the Yankees and Aaron Judge couldn't work out an extension and then the narrative was well, this is Hal's Yankees! He only cares about money. This wouldn't happen if George were alive!
Then Judge got off to a slow start and suddenly sports talk radio sounded like this - yo bro, Joey from Staten Island here, there's no wayyyyy we give this guy a bunch of years. What's he gonna look like on the back end?!
Then Aaron Judge proceeded to put together one of the most historic seasons ever, including smashing the
MLB AL single-season home-run record with 62 home runs.
Thennnnnnnnnnnnnn he struggled in the playoffs.
He's not a playoff performer! He can't hit top pitching!
Emotions just runnin' wild.
NO LOVE FOR CASHMAN
I'm not sure I fully understand the hatred toward Brian Cashman. At some points in the year, there was a narrative being expressed by some fans of "Loving the Team, But Hating the front office". Whatever that means.
Not sure I understand that thinking. Look, if you're not a fan of Cashman, that is understood. But the narrowed selective thinking of criticizing his flaws, and not giving him credit for the successes as well in the entire evaluation is confusing and head-scratching to me.
It almost seems like lazy thinking, and in many ways, an entitled fanbase.
I'm not a Cashman defender, far from it. But considering the sport of baseball, the business of baseball, and how difficult it is to win, Cashman hasn't had a losing season in well...ever.
For every criticism of Aaron Hicks' struggles, the lack of lefty bats, or what feels like a stubborn philosophy of slugging percentage and mashing the ball over putting the ball in play, there is the drafting and development of Aaron Judge, the continued gems and steals he continues to find, and the big splash when he needs to do so (e.g. Gerrit Cole).
Again - Cashman's team succeeded when NO ONE thought it would. Then it made the ALCS. And now, we're blaming him.
DITTO FOR AARON
I'll just say this - even after all of these years of maturing as an adult and my experiences in life, I still think no two jobs age you faster than the President of the United States and the Manager of the New York Yankees. You can make an argument that the latter wins the matchup.
Again, Boone is not perfect. Let's get that out of the way as well.
Yet, what I've learned from Boone as our manager is that a lot of Yankees fans have become notorious of pouncing after a move or decision has gone wrong to offer their criticism. Regardless of the realistic options.
Going further, some conflate player performance with his decisions, or even roster construction (a reasonable Cashman criticism) onto his ability as a manager.
Gotta love the "you shoulda..." folks who operate in revision-mode.
Again, this team wasn't expected to win. This fanbase has made it seem that the team wins in spite of Boone. Honestly, I'm not sure what they expect from Boone. Or from any manager, really.
However, my biggest criticism of Boone was indeed removing Gerrit Cole in Game 3 of the ALCS. With the season on the line, I rather go down with Cole than Lou Trivino.
What was up with that?! THAT definitely annoyed me.
HAL, SON OF (AND NOT) GEORGE
George Steinbrenner will forever be linked with the legacy of the New York Yankees. However, can we PLEASE stop with the "If George were alive" comments? Please!
So many people forget some of the irrational moves George would make. In fact, if it weren't for his suspension, the core crop of that dynasty era might have never remained in place.
George was great, but he too had his flaws.
While we're here, can we do the same in regards to comparing these current teams to the 90s dynasty? That was special. I hate to say this, but wow, let it go. Let those teams be what they were, and that was just, special.
Derek Jeter ain't walking in that door to suit up. Get over it.
Getting back to Hal...
I'm not sure how Hal Steinbrenner is cheap. But I do think we're no longer that "educated fanbase" that we think we are.
My last thought on Hal is this - he should be absolutely livid - more than anyone - regarding this outcome. It's HIS money! And quite frankly, if we want someone's ass on the line, he has every right to have Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman in his office to explain what just happened.
And I really would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
END OF THE LINE
Some Yankees fans just need to get to this point - The Houston Astros are better than the New York Yankees. Period. End of the discussion.
We can be upset about the result, but nothing - not Cashman, not Boone, not anything - could have changed that outcome in the ALCS.
This is especially the case in not having so many key contributors throughout the season on the playoff roster. I expected at least a six-game series, but really, can I be less upset if they lost in six than in a sweep? Maybe. But what's the point?
What I will agree with is that this organization does need a change in philosophy. Because while I do somewhat agree with Cashman's wild (and now held against him) comment that the playoffs are a "crapshoot" (ask Dodgers, Braves, and Mets fans), something clearly isn't working. The brand of baseball that gets them to this point suddenly hits a snag in its effectiveness.
With a change in rules next year of banning shifts, the increased focus on base stealing/running, and a further emphasis on defensive ability - athleticism is going to be key moving forward.
The team isn't far off - I do believe that. Call me crazy. However, I do think much like 2016, we are in a phase of beginning a transition to younger players in specific positions.
Nonetheless, I do think there needs to be an examination of overall style and philosophy.
My wish for next season? I would love to see the Yankees put the ball in play more next year. With Judge and Stanton, that's always going to be tough.
I honestly felt bad for Aaron Hicks. Yes, I might be the only person in the world to have empathy for Hicks. It was so clear this season to see the human behind the performance. The same goes for Joey Gallo's time in pinstripes. I think we've lost sight of the athlete - the essence of failure and greatness, and the stories that can emenate from previous chapters.
But I'll leave my soft interest garbage - we're looking for performance, baby! They Suck! Gettem outta here!
Same for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I really would like to see IKF back, just not at shortstop. Maybe moving him back to third base where he won a Gold Glove?
Yes, Donaldson needs to go. He played great defense, but his at-bats were rough. Especially in the playoffs. I just think we can open up flexibility for overall improvement with his subtraction.
The bullpen needs help. And definition.
I'm honestly torn about bringing Rizzo back if he decides to opt-out of his deal. DJ is locked in for a few more years and a move to first is necessary.
That all depends on the viability of Gleyber Torres. I do think Cashman moves him (he almost did at the deadline).
And yeah, Cashman returns. So does Boone.
Count me in on the group that thinks this lineup needs more lefties. I subscribe to the pull-swing, short porch theory. Regardless of what FanGraphs data says.
TOO MUCH ANALYTICS in baseball! Back in my day, we played the game the way it was meant to be played!
Oh yeah, of course, sign Aaron Judge. That's a kind of a big decision and a big thing that needs to happen.
As stated before, I honestly have no real idea of what to expect this off-season. I'm really no MLB GM, so it's hard for me to project. I do expect some Cashman ninja transactions. Maybe a head-scrather or two. Nothing big.
Especially because even in all of this pain, the Yankees are locked in with so many what-ifs, but also really not that far off. If you change it too much, you risk losing ground, or possibly (maybe?), gaining what you've been trying to attain.
The reality - they are still a ways away from the Houston Astros. And probably closer to the teams we all projected to eclipse them this year.
And finally, this is going to sound crazy (but you've read this far, that's established, right?). So as stated, I'm right there with much of the Yankee fan base.
The player that made me really examine the foundation style of play for the Yankees was Steven Kwan of the Cleveland Guardians. Steven effing Kwan.
Just a hard-nosed player. Tough out. Athletic. Eats up pitches. Disrupts the flow of a game for a pitcher. Places pressure on the defense.
I have no idea what his advanced metrics were (or project to be), but from the ALDS alone, the Yankees need at least one bat in the lineup like that. Favorably, in front of (or behind) Judge.
Either that or just go get Shohei Ohtani...and maybe Mike Trout, from the Angels. For say, Hicks, and Donaldson? We can throw Isiah Kiner-Falefa in there as well (he's a former gold glover!).
Well, okay, thanks for taking my call...I'll hang up and listen.