...Or maybe they were never good. The Yankees' encouraging six-game winning streak in mid-May feels like it happened months ago as the Bronx Bombers have gone 3-8 since the streak ended on May 25. After last night's loss to the rival Red Sox, the Yankees' record on the season sits at 31-27, the worst it has been in weeks.
The mid-May streak, highlighted by Corey Kluber's no-hitter, a pair of walk-off wins, and even a triple play, seemed to signify the Yankees turning the corner and reestablishing themselves as a top contender in the American League. However, over the last 11 games, it has become clear that New York's early season struggles may have been a better indicator of this team's level than one flukey good week.
In past seasons, Yankees' slumps have often been easy to assess blame for: "(fill in the blank with a high-paid slugger) isn't hitting well" or "we need another starter," but this year the problems are all across the diamond and even into the dugout.
Shortstop Gleyber Torres' early season defensive woes have reappeared. Ace starter and, before this slump, AL CY Young favorite, Gerrit Cole started the season with a 1.37 ERA in his first eight starts. In his last four starts, his ERA sits at 4.30. Last season DJ LeMahieu led the MLB in hitting with a .364 average. This year, LeMahieu's average is a paltry .259, over forty points below his career line. Giancarlo Stanton, who started the year red hot, is 2-19 with zero extra-base hits or RBIs since returning from the Injured List. Speaking of injuries, Aaron Hicks is hurt, again. Luke Voit is hurt, again. Gary Sanchez, Rougned Odor, Clint Frazier and Kyle Higashioka all have batting averages below the dreaded Mendoza Line. Brett Gardner, who is also part of the sub-.200 batting average crew, is always going to be beloved by Yankees fans for his contributions over the last 14 seasons in pinstripes. However, the 37-year-old simply cannot be a consistent fixture in the lineup of a team with the second highest payroll in the MLB. (Shoutout to the Twitter user, whose name I could not find to credit, who joked that Gardner's home run and double in Thursday's 9-2 loss to the Rays was enough to buy him a few more months on the roster).
I could go on and on about the 2021 Yankees' problems, but I do have to admit that, for the most part, the pitching has been good. I am confident Cole will get out of his funk, Domingo German has been stellar since returning from the minors, and the bullpen continues to be among the best in the league. However, pitching is meaningless when you can't score runs.
In the Yankees' awful last 11 games, they have never scored above five runs. In fact, in their three wins within that time frame, they only scored five, five and four. In the other eight games, all losses, the team has scored two runs five times, one run two times, and were shutout in the other game. Therefore, the first logical "fall guy" would be hitting coach Marcus Thames. I am not ready just yet to call for Thames' job, but many of my fellow Yankees fans have reached that point during this skid. The next "fall guy," naturally, would be Manager Aaron Boone. Boone's seat has been perpetually lukewarm during his four years in the Bronx, but it is starting to heat up more than ever. He hasn't done much to help himself with the angry fans calling for his job on the field, and off the field, when he gives answers like he did yesterday, "typically the better teams are going to be higher up in hitting double plays because they hit the ball harder and there's more people on base," when asked about the Yankees being tied for the league lead in double plays, the anger will just increase.
Whether it is a trade or someone getting fired or even the cliché "players-only" meeting, the Yankees need to do something drastic as soon as possible in order to turn this season back around and start playing like the title contenders they are built to be.