It’s the beginning of September, and the Yankees already have 86 wins. They only need to go 14-12 the rest of the way to secure a 100-win season, which pretty much cements their status as an elite team. Yet the tone of conversation surrounding this year’s Yankees has been surprisingly negative. Much of that negativity has centered on a perceived lack of competitive spirit in the present Yankees squad.
Leave it to Pedro Martinez, former thrower of baseballs (and Don Zimmer) and mentor of Luis Severino, to succinctly capture the essence of such discourse.
The Yankees don’t seem to have the energy of a winning team. I understand some key players are injured, but they don’t seem to be hustling out there.— Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) August 22, 2018
Now, it’s not like this take was universally accepted by the Twitterverse. Many Yankee fans responded to the tweet with variations of “the Yankees are going to win 100 games” and “mind your business,” with a few daddy jokes thrown in there for good measure. At the same time, a significant contingent of Yankee fans voiced their agreement, like this stern dad casting shade on Aaron Boone:
But now that Girardi is gone, players will go home with a participation ribbon— David Doedtman (@ddoedtman) August 22, 2018
and this guy, who essentially makes the same argument but with a different manager and more hashtags;
It's not often I agree with Pedro but I'm with him on this one. It would be interesting to see what kind of Yankees we'd see under Alex Cora #fire #hustle #agro #passion #urgency— Jarv (@JarvFromOz) August 23, 2018
and this lady, who keeps it short and sweet.
I don’t understand why people are mad at you. You’re absolutely right.— Miss Yankee Universe (@the_Annelis) August 23, 2018
Besides, who here at PSA would bat an eye if some random poster showed up in the game thread in the fifth inning of a 3-0 loss against, I dunno, the Baltimore Orioles and posted the exact same thing as Martinez tweeted? Agree with him or not, the point here is that a significant number of Yankee fans think that this year’s squad doesn’t have heart.
Allow me to venture a guess as to why so many Yankee fans feel this way. In my opinion, it’s a combination of two factors: the Boston Red Sox having an absolutely historic season, and the Yankees having a harder time than they should against teams with sub-.500 records. There’s no doubt that it has been frustrating to watch these Yankees, with a collection of talent that arguably matches the Red Sox on paper, drop series to non-contending teams while Boston extends their division lead. Since talent level has never been the issue with these Yankees, it’s understandable that fans attribute the Yankees falling out of the division race to lack of effort.
If you’re in this camp, I won’t tell you how to feel about the Yankees in this article. I will, however, urge you to look at the other side of the argument. No, the Yankees haven’t kept up with the Red Sox in the division race, but it’s too rash to conclude that they haven’t got fight in them, considering all the adversity they’ve overcome to this point.
First, it’s impossible to talk about this year’s Yankees without noting all of the injuries they’ve suffered. As PSA’s own Joshua Diemert illustrated in an earlier post, the injuries to Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery have cost the Yankees an estimated five to six wins. That’s not even taking into account Giancarlo Stanton relegated to DH duties due to a cramping left hamstring, or Aroldis Chapman being sidelined with knee tendinitis, or David Robertson going down with shoulder tendinitis. Yes, every team has injuries, but to so many key players for so much cumulative time? I don’t think so.
Secondly, the Yankees’ schedule has done them no favors. Rainouts have left the Yankees’ schedule in disarray, forcing them to have played four doubleheaders already so far this season, the second highest number in MLB behind the Detroit Tigers. The realignment of games has left rest days at a premium for the Yankees, and they currently find themselves set to play 14 games in a 13-day stretch from August 24 to September 5. Coupled with all of the injuries that the Yankees have suffered, their schedule is extremely taxing.
That the Yankees have maintained a 100-win pace despite missing many of their key players and playing a grueling schedule is nothing short of miraculous. It also suggests that calling them lax and low-effort, as Martinez does in his tweet, doesn’t fully capture the truth about this Yankee team. Yes, they may have seemed tired and lackluster at times, but they’ve still found a way to win more than they lose, even in their diminished state. That to me shows a certain level of resourcefulness and tenacity possessed by the team which many fans don’t properly appreciate.
It’s all right to feel frustrated about the Yankees. However, if you’re going to fault the Yankees for a perceived lack of energy or hustle, take into account the toll that injuries and fatigue has taken on their collective minds and bodies, and acknowledge that they’ve managed to remain a 100-win team despite all of that. If that isn’t evidence of energy, or hustle, or fight, I don’t know what is.