The Yankees need some notes.
Long before they set foot on a movie set in Iowa, Aaron Boone’s guys displayed a proclivity for extreme drama. They honored their identity by raising that bar Thursday night, mounting a ferocious, two-out, ninth-inning, four-run rally against the dangerous White Sox before losing, 9-8, on Tim Anderson’s two-out, walk-off homer off Zack Britton in the inaugural “Field of Dreams” game.
At 63-52, 22-11 in their last 33 games and winners in nine of their most recent 10 series (and trailing their current get-together with the White Sox), the Yankees have arisen despite a slew of COVID absences, most of them breakthrough cases for vaccinated players, as well as their share of traditional baseball injuries. Throw them some credit. Yet as Brett Gardner said late Thursday night, “Where we are in the standings, we’re running out of time.” They remain out of the playoffs, possessing little room for error and far too many more gut-punch losses, each of which prompts a soulful reassessment.
Hence, in the wake of Thursday night’s mix of baseball and cinema, our equivalent of the notes that wormy studio executives provide, unsolicited and undesired, to the talent. Here are five notes, presented in the most passive-aggressive manner possible, except these actually will help improve the product.
1. We don’t think it works when Zack Britton shows up at the end.
The Yankees’ veteran lefty reliever, a model of excellence from 2014 through last year, is really, really scuffling this season after two injured-list stints. No need to dive too deep on the numbers. How about 12 strikeouts and 12 walks in his 15 ²/₃ innings?
While each of the Yankees’ big four relievers — Britton, the currently injured Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga — is responsible for at least one 2021 gut-punch defeat, right now I’d place Britton third on my closer depth chart, behind Loaisiga (who sure seemed like a better option Thursday against the White Sox’s righty-heavy lineup) and Green.
2. We’re concerned that Andrew Heaney just isn’t right for this role.
Slam-dunk here, right? The veteran lefty, acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline to give the Yankees starting-pitching depth — and they needed it all the more after Cole and Montgomery tested positive — owns a 9.00 ERA in three Yankees starts and has surrendered eight(!) home runs in 15 innings. With Cole and Montgomery back aboard and hoping to rejoin the rotation early next week, Heaney looks primed for at least a demotion to mop-up man and quite possibly a designation for assignment.
3. We’d like to recast third base.
Don’t be too hard on Rougned Odor, who had never patrolled the hot corner professionally prior to this current pinstriped crisis. He received the assignment with Gio Urshela on the injured list and DJ LeMahieu physically compromised (right triceps), and he has calculated minus-2 defensive runs saved, as per Baseball Info Solutions. Do you ever feel confident when the ball gets hit to him? Throw in an offensive slump for the streaky hitter (.150/.261/.250 in August), and he isn’t bringing much to a party in need of life. So switch to Tyler Wade, who owns a .643/.706/.857 line for August while bringing his speed game and, while certainly no Brooks Robinson over there (minus-1 defensive run saved), has more experience at the position than Odor.
4. We still don’t understand why you removed Greg Allen from the story.
Big-time outrage by Yankees fans for the team’s call to replace Allen, the switch-hitting blur, with Jonathan Davis in center field, and it struck me as a bit much only because Allen still works for the organization at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Whatever the Yankees saw in the waiver-claim Davis hasn’t surfaced, though. Time to cut bait and bring back Allen to share center field with Gardner, who went deep Thursday night and is at .333/.444/.433 in August.
5. We see something in Joey Gallo.
Yup, his August numbers (.140/.306/280), which also constitute his Yankees numbers, stink, and his biggest hit, a game-winning homer against the Mariners on Aug. 5, would’ve been a flyout in most ballparks. Not that the Yankees are overflowing with options, nor are they about to jettison a player they control through next season, but the outfielder deserves more time. On Thursday night, with the ball flying into the corn in both left and right field, Gallo hit probably the longest non-homer of the night, a first-inning blast to straightaway center field that Luis Robert caught at the wall. He also drew a pair of walks, including a two-out, ninth-inning base on balls that set up Giancarlo Stanton’s go-ahead blast. Let’s keep watching his takes (and his swings) and see if the results get any better.
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