All in all, 2017 was a great year for the Yankees. Despite being considered by many (including yours truly) to be at best a fringe Wild Card contender in March, they rode their young talent (along with key contributions from July acquisitions) to a 91-win season. Sure, they didn't win it all, but they came darn close to punching a ticket to the World Series. And no one can deny that it was a pretty fun ride with countless cool moments - Aaron Judge destroying baseballs, the Thumbs Down meme, Jacoby Ellsbury becoming the catcher's interference GOAT, so on and so forth.
However, as with any other season, there were plenty of bad moments too. As we come to terms with the Yankees' season ending, I thought it might be a good idea to recall some of them. Not to dwell on them - what good does that ever do? - but to recognize what happened so we can try to move on. And hey, sometimes the bad can be as integral to our shared experience as fans as the good. Isn't that why the verb “Mitreing” is still a thing around these parts? So, without further ado, these are the five moments that immediately sprung to my mind, in no particular order.
The Dustin Fowler injury
There are no words. Girardi's face says it all.
Fowler, of course, was traded to the Athletics along with Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian for Sonny Gray. Here's hoping that he will have a long and successful career over there.
Tanaka implodes on Jeter Day
Masahiro Tanaka is the reason I watch the Yankees. Like, literally: he's the only reason why Yankee games get broadcasted here in Japan. Jokes aside, Tanaka's one of my favorite Yankees, which is why watching him suffer a severe bout of suck-itis this season was especially painful for me. This start, to my eyes, was the worst.
It came on May 14, Derek Jeter Day, which meant that the stadium was packed with fans eager to commemorate the occasion with a Yankee victory. Tanaka took the mound, and ten minutes later he had given up six runs on three homers, including the grand slam to Alex Bregman shown above. His final line looked like this, 1.2IP, 7H, 8ER, 4HR. At least fifty years from now there will be a cool Matt Ferenchick article about it. Plus, Tanaka got his payback on the Astros in the ALCS, so there's that.
Yankees concede the division
On September 1, the Yankees were 5.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division race. By September 28, they had clawed their way back to three games back, and were threatening for more, as the Sox had been trounced 12-2 by the Astros earlier that day. The Yankees were facing the Rays, and I was getting my hopes up for another gain in the standings.
The Rays, however, had other plans. In the top of the 5th with the Yankees leading 4-1, Mallex Smith and Corey Dickerson hit back-to-back singles. A Sonny Gray wild pitch, a Gary Sanchez passed ball, and a Lucas Duda two-run homer later, the score was 4-5. Looking to stem the tide but perhaps not wanting to burn out his best relievers, Girardi brought on Jonathan Holder to put out the fire. That did not happen. Holder gave up an RBI single to Cesar Puello and an RBI triple to Peter Bourjos, making the score 8-4 and putting the final nail in the coffin of the Yankees' division dreams.
The West Coast trip of death
On June 11, the Yankees were 37-23 and had just completed a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. Then they went to the West Coast for a week, playing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three games and the Oakland Athletics for four. When it was over, the Yankees were 38-29. It was the start of their horrible, no-good June-July swoon.
Out of that miserable week, their June 15 loss against the Athletics stung the most. It was a see-saw battle between two incompetent bullpens, each giving up the lead multiple times. The Yankees were trailing 3-4 in the top of the 7th when Gary Sanchez's RBI double off of Sean Doolittle tied the game. However, Chad Green could not keep it that way for long, giving up an RBI single to Chad Pinder to make it 4-5 in the bottom of the 7th. Weird stuff continued to happen, including a Chris Carter game-tying homer in the 8th, but the Yankees just could not take the lead.
The Yankees finally broke through in the top of the 10th. With the bases loaded, Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-6. However, baseball wasn't done with Castro yet. In the bottom of the 10th, Giovanny Gallegos loaded the bases after getting two quick outs. Up to the plate stepped Khris Davis, who had been hitless in his previous plate appearances. On the 5th pitch of his at bat, Davis hit a bloop to no man's land in shallow center. Castro pursued it, but at the last moment the ball glanced off his outstretched glove. Two runs scored, and the Yankees were handed a frustrating, demoralizing loss.
No “worst moments” list would not include ALDS Game 2. The sequence of events in the 6th inning - Lonnie Chisenhall's “HBP”, Gary immediately asking for a challenge, Girardi doing nothing, Francisco Lindor's grand slam - was the most demoralizing moment that I have experienced as a Yankee fan in recent memory. After the game, I was certain that the series was over. I was furious for Girardi for wasting the offense's six-run effort against Corey Kluber and CC Sabathia's gutsy start. I didn't even feel like watching Game 3.
However, the Yankees bounced back. They peeled off three straight victories, beating Trevor Bauer and tagging Kluber again. In the end, I think that's what I'll remember about this year's Yankees. Despite all the bad they endured, all the blown saves, the slumps, the blowout losses, the month-long skids; despite it all the Yankees found ways to bounce back. There was a fight in this team that I couldn't see in their 2013-2016 iterations, and it made me want to believe, especially from September on. It made me want to watch them in the bottom of the 9th, trailing by 2 with two on and two out. Sure, they couldn't pull it off in the last game of the season. But who's to say they can't do it next year?