I try really, really hard to be optimistic when it comes to sports.
On account of some things I’ve talked about on this site in the past, optimism doesn’t exactly come easy to me, so it really does take a concerted effort on my part to remain hopeful each season. I’ve been a writer for this site since last year’s trade deadline, and I’ve purposely tried to make sure that my content remained as positive as possible — I tried defending Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s defense in the early-going (boy was I wrong), and I tried to create some narrative magic around this team on a couple occasions. In fact, I think the most negative thing I’ve written this year was when I compared this team’s second half to a Marx Brothers farce.
Now, down 3-0 in the ALCS, I’m starting to realize just how excruciatingly difficult the Aaron Boone era of Yankees baseball makes it to remain optimistic.
Before I go on, I want to be clear: I’m not placing the blame for this entirely on Boone’s shoulders. Sure, he hasn’t really helped much, in my estimation, but I’m using his name here because his hiring was supposed to usher in a new period of Yankees glory with the Baby Bombers.
As a short history lesson that we all probably already know, in 2017 — I know, Girardi was manager back then, but bear with me — the Yankees were one game away from the World Series, but dropped the ALCS in painful fashion to the Astros 4-3.
There was reason to be optimistic about the future, though.
The team’s core was so young, and Boone was brought on board in 2018 to ostensibly give an edge to the new era of Yankees baseball — one that was younger, and cooler, and ... swaggier. (Please don’t revoke my writing license for using that word. My brain is mush right now.) This core was set up to dominate baseball for a long time.
Since being hired, Boone’s posted a 427-281 record (.603 winning percentage). That’s an extraordinary mark for a first-time manager.
On the flip side, though, we all know that it’s October success that defines a legacy, and that’s where the Yankees, under Boone’s leadership, start to fall apart. Despite regular season success over the last five seasons, these Yankees have failed to make the jump, leading to disappointing Octobers year-in, year-out. And, for the most part, it’s been the same story over and over again: the offense, the very same unit that appears to be world beaters during the regular season (2021 notwithstanding), disappears in the postseason.
Since 2018, the Yankees have lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS (3-1), lost to the Astros in the ALCS (4-2), lost to the Rays in the ALDS (3-2), and lost to the Red Sox again in the winner-take-all Wild Card. Aside from last year, it’s felt like they’ve always been on the cusp of breaking out in October, only to flame out in spectacular fashion.
There’s a lot that I’ve skipped over in that little history section — failed player development, mind-bogglingly stupid excuses for poor execution, etc. — and there is plenty of blame to go around, but the point still stands: in the past five seasons of what was supposed to be a new era of Yankees greatness, this team has fallen flat on its face.
The most frustrating part of this lack of postseason success is just how predictable it has all become. The offense (other than Giancarlo Stanton, most of the time) disappears when they’re needed the most, and they make the series just close enough that you still have a glimmer of hope, only for that positivity to be viciously snatched in heartbreaking fashion.
With the Yankees once again finding themselves in a series deficit against the Houston Astros in the ALCS, it’s really hard to even look for that glimmer of hope because it just feels all too familiar. While the first two games were close contests that could’ve been swung by one big hit coming through, Game 3 was a no-contest decimation. That’s the kind of result that ended the 2017 ALCS, and while this series isn’t technically over yet they’re right on the brink of cleaning out lockers already. It’s really tough to remain positive.
As we’ve seen this year, however, anything can happen in the postseason. I suppose that’s about the most optimistic take you’re going to get from me.