New York Yankees Eulogy

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    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Fri Oct 08 2021

Author: Dan Latto

The New York Yankees were eliminated in their chase for their 28th World Series this past Tuesday. They went into Boston coming off a walk-off win against the Tampa Bay Rays just two days earlier to force themselves into the wild card game.

However, they were not able to carry that momentum whatsoever, into what is probably the most intense rivalry in all of sports, against the Boston Red Sox. Boston swept the Washington Nationals in their last three games of the season to tie the Yankees for the top wild-card spot. The Red Sox had the head-to-head advantage which set the stage for a wild card matchup in Fenway.

The Wild Card Game

To get into the actual game, the Yankees would end up losing 6-2, in a match-up that never really felt close after the bottom of the first inning. The Yankees threatened in the top of the first when Giancarlo Stanton thought he hit a home run over the Green Monster, a sight very familiar to Yankee fans, but the ball stayed in the park and it was not until the sixth inning that the Yankees would get a run on the board. In fact, the only other hit they had up to that point in the sixth inning was a swing bunt by Gio Urshela that amounted to nothing in the second inning.


Finally, it looked like the Yankees offense was starting to come alive, with a 6th inning home run from all-star break acquisition Anthony Rizzo. Stanton once again looked like he hit another home run later in the inning, but as before, the Green Monster kept the ball in the park and Aaron Judge would end up getting thrown out at home on a very questionable call to send him home by Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin.

The only other time you would see life from the Yankees batters for the rest of the game was from, who else, Giancarlo Stanton who decided to stop trying to go over the 37 foot wall in right field and slapped a ball the other way around the Pesky Pole for a solo home run in the ninth inning. At that point in the game though, things were practically sealed up with the Yankees being down 6-2, and both struggling Joey Gallo and Gleyber Torres would quickly fly out to end the game.

It was really a disappointing effort from the Yankees offense. They came into the season with such high hopes and even bolstered that freakishly sized lineup at the all-star break with two more big hitters, in Rizzo and Gallo. For me though, the disappointment did not lie in the offense.


The Yankees' entire pitching staff let up a combined seven walks, which was a franchise high in a win-or-go-home game. Not only that overall they let 14 men get on base. Rather than blaming it all on Gerrit Cole, who did let the Yankees down with his performance, it is only fair to acknowledge the poor pitching by the entire bullpen in this wild card game.

Aaron Boone made the decision to bring in Jonathan Loaisiga in the sixth inning. He walked the first batter he saw in five pitches and while he did get out of the inning, he would go on to walk two more batters in the following inning. They inevitably lead to another two runs for the Red Sox, due to more erratic pitching from fellow reliever Chad Green. In case you didn't know, Loaisiga almost needed season-ending surgery at the beginning of September due to a rotator cuff injury. Prior to his postseason outing, he only had 2.2 innings of work in the last 30 days.

Winning in the Playoffs

Playoff baseball is all about pitching. If you look at the world series matchups over the last couple of years, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays in 2020 both ranked top three in ERA throughout the season. Go back another year, and you will see your 2019 world series competitors in the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros ranked number five and six respectively in ERA in the MLB. Even in 2018, the Boston Red Sox and Dodgers were both in the top ten in ERA, with the Dodgers coming in at two. You could go back 20, 30, even 40 years and the trend will remain. Pitching wins championships.

So let's connect this trend with the Yankees. To make things short and sweet, we'll just look at the last 30 days of the season, to see how they were performing coming into the playoffs. If you look at qualified bullpen pitchers, the Yankees had only one reliever ranked in the top 50 for ERA. That pitcher was Nestor Cortes, who was brought up from the minors at the end of May had a 3.51 ERA, ranked only 28th. Jump over to the starters, and there is not a single Yankee in the top 50 for ERA. In fact, in the month of September, there was only one Yankee starter who ranked in the top 39 in ERA, and it was Gerrit Cole. Before you get too excited, he had a brutal 5.13 ERA in the month of September. So, coming into the playoffs, the Yankees were clearly lacking great pitching entering a win-or-go-home playoff game.

Yankees vs. Bad Teams

Before we address the pitching decisions made by manager Aaron Boone in the wild card game, let's take a quick look at how the Yankees managed to only sneak into the wild card game with, on paper, one of the most intimidating lineups in baseball. They had 76 of their games against teams in their own division, just under half the season. In those games, they had a record of 36-40. The Yankees were in probably the most competitive division in baseball, with three out of the five teams at least making the Wild-Card game, and one team missing a chance to play in by just one game.

However, if we look a little closer at these inter-division games, the Yankees went only 11-8 against the Baltimore Orioles, who shared the worst record in the MLB. The record of the other three teams in the division against the Orioles? A combined 45-12. So, right there, you've learned one thing about this Yankees team compared to their historic teams of the past. They did a terrible job of beating up on the little guy. Especially being in an extremely competitive division, it is absolutely imperative that they beat up on sub .500 teams.

This season, the Yankees went 40-24, with a 62.5% winning percentage against teams with losing records. To look back to 2019 when the Yankees won 103 games, they went 60-27 with a 69% winning percentage. Against the Orioles specifically, they won 17 of 19 games. If the Yankees were to have had those same stats this year, they would have run away with the division with ease and would have never been in the Wild-Card game. So, when someone asks you how could a team built like the Yankees end up in a win-or-go-home game? There's one big answer you can give them.

Gerrit Cole: Where it Went Wrong

So we know the Yankees offense let them down. We know how they ended up in this wild card game. So how did things really go wrong for them in the actual game against the Red Sox? Scoring two runs will not help you win games, but as I said before, playoff baseball is all about pitching. Gerrit Cole, the $324 million dollar man, had his chance to etch his name into this historic rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. He did in fact etch his name into history, but for all the wrong reasons.

Cole was pulled from the game before he could even get an out in the third inning. In his two short innings, he let up three runs on two home runs, four hits, and two walks in a truly abysmal start. Now, how could anyone have predicted that the ace of the New York Yankees, would get absolutely smoked by Boston? Well lucky for you all, I can tell you exactly how everyone should have seen this coming, including me.

On September 7th against the Toronto Blue Jays, Cole pulled himself from the start after feeling some tightness in his hamstring. It did not seem like too serious of an injury, as he only sat seven days before heading back out to the mound. Prior to his injury, Cole had a fantastic ERA of 2.73. He was even in the top ten in ERA among starting pitchers prior to the All-Star break. In his last start before getting hurt, he went seven innings, accumulating an incredible 15 strikeouts, and only let up one run against the Los Angeles Angels. All good, right?

Well, let's now turn to Gerrit Cole after this supposedly minor hamstring injury. In just 26.1 innings pitched, he let up 18 runs, adding on six home runs to his season total, only earning the Yankees two wins in his five starts. If we were to incorporate his gem against the Angels, he would still have an ERA of 5.13. So clearly, Cole was not at all the same pitcher he was just a month prior to the injury. For me though, that's still not enough evidence to be able to predict such an atrocious start.

We're going to check out how he fared against the team he was matched up against in the wild card game, the Red Sox. In his four starts against the Sox this season, he had a 4.91 ERA, ranking as the worst among Yankee starting pitchers. In fact, the next closest starting pitcher was Jordan Montgomery, who had a much better ERA of 3.29 in one extra start. Cole let up five home runs in his start's against the Red Sox, also a team-worst among Yankee starting pitchers. To cap it off, he ranked worst among Yankee starters in walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP), at 1.50 against the Red Sox. His only win in Boston came in a game where he let up three runs in six innings, but the Yankees offense exploded for eight runs to save him. The only team he struggled against more was the Tampa Bay Rays, who the Yankees would have had to face had they survived in Boston.

Looking to the Future

Okay, I've thrown a lot of stats out there and a lot of reasons why the Yankees were unsuccessful in the 2021 season. What does it all mean for the Yankees? Change is necessary. Now, obviously, every team makes moves in the offseason. For the Yankees though, I've highlighted a glaring issue for them-pitching. They did get Luis Severino back at the end of the season after not pitching for over 700 days, so hopefully, he will be part of the solution. But they need to bolster that bullpen and get Cole back to 100% because he is dangerous when he is at his best.

However, that is not the big change that I am looking for. If you look at the winning Yankee teams of the past, the Yankees had a man running the team named George Steinbrenner. Mr. Steinbrenner, a.k.a The Boss, was a no-nonsense owner. The Yankees had seasons where they would fire the manager in the offseason just because they didn't make it out of the ALDS, even though they won their division. For example, Buck Showalter was the Yankees manager from 1992-95. Besides his first season, he would lead the Yankees to three straight winning seasons, where they finished first or second in the division each time. Following that 95' season he got fired and was replaced by Joe Torre, who would lead the Yankees to six of the next eight world series, winning four times in five years.

Wrapping it Up

Well, if you haven't figured out the point I am trying to make, it's okay because I am going to tell you why I wrote this whole article. Aaron Boone needs to go. The Yankees need a guy who will ignore all the stats and play the game by his gut. Boone does not have the same control of the team compared to managers of the past like Joe Torre. There is someone to blame for the Yankees' shortcomings the last couple of years, especially with the team they have been sending out there. For me, that man is Aaron Boone.

In a perfect world, I want a manager like the one running the team that the Yankees got eliminated by in Alex Cora. Cora even said after the Wild Card game, that he learned a lot from when the Yankees swept the Red Sox in Boston just two weeks prior. That knowledge he picked up was that the difference-maker was Nathan Eovaldi. He let up seven runs in just under three innings in the previous matchup but was almost untouchable in their playoff matchup. In contrast, Boone played a pitcher who had struggled against the Red Sox and did nothing to change his performance.

Before I finish and blame it all on Boone, I have to say that the Yankees also need to change up their statistical team. Baseball has become the biggest sport for incorporating statistics into the sport. The Yankees have just under three times the payroll as the Tampa Bay Rays, yet they finished eight games back of them in the regular season. If I, a college student sitting on my couch, can gather all these statistics that show why the Yankees blew their chances this year, then the Yankees have a clear issue in their stats team that needs to be addressed. At the end of the day, Aaron Boone makes the calls, and he needs to take responsibility for a truly disappointing Yankees season.

Hopefully, whatever happens, the Yankees will have a much improved season next season and can make their chase for 28 titles, a reality.