For the fourth-straight season, the Yankees bowed out of the playoffs to a team that was widely considered to be the best in the American League. The Yankees have considered themselves the best in baseball across recent years, and they certainly have the talent to hold up such an argument, but once again, shortcomings within the roster showed up in October and kept the Bombers out of the World Series for yet another season.
The 2017 loss was obviously painful, as is any loss when a win would have put you in the Fall Classic, but that ALCS defeat felt like a precursor for a team operating ahead of schedule. Now, for the past three years, the franchise has fallen behind the pace set by the 2017 group. This team, starting in 2018, was supposed to consistently fight for a title, and they haven’t been able to even get in position to accomplish that feat.
The biggest reason for falling short? The lack of aggression when it comes to addressing areas of need. The Yanks tried in 2018 by adding starters like J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn when the rotation needed strengthening, but neither worked out in October. Then, in 2019, little was done at the trade deadline when Luis Severino struggled to fight off multiple injuries and Happ became a shell of his 2018 self. Then, come October and the ALCS, the bullpen had been stretched thin, leading to a bullpen day in Game Six that ended with the walk-off home run to Jose Altuve.
Fast forward one calendar year, and another late-inning home run surrendered by the once-mighty pen has eliminated the Yanks. Aroldis Chapman was tasked with a heavy workload on back-to-back days, and it turned into the lefty surrendering another brutal playoff home run. Of course, the Yankees got to this point due to a gaping hole in the starting rotation, where outside of Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, there were no clear-cut solutions for who would get the ball as the series progressed.
The Yankees had to know this issue would arise. After all, Luis Severino’s injury was known before the season began, and Paxton and Tommy Kahnle’s injuries occurred before the trade deadline this season. Options for arms weren’t flush by any means, but any kind of move to bolster the pitching staff would have put the Yanks in a much better spot to finish off Tampa Bay. One more starter relieves Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman of the much-discussed game two decision to bring in Happ after one inning from Deivi García. Instead, that will now be seen by many as a major reason the Yanks are headed home, fair or not.
The Yanks have always preached their belief in being the best team when fully healthy, but really, what comfort does that bring? The team has struggled with injuries enough to know that moves have to be made to mask such challenges. Of course, signing Cole was a big indicator that the team was going all in for its 28th title, but what about the smaller, hole-filling moves that need to be made throughout the season? Those haven’t been seen the past two years, but the lack of such moves has been easily apparent when these past two seasons have ended.
The Yankees have the means to always be competitive, but for this group that captivated New York in 2017, the window doesn’t feel as open as it once did. Making a signing like Cole should mean the franchise is all in even outside of that signing, and for the past two years, it hasn’t felt that way. In the book Inside the Empire, Cashman’s thought process of the randomness of October baseball is made apparent, but shouldn’t that mean the best possible team should be put together before October begins, even if it means making a trade or two at the deadline? There were no such moves this year, and once again, there will be no parade for the Yankees.