Last night’s loss accentuated concerns about the 2022 Yankees

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The season is only four games old, and jumping to conclusions this soon is a dangerous game to play. That said, yesterday’s 3-0 loss to Toronto served as a reminder of some of the issues the Yankees have at hand. Some of these concerns predated the 2022 season, and although obvious opportunities existed to address such problems, the organization failed to provide answers.

Let’s set the stage from last night. In the bottom of the seventh, down 3-0, Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks reached base to start the inning against reliever Trevor Richards. Due up next were the eighth and ninth hitters, Kyle Higashioka and Marwin Gonzalez. Richards, who looked dreadful, could not be removed until facing a third hitter while the Blue Jays’ bullpen hurried a new arm.

Translation: Aaron Boone could have forced a shaky Richards to face Josh Donaldson in a pinch hit situation. He didn’t. Instead, Boone let Higashioka bat, who flew out on a 2-1 count. Then, in came sidewinder Adam Cimber, a very tough at bat for righties. Boone finally called upon Donaldson to hit for Gonzalez, but it was too late. Yes, JD hit the ball hard, but it was a double play to end the threat.

This decision came back to bite the Yankees again in the bottom of the ninth against closer Jordan Romano. With one on and two out, Higashioka ended the game with a strikeout while Donaldson waited on deck. Sigh.

Boone made a tactical mistake in the seventh, clearly. Richards was on the ropes and Donaldson had a much better chance of tying the game against him than Cimber. Higashioka just isn’t a good hitter. This wasn’t a difficult decision, and yet, it’s what happened.

Of course, the front office deserves some blame here as well. Call it apathy, call it blind faith, or call it something else, but to have hitters in the eighth and ninth spots on a nightly basis as bad as Higashioka and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (or Marwin Gonzalez, in last night’s instance) is embarrassing. You can live with one of the two in the nine spot, maybe. But two black holes? Yikes. Especially when there was a bounty of free agent shortstops available in the offseason.

Plus, it’s not like Boone’s in game tactics haven’t come under fire before. It’s well documented that making decisions on the fly isn’t his strength. Now, the front office is counting on Boone to make pivotal pinch hit decisions for the eighth and ninth hitters on a nightly basis. That’s a recipe for continued mistakes. Mistakes that could have been avoided with either: a) better players at shortstop and/or catcher or b) a better game manager. The Yankees had opportunities to make significant upgrades in both areas, but didn’t.

To make matters worse, Boone is limited to just three bench players right now. Was a fourth really not an option with 28 man rosters this month, especially in light of the brutal bottom of the order? At the very least, he would have had an opportunity to pinch hit for Higashioka in the ninth yesterday, which could have helped comb over the initial mishap.

Look, it’s not like the rest of the team was blameless for last night’s loss. It’s impossible to win scoring zero runs. In the grand scheme of things, this lineup from one through seven should be good enough to put up runs in bunches. Projections still like this team a good deal. But on nights like last yesterday against a tough starting pitcher, things need to break right on the margins. The front office and Boone did not allow that to happen yesterday, and I worry that this won’t be the last time we see this in 2022.

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13 Comments

  1. Mike

    Yet did take two out of four games and shut out that “ great “ offensive team twice

  2. Matt Gregingly

    Spot on analysis. The big problem last year for the Yankees was that they couldn’t score enough runs. Instead of fixing that issue the Yankees made it worse. Higgy and IKF are both batting .071.The Kiner-Falefa trade may go down as one of the worst in Yankees history. Sanchez and Urshela have both started out well from the plate. They would have balanced the lineup and neither one costs a lot of money. Donaldson looks old and slow and does cost a lot of money. Whether or not you wanted to move on from Gary, this trade was atrocious. Brian Cashman’s ego has sentenced the Yankees to being a pretty good team that can’t win the World Series. Ask Don Mattingly how it feels to be one of the best players in baseball but on a team that mismanages its way to being an annual runner up in the American League. It sucks.

  3. Tim

    So, you criticize the decision to let Higashioka hit for himself and then PH Donaldson for Marwin in the 7th, and then cite that because of this decision Higashioka had to face Jordan Romano as the final out in the 9th with Donaldson in the on deck circle. But, as you said, in that at bat in the ninth there was only one on. So, in your fantasy alternate reality Donaldson hits against Romano as the “not-tying run” and then, best case scenario, you’ve got Jose Trevino (who you cannot pinch hit for) as the tying run? It’s a sucky situation all around, because the catcher position is not an offensive contributor to the lineup in any configuration given the players on the roster. That’s not Boone’s fault – it’s Cashman’s.

    I know Boone didn’t (and couldn’t) know what was going to happen later in the game, so I am not trying to justify the decision like that. But the way it happened speaks to the fact that this is much more a roster construction issue and not as much a managerial decision issue.

  4. Luke

    This didn’t age well. Little premature to start posting stuff like this. Let’s give it a month or so and see how things go. Higgy might be black hole offensively but his defense and framing have been huge so far.

    • John

      yeah, 2 wins – nothing to say.
      2 losses, the sky is falling !!!
      it’s like RAB all over again.

      • Luke

        Exactly. If it was a daily recap of game I wouldn’t have batted a eye. A entire post a few games in? A bit much

  5. Joel

    Gallo and IKF have to go. Would Florial be worse than Gallo? I don’t think so. Miggy is a defensive liability, but even he would be better than Gallo. Gallo is a black hole. Glwyber will be back at short, or Peraza.

  6. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    I knew it was just a matter of time before the Higgy bashing started, Derek. I just didn’t think it’d come after only 4 games, a sample so small that no rational conclusion can be derived. What about Hicks doing nothing again? What about Stanton grounding out with the bases loaded? What about the runs Higgy saved with his excellent work behind the plate? Not to mention Higgy almost had a bloop single in that situation. If not for that great catch by Hernandez a run scores and another is on 3rd. Josh did come through and hit the ball up the middle but a great play by Bichette spoiled it. If you pinch hit Donaldson for Higgy then who hits for Marwin? I thought Boone made the right decision and it just didn’t work out because of some good defensive plays by the Jays. I do agree we need more than 3 bench players as I said yesterday. There’s no reason to have 700 relievers. Having one long reliever like Clarke is fine but we don’t need any more than that. With 28 players we should really have more than 3 bench players. Miggy Andujar, Florial, even Greg Bird could be a nice PH off the bench.

    • CalmerThanYouAre

      It’s hard to “bash” someone with a lifetime .181 batting average. Those sorts of numbers speak for themselves.

    • It’s not a small sample size on Higgy. It’s 398 career ABs where there’s been very little sign of improvement. What did he do this offseason that leads you to believe the 398 previous ABs aren’t indicative of who he is as a hitter?

  7. Jason

    Probably meant “last” instead of “first” at the end there Derek, which is a guarantee. This team is what Hal and Cashman want it to be, competitive but not really a championship contender. Those Jays look like one tho…must be nice.

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