The struggle is real for the Yankees and their fans, folks. The Yankees look lost at the plate. As of right now, the best starters in their rotation are trade-deadline imports Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ. There’s so much going wrong with this team right now. The Yankees also have a record of 75-46 and a .620 winning percentage. It is, as of today, the second best record in the majors. Struggle. Real.
Let’s compare this time of year with 2017. The Yankees’ record at this date in 2017 was 65-55. There were eight better teams at this point last year. The Yankees were still in second place, but only four games behind the Red Sox. This year, they sit 10.5 games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees current .620 winning percentage would be the second highest in the majors in 2017, with the top mark belonging to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Funny, right? I know I’m laughing.
Do you remember being as frustrated with the Yankees at this time in 2017? Because, snark aside, the frustration from fans this year is simmering in the slow cooker, just waiting for the timer to go off. It’s worth examining this frustration a little further.
1. F$%k the Red Sox
I’m sure that goes without saying for most Yankees fans. The Bombers are stewing in second place with the second best record in the majors because the best team plays in their division. The Red Sox are on pace to win 115 games this year. They don’t lose. The Yankees will be celebrating their 1998 season this weekend. You know, the team that won 114 games in the regular season. The 2018 Red Sox resemble that team far more than the 2018 Yankees do.
There’s nothing the Yankees can do about the Red Sox except hope they have one of the most epic collapses in baseball history. That seems unlikely, but I’ve been a good fan and I deserve nice things like that. A lot of people are going to be upset if the Yankees finish with a 100+ win season and have to settle for second place due to division lines. It’s annoying.
We’re looking at a 1993 San Francisco Giants season. That team finished the year with 103 wins and wound up in second place. Unlike those Giants, the Yankees still have a chance to make the playoffs thanks to the Wild Card. Does that Wild Card spot alleviate the frustration though?
2. Wild Expectations
It’s safe to say that expectations were high this year. The 2017 Yankees were a team in rebuild mode. Hilarious. The thought of them making the playoffs at the beginning of last year was a dream. Four and a half months into that season and the Yankees were not only the Wild Card team, but four games shy of first place. Again, they were rebuilding.
This year, the rebuild was supposed to be over and the Yankees were favorites to claim the division. Going to Game Seven of the ALCS certainly helps with that. Hope was high to win the AL East. As of right now, that hope is all but lost. With the Athletics and Mariners playing well, there’s even a chance they won’t even make the playoffs.
The A’s and M’s are having the type of season many Yankees fans were hoping for. They are so close to dethroning the Astros and taking first place in the AL West. They both have a greater chance at avoiding the Wild Card game than the Yankees do. Yankees fans pretty much understand their team’s regular season destiny this year and, for some, it’s a bit deflating.
3. Taking the “Fun” out of Fundamentals
Standings and playoffs aside, the painful lack of fundamentals make this team frustratning to watch. Outs that should have been made were not. Baserunning blunders, or TOOTBLANs as the cool kids table calls them, have been downright facepalm worthy. You’ve seen them and you can probably name at least three of them that have frustrated you this year.
There are times while watching these mistakes that make you wonder how they have the record they do. It doesn’t feel like this team is as good as their winning percentage, yet here they are. With this being Aaron Boone’s first season as a manager, it’s hard not to be annoyed when watching the errors and blunders. Speaking of Boone...
4. New Manager, Who Dis?
Yankees fans are going from nine seasons of Joe Girardi’s managerial style to Aaron Boone’s first. Bad or good, fans knew what to expect from Girardi. With Boone, it’s still new. It’s still fresh. For some, it’s not what they want. For others, he still has this team on pace to win over 100 games.
Boone’s lack of Girardi-level emotion can be seen as uncaring or passionless in these dark times of having the second-best team in the majors. Snark aside, it’s frustrating more for the lack of fundamentals than anything else. Fans and sports writers want the manager to light a fire under the team and suddenly fix things. That’s what Joe Torre did when the 1998 Yankees started the year 1-4. When Girardi was upset with a player or umpire, you knew. With Boone, it’s slightly meh.
5. Stop landing on the Monopolies on Mediterranean and Baltic
Let me clue you in on a little secret. I hate when the Yankees play bad teams. Baseball, for me, is about competition. Playing bad teams, especially historically bad teams, provides me with no joy whatsoever. It’s not fun to pounce on them and it’s extremely annoying to lose to them.
The Yankees have not had much success against the historically terrible baseball teams this year and it’s one of the reasons they are so far behind the Red Sox. The Red Sox don’t lose to teams like the Orioles. To be fair, the Red Sox don’t really lose to anyone. That doesn’t make the Yankees’ losing to O’s or the Mets any less annoying.
The Yankees are in the easiest part of their 2018 schedule. They are playing teams they should absolutely beat. Yet the lack of fundamentals and the inevitable second place finish make it seem very blah.
6. Oh come on. They’re not THAT bad
This might be one of the more frustrating aspect of this year for fans. They’re really not that bad. Some would say they’re actually pretty great, what with that whole second best record in the majors thing. Some would say that Boone has done a pretty good job in his first year, despite their Wild Card destiny. And you may ask yourself, where does that highway go to?
When a team should be better, but isn’t, all the little things keeping them from being better loom larger than they should. It’s hard to remember that this is a very young baseball team. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are mainstays at second and third base in their first full year in the majors. Oh yeah, they’re also both AL Rookie of the Year candidates. They’re still rookies though.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are only in their second full season of play. Greg Bird still has yet to have a full, uninjured season. Luis Severino is still young and figuring everything out, despite his incredible 2017 and first half of 2018. The potential is all there. It just needs to come together. Right now. Over me.
There’s also the slew of injuries that have befallen the team to consider. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are still on the disabled list, with this being Sanchez’s second or third stint. Gleyber Torres still needs to find his stroke after missing a good amount of time. The team lost Jordan Montgomery for the season. Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia have both spent time on the DL. Sonny Gray...okay, he wasn’t injured. He just pitched like he was constantly punching himself in the face, Ken Giles style!
Injuries are hard to plan for and work around. This is the primary reason why the late 90s dynasty is so hard to replicate. Those teams did not deal with injuries like this. They did not really lose key players like we’re seeing right now. They did not have to replace a Judge with a Shane Robinson. That is what Boone has had to work around and deal with, and they’re still one of the best teams in the majors. They’re just not the best.
8. Stuck in the middle with you
The bottom line here is that Yankees fans seriously have a hard time grasping what it’s like to be in the “middle.” They’ve been the best, like no one ever was, for so very long. Even after the 90s dynasty, they finished atop the AL East until 2007.
Over this 20-year span, the Yankees have won the division 12 times. Yet, for the past six years, including this one, they’ve been looking up at teams above them. Keep in mind, they haven’t finished with a record below .500 during that frame, and they’ve gone to the playoffs two times out of six, with a third time looking likely.
For a lot of teams and fans, that would be incredible. Yankees fans are, of course, spoiled beyond belief. It’s hard to blame them. I mean, look at that picture. Look at it. A huge generation of fans grew up in an era where other teams bowed to the whims of their majesty. Now they have to struggle and climb their way back to the top, like every other team in baseball. I just chuckled while typing that.
I’ve been talking about what frustrates fans more than anything. Judging from what I’ve seen, the most frustrating thing for a lot of Yankee fans is the lack of utter dominance. They’re not pulverizing opponents like they used to do. They’re not as feared. They’re just average and that is unacceptable and wait, hang on a minute...
*9. Average? What the actual bunt is wrong with you?*
That last paragraph was complete malarkey. The Yankees are not an average team at all. It only took them one year to rebuild their entire team after years of fading contracts. Few teams are able to do this without going through some struggles. Recent World Series Champions like the Royals, the Cubs, and the Astros took years to build teams that were victorious in October. The current Red Sox team did not just become this juggernaut overnight.
This year could just be that. A growing period between the team, their manager, and what they are capable of. Despite what the hype would have you believe, these things take time. Sometimes they take a year or two or five! Not every prospect comes out of the farm like gangbusters as Judge did. Considering all the evidence, it seems like the Yankees kinda sorta maybe perhaps know what they’re doing here.
We have no choice but to be patient with them and roll the dice we’ve been given. The season is not over with yet. The Yankees have the potential to go far in the playoffs if they can spend their remaining regular season getting everything in order. This does not mean you cannot or should not be frustrated at what you’re currently seeing from this team. It’s hard not to be. I’m just trying to deliver a bit of perspective here.
10. Fire Boone
Now there’s some sweet, sweet perspective!