The 60-game milepost never meant much to a baseball season, just a round number, until last year.
Now we can use it as a measuring stick.
Now, it gives us one more data point underlining the Yankees’ decline.
The Yankees lost a ridiculous, 10-inning, 6-5 game to the Red Sox Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, suffering a sweep at the hands of their historic rivals, their fourth straight loss overall, 10th in 13 tries and five out of seven this homestand against the Bosox and Rays.
Remember the disappointment you felt during last year’s COVID-shortened schedule when the Yankees wound up 33-27, giving them a lousy draw in the expanded postseason? Well, now they’re 31-29, and if this season had ended today, with the more traditional 10-team field, Aaron Boone and company would be headed home for the winter.
This is a franchise in seriously hot water.
“There’s urgency,” Boone agreed afterwards, “but we’re in control of our season and our destiny, very much so, and we’ve got to take control of it.”
“We’ve still got, I think, 100 games or more in the season,” Aaron Judge said, coming close enough to the 102 figure. “It’s just about continuing to fight, continuing to improve. That’s all I got.”
The state of the Yankees is so poor that even in this loss, they did show off improvement. They picked up three hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, three more than they combined in the first two games of this series. They also led the game from the bottom of the first, when Gary Sanchez struck a two-run double, until the top of the seventh, when Marwin Gonzalez stroked a game-tying, two-run homer against Lucas Luetge.
To borrow from Judge, though, that’s all they got. While lifting Domingo German after 84 pitches, tapping Luetge to go after Rafael Devers with two outs and a runner on first in the sixth, made some sense in that Devers does considerably worse against lefties and German had just walked Xander Bogaerts, that got the spigot running on a bullpen somewhat worn out by the week’s activities. Luetge returned for the seventh and found trouble.
And that served as the mere appetizer for what followed. The eighth inning featured a double on a Cristian Arroyo pop fly to right field that has an expected batting average, as per Statcast, of .010; DJ LeMahieu couldn’t keep it in his glove and Arroyo came home on a Bogaerts sacrifice fly. In the ninth, after Gleyber Torres delivered a game-tying double, driving home Judge from first base, home plate umpire Gabe Morales called an inning-ending, full-count third strike on Rougned Odor so far outside that two coaches, first Phil Nevin and then Carlos Mendoza, got ejected (robot umpires, please!). Finally, the game ended in the 10th when LeMahieu, with tying run Tyler Wade on second, continued his rather seismic struggles by grounding out to Gonzalez at second.
How low can they go? They head next to Minnesota to take on the Twins, the only American League team more disappointing than them.
“That’s what we’ve got to focus on, is the bigger picture,” Judge said. “We can’t sit here and listen to outside noise telling us we’re this and that.”
Fair enough. I wouldn’t want to listen to outside noise like this column if I played for the Yankees, either.
Ronald Reagan once asked American voters whether they were better off than four years prior. These Yankees must face the reality that they’re worse off than 60 games ago. That they’re trending in the wrong direction, even if the reasons aren’t identical. They are not maximizing their roster, and perhaps they grossly overrated their own roster.
They’re now 64-56 in their last 120 games, a touch above mediocrity, nowhere close to greatness. Can they dramatically transform in these next 102? If they don’t, such a lengthy decline figures to carry major repercussions.