Two Deadline Approaches

In the days leading up to the July 31st MLB trade deadline, one would have figured the Yankees and Mets would be in the exact same position: buy and win at all costs.
That thought process in the preseason made perfect sense. After all, the Yankees and the Mets were supposed to be two legitimate World Series contenders.
Things have changed since the middle of March.
The Yankees have been the biggest disappointment in baseball. The Red Sox and Rays have surpassed them in the AL East, putting them at the point of no return as far as winning the division is concerned.
However, the second Wild Card puts the Yankees very much in the postseason conversation.
Despite all of their flaws and issues, the Yankees are only two games back in the loss column behind the Oakland A’s for the final postseason spot in the American League.
So how exactly do you handle the trade deadline?
The Yankees are not going to sell off assets considering they are within striking distance of the postseason, but considering their deficit in the AL East is it worth going all in on this 2021 team?
The Yankees should look to add to the roster, but the idea of making an all-in type of move in 2021 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
That said, the Yankees should think about adding to the roster, but with the mindset of trying to add for 2021 and beyond. Long-term moves make sense, short-sighted moves do not.
The Mets find themselves in a much different predicament.
They are in first-place in the NL East and could be a very dangerous postseason team.
It’s not to suggest the Mets should mortgage their future on one specific player, but their front office can think about the idea of making one move to potentially put the team over the top.
Is that player Kris Bryant or Max Scherzer? Uncertain, but if the Mets brass believes that one player can take the team to the next level, that is the move that should be made.
The Mets should be in a far more aggressive position come July 31 in comparison to the Yankees. The results in the standings are the ultimate proof.
This week should be about cautious buying for the Yankees and aggressive buying for the Mets.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts every Monday, Wednesday & Friday morning.

Make or Break Time

It’s been well documented in this column and throughout town that the New York Yankees have been baseball’s disappointment in the first half of the 2021 season.
The Yankees issues are well documented.
They are too reliant on right-handed power and lack the athleticism and balance that is needed to field a championship team in 2021.
Despite their obvious flaws and issues, the Yankees have a pulse because of two reasons: a winning West Coast road trip and the fact that Major League Baseball has two Wild Card teams.
The Yankees are 4.5 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second Wild Card and eight games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Personally, I don’t see a viable path for the Yankees overcoming the deficit in the division. However, if you want to hold onto that dream, pay close attention over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Yankees will play the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays eleven times before the month of August.
If the Yankees have any prayer of making the division race competitive, they have to play their best baseball of the season starting on Thursday.
The Yankees need a big second half if they’re to simply qualify for the postseason, because in the first half, they’ve were nowhere close to resembling a playoff team.
Think about three of their losses right before the All-Star break. In the soul-crushing losses the Yankees yucked up not one, not two, but three ninth-inning leads, including leads of four and five runs against the Angels and Astros, respectively.
To add insult to injury, the other loss was against the crosstown Mets.
It will be difficult to change the fabric of the Yankees lineup midseason, but it’s time to see if the team that was supposed to slug their way to the American League pennant can actually find a way to do exactly that.
There is no tomorrow, not just for Yankees manager Aaron Boone, but for this Yankee core as we know it. By the end of July, you’ll know as a fan if there will be an August or September worth fighting for.
Put up or shut up time indeed.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on The Ringer Podcast Network, which can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts every Monday, Wednesday & Friday morning.

The Broken Yankees

After the Yankees were humiliated by the Detroit Tigers right before Memorial Day, the entire team stressed the urgency of their most recent home stand.
Four games with the Tampa Bay Rays and three games with the Boston Red Sox.
To say the Yankees failed miserably doesn’t even do justice to what we watched last week at Yankee Stadium.
The performance of the team goes beyond the 2-5 performance over the seven games.
It’s obvious to anyone watching the first two months of the year that there is a simple truth regarding the Yankees: they are broken.
It’s funny to think about the 2021 Yankees being the Vegas frontrunner to win the American League.
Vegas assumed, like I did, that this would be a Yankee team that would be able to score a whole lot of runs and hit the ball out of the park pretty consistently.
But two-plus months into the year, the Yankees are dead last in the American League in runs scored.
Look up and down the lineup, and aside from Aaron Judge, where is the production?
There are plenty of guys underperforming. Who in their wildest dreams could have imagined DJ LeMahieu’s start to this year.?
The Machine has turned into the ground-ball machine and has been a shell of the player he was in 2019 and 2020.
He is not alone though, because the overall construction of the Yankee lineup is flawed. They are too right-handed and too reliant on the home run, which they are not hitting.
This lineup loves to do two things especially well: strikeout and hit into double plays.
They have also been an insanely sloppy team. They lead baseball in getting thrown out on the base paths. They play terrible defense and make way too many mental mistakes.
The sloppy play falls at the feet of manager Aaron Boone. Boone is a likable guy, but sadly his team has reflected his personality, and not in a good way.
The Yankees continue to make the same mental mistakes over and over again, and there is a major lack of accountability from their leader. Boone’s nice-guy act and constant cliche’s postgame have become a tired act.
Meanwhile, the difference in the Boston Red Sox from a year ago was on full display over the weekend.
The biggest reason for the Sox turnaround is Alex Cora returning to manage the team. He’s given them instant credibility, and they are back to playing a winning-brand of baseball since his arrival.
I see the impact that Cora has had on the Red Sox, and it’s the opposite with Boone and the Yankees.
With Boone in the final year of his contract, his seat could not be any hotter going into the summer months.
But the scrutiny shouldn’t stop with Boone. Longtime general manager Brian Cashman must take responsibility for the flaws with this team and the way it has been built.
The Yankees had a championship window starting in 2017 after a feel-good regular season and a surprise trip to Game 7 of the ALCS. Four years later, the Yankees seem further away from a championship.
Sure, there’s a lot of baseball left, and yes things can change.
But the Yankees are in a stage of development where they should be “World Series or Bust” mode.
This was supposed to be a down year for the American League, the Yankees time to capitalize. They’ve done nothing but fizzle and disappoint.
If it’s more of the same over the next four months, wholesale changes up and down the organization are needed.
For now, we’ll see if Cashman, Boone and the Yankees can put the pieces back together.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

It’s the Pitching Stupid!

Rewind the calendar about six weeks, and it was full-fledged panic mode in Yankees land.
The Yankees started the season 5-10. They were 2-8 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays and actually played worse than their record would indicate.
Over that 15-game stretch, I couldn’t really pinpoint one particular aspect of the game that was working well for the team.
That said, I always expected the Yankees to find their groove at some point in the regular season because a team with that much talent is usually going to perform to the back of the baseball card.
The Yankees have done exactly that. Since the 5-10 stretch, the Yankees have won a whole lot of series.
I’d make the argument that their most impressive series of the year was this past weekend against the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox are one of the most talented teams in baseball and a team the Yankees will likely meet if New York is still playing in October.
The Yankees won two dramatic games and found a way to sweep one of the hottest teams in all of baseball.
The negative vibes of early and mid-April have turned into walk-offs and post-game Gatorade showers.
So, what’s been the biggest difference from the Yankees of April to the Yankees of right now. It’s the pitching stupid!
Since mid-April, the Yankees starting rotation has been among baseball’s best units.
Offense is down across the sport, we all know that, but that does not in any way take away from what the Yankees rotation has been able to do.
Heading into Tuesday’s matchup against the Blue Jays, the Yankees starting rotation has hurled 35 consecutive scoreless innings.
It helps when you have Gerrit Cole, who clearly profiles as baseball’s second best pitcher, but he has had a whole lot of help recently.
Corey Kluber has so far lived up to the task of being a legitimate number-two starter. He has flashed the form we saw from him from 2014-2018 with the Cleveland Indians, and threw the Yankees first no-hitter in 21 years last week against Texas.
In addition to Kluber, Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery have been durable and reliable arms that have exceeded expectations.
The Yankees rotation went into the season with all sorts of questions. Two months into the season, it has provided a whole lot of answers.
It may not be the case for all four starters not named Gerrit Cole, but I do believe the success of the rotation throughout the last six weeks is sustainable.
The Yankees have put together the best rotation they have had in ten years, and help is still on the way. At some point, former ace Luis Severino will make his return to the team from Tommy John surgery.
Who knew that two months into the year, the success of the team would be tied to its pitching staff? That’s baseball Suzyn!

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday Night, Tuesday Night & Thursday Night on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple. There will also be bonus episodes on Wednesday & Friday Night after both Knicks playoff games.

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