The five worst moments of the Yankees’ season have a unifying theme. Each one is a singular event that highlights a greater flaw within this Yankee season. It is a takeaway that is unsurprising but emphasizes the many failures that the Yankees saw in 2023. This list could expand well beyond five, but for the sake of brevity (and our sanity), here are the five worst moments of the Yankees’ season.
1. Judge hits rock (concrete) bottom (6/3/23)
Bullpens are meant for pitchers, not MVP right-fielders. But one faithful day in June, Aaron Judge ended up in the visitor’s bullpen at Dodger Stadium, crashing through an unstable fence and injuring his toe in the process. The injury cost Judge nearly two months and the Yankees were never able to recover. The loss of Judge highlighted what many already knew at that point in the season—the Yankees lineup without Judge was below average at best. The Yankees played below .500 baseball during Judge’s absence and the lineup remained stagnant even after his return. You have to wonder what Judge’s statistics would have looked like if he never got injured. Could he have hit 60 again? We will never know.
2. Meltdown in Colorado (7/16/23)
The second half of the season was supposed to be a fresh start for the Yankees. The combination of a new hitting coach and a series against the worst Rockies team in Colorado history were supposed to provide a springboard for a turnaround.
It did not. The rubber game of this series saw the Yankees blow two-run leads in both the eighth and 11th innings. Clay Holmes gave up his first home run of the season—a grand slam in the 8th after Tommy Kahnle loaded the bases—providing the first gut-punch of the game. However, the Yankees came back to tie it in the ninth before building another two-run lead in extra innings. In the 11th, with the Yankees leading, 7-5. Nick Ramirez threw one pitch before surrendering a two-run homer to Nolan Jones to tie the game. With two outs in that same inning, Ron Marinaccio came on in relief. This story ends with Alan Trejo hitting a walk-off home run off of Marinaccio. Trejo hit four home runs all season.
The Yankees would go 10-20 over their next 30 games, essentially ending any hope for a playoff appearance.
3. Anthony Rizzo’s injury (5/28/23)
The play seemed harmless at the time. A pickoff attempt, and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s failure to slide back into first, ended with a collision that rattled Rizzo. The replays confirmed Rizzo’s head collided with Tatis’ thigh/hip area. The Yankees first baseman would miss three games with what the Yankees were calling a stiff neck before a return to the lineup saw him struggle mightily.
Rizzo suffered a concussion on that play with Tatis, but it wasn’t until more than two months after the initial injury that Rizzo was placed on the injured list. Everyone seemed to make the connection between Rizzo’s poor performance and his injury except for the Yankees themselves. It was a spectacular blunder that represented failure by every level of the organization, one that cost them one of their most productive hitters while putting that hitter’s safety at risk.
4. Giancarlo’s baserunning blunder (8/5/23)
If you could take one play, bottle it, and say, “This is what the 2023 Yankees season felt like” it was this baserunning play by Giancarlo Stanton. On a beautiful August day in the Bronx, DJ LeMahieu hits a single to right field and Stanton exhibited the speed of anyone but a professional athlete. The play lacked so much athleticism that the only reasonable explanation would have been an injury. After the game, Boone defended the play, explaining that Stanton probably took a non-efficient route and thus pulled back. The play left the crowd confused and was a microcosm of the dead weight that clogged up much of the Yankees lineup all season.
You could pull from a slew of baserunning mistakes and defensive miscues this season, but this particular play resonated with me for how it perfectly represented the Yankees in 2023.
5. Tommy John for Jasson (9/14/23)
I know this post has focused a lot on injuries, but given the severity and big-name players associated with them, it’s only fair to include them on this list. Jasson Domínguez’s injury was no exception. His first career home run was included in the Yankees’ “five best moments” post from last week, but his sudden elbow injury was enough to land him in this article as well.
A thrilling start to his career — and a reason to enjoy the remainder of the season — was ended too soon. The timetable for his recovery is 9-10 months. The future is bright for the young prospect but the reality of his injury was crushing for Yankee fans.