The Yankees are coming off a massively disappointing 2023 season — missing the playoffs for the first time in years and barely finishing above .500 with an 82-80 record.
Most fans predicted around 100 wins before the season began — NY won 99 last year and have won between 91 and 103 games since 2017 (sans the Covid-interrupted seasons).
They started off well, but injuries to Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, Nestor Cortes, and Carlos Rodon ultimately sank them — a bad July turned into a horrible August with a Titanic-like 9-game losing streak.
They finished in a flurry — the hottest MLB team in September with a 20-12 record after August 27th — but it was too little too late.
What went right — what went wrong — and what’s next.
In the 1st article of this 3-part series, we covered what went RIGHT.
In this article, what went WRONG:
What Went Wrong
The Yankee season was a 3-part play:
- NY was 38-28 on June 10th, 8.5 games behind Tampa, 3 behind Baltimore, but leading a Wild Card spot.
- NY went 24-40 in the middle of the season to go 62-68 on August 27, 19 games behind 1st place Baltimore, and 11 games behind a Wild Card.
- NY went 20-12 from August 28th to the end of the season, missing a Wild Card by 7 games.
Here’s how it all fell apart:
1. The Injuries to Judge & Rizzo
Judge’s Toe and the Fence
The Yanks were 35-25 on June 3rd — in 2nd place, 6 games back of Tampa — when Aaron Judge ran into fence at Dodger Stadium making the great catch. He was batting .291 with a .404 OBP. The Yanks won the next day to go 36-25. When Judge came back on July 28th, NY was 54-49 and in free fall.
- Freeman signed a 6-year, $27M a year contract through age 37 with the Dodgers. Freeman has had 2 terrific years so far in LA, slashing 21-100-.325 (.407 OBP) in ’22 and 29-102-.331 (.410 OBP) in ’23.
- Olson signed a 9-year, $22M/yr contract through age 36 with Atlanta. Olson slashed 34-103-.240 (.325 OBP) in ’22, and had a Monster 2023, slashing 54-139-.283 (.389 OBP).
- The Yanks signed Rizzo to a more modest 3-year, $17M/yr contract through age 34 (with a team option for an additional year. Rizzo — a phenomenal defender and best defender of the 3 — slashed 32-75-.224 (.338 OBP) in ’22, and started off 2023 on Fire.
On May 28th, Anthony Rizzo had 11 homers and was batting .304 (.376 OBP). That’s when Fernando Tatis Jr. banged into Rizzo’s head trying to get back to 1st on a pick-off attempt by the Yanks. Rizzo stumbled away visibly shaken.
The Yanks would find out on August 4th that Rizzo had suffered a concussion and was playing with post-concussion symptoms. He would only bat .172 in his next 162 at bats — a shell of his early-season self — clogging up the Yankees #3 spot in the order all June and July until the Yanks figured it out and put him on the Injured List on August 1st.
Without those 2 key hitters the Yankee offense floundered.
In an era of historically low batting averages, where only 3 players batted .300 in the AL, and most teams only have 3 guys who have decent batting averages (and they all bat 1-2-3 in the order) — the Yanks lost 2 of their best 3 hitters for an extended period.
2. The 9-Game Losing Streak
But even with all that, the Yankees were 60-56 after beating Miami on Friday, August 11 — 4 games back of a Wild Card. The Yanks didn’t ‘sell’ at the trade deadline of July 30th — figuring they had a shot at a Wild Card, 3.5 back at the time.
On Sunday, August 13, Gerrit Cole pitched a masterpiece and NY had a 7-3 lead entering the 9th. But Clay Holmes blew the save — the ugliest loss of the year for NY. And that kicked off a 9-game losing streak.
By the end of it, just over a week later on August 22nd — the Yanks were 60-65 — out of the race, 10 behind the Wild Card.
It took a 3-homer game by Aaron Judge to snap them out of the losing streak.
3. Rodon Shit the Bed
Jameson Taillon was a key pitcher for the Yanks in 2022, going 14-5 3.91. But he didn’t do well in a relief appearance in the playoffs, angering many Yankee fans who were ecstatic when the Yanks ‘leveled up’ by letting Taillon walk as a free agent, and instead signing Carlos Rodon. Rodon was considered one of the best pitchers in the NL, and slashed 14-8 2.88 for San Fran in 2022.
The 29-yr-old Rodon signed a 6-year, $27M/yr deal with the Yanks while the 31-yr-old Taillon signed a 4-year, $16M/yr contract with the Cubs.
Carlos Rodon started the season on the injured list due to a forearm injury in spring training. He was going to be delayed until late April. Then we heard his back went out on him too, so he was going to be delayed until July.
- He would make his first start of the season on July 7th — and pitched ok.
- But in his next 2 starts, got belted for 4 runs in 6 innings, and 6 runs in 4 innings.
- He pitched a good start against the Mets at the end of July, but
- Then got belted some more in his first 2 starts of August — 4 runs in 4 innings, and 5 runs in 2.2 innings.
- He then pitched 3 pretty good starts in a row (vs Washington, Tampa and Houston), but
- Got Belted against Detroit (7 runs in 3.2 innings).
- He then pitched 3 good starts in a row (vs Boston and Pittsburgh and Arizona),
- But he got BOMBED in his last start — one of the worst starts in history — with 8 runs allowed in the 1st inning against last-place Kansas City without getting an out.
And so that’s where the season leaves off — Rodon having slashed 3-8 6.85 and ending the season with the worst start in Yankee history.
He tried too hard. He had the back problem. He didn’t have the velocity. The pitch clock hurt him (he had had success in recent years slowing down his pace). At least his wife Ashley staunchly defended him all season, fighting with some fans in the process.
At end of season manager Aaron Boone left us with not the words we wanted to hear. Instead of Boone telling us to not worry about Rodon, he is an elite ace and this was just a blip — Boone instead said:
“Obviously a lot to work on this winter. There’s no doubt in the talent. We’ve seen enough this year to know we can get that out — but obviously we have to have a good winter with him and come ready to go in spring training and hopefully have this year be one of those things that throws a log on the fire and motivates you. The one thing again that he has going for him is he has ability, and he has the stuff.”
4. Giancarlo ‘Non Si Pue Colpire La Palla’
That means, “Couldn’t hit the ball.” Versus John Sterling‘s “Giancarlo, non si pue de parlo”, which means “..can’t speak.”
Maybe it should be ‘Non Si Pue eseguire le basi” which means “..can’t run the bases.”?
Giancarlo Stanton was batting .269 on April 15 — NY having played 13 games — when he hit the homer that ended up being a double off the wall, and he turned his homerun jog into a sprint to 2nd — pulling his hamstring.
He was out for a month and a half — the rest of April and all of May — and when he returned he was not the same. Within 13 games his average plunged under .200 and would stay there all season. He ran the bases gingerly all year — obviously over-careful so as not to re-sprain the hamstring.
He was running so slowly that comparisons to people’s grandmothers were constant.
Only very late in September — after a whirlwind of criticism started to swirl about him running too gingerly — did he start to run at full steam.
Giancarlo still had some big hits and HR’s — his final slash line: 24-60-.191 (.275 OBP, .695 OPS) in 371 at bats. The HR’s were there, but even in an era of historically low averages, that is not what the Yankees were expecting or paying for.
Stanton was 33 years old this year, and in a non-steroid era, 34 is 34 again — an age when most great hitters of the past have had big fall offs in average, or retired.
Stanton has 4 years left on his contract through age 37, at $32M to $25M a year (graduating downward).
5. Severino Sucked. Finally Pitched Well At End
Luis Severino had 2 good starts in April and then absolutely sucked from May, thru June, thru July, into August.
There was a 14-1 loss to Baltimore, in the middle of July, and a 9-3 loss to Baltimore at the end of July after which Severino said he felt like the worst pitcher in baseball. Then came a 7-3 loss to Houston in early August where he was knocked down again, and a 9-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox where the Yanks brought Severino in for relief and he still got Bombed. He lost all confidence, and after the White Sox bombing said, “I’m just having the worst year of my life at baseball.”
FINALLY, he started to pitch well:
- First an under-the-radar good start against the Atlanta Braves, then
- 6.2 shutout innings vs Washington and
- 7-innings of shutout ball vs Detroit.
- A decent start against Houston and finally
- A good start against Milwaukee on Sept 8 wherein he suffered an oblique sprain while pitching and was pulled from the game. “I felt like somebody shot me,” said Severino afterwards — possibly his last pitch thrown as a Yankee.
Severino slashed 4-8 6.65. He is a free agent at end of the year.
6. Cortes Injury
Nestor Cortes started the season pitching well but by late April started to cough up runs around the 5th inning. By May his ERA went into the 5.xx’s. He was diagnosed with a rotator cuff strain and shut down at the end of May.
He returned on August 5th and pitched a good game against Houston, but the next two days had more soreness than usual. It was the same rotator cuff strain, and he was shut down for the season.
He finished with a 5-2 4.97 record.
7. The Starting Pitching
If you combine #3 (Rodon Shitting the Bed), #5 (Severino sucking for most of the year), and #6 (Cortes injury) above — you get Aaron Boone’s point late in the year when he was asked what went wrong. His answer was the starting pitching. Many Yankee fans on twitter ridiculed this statement, feeling the Yanks had no Hitting all year.
But there was no hitting all over baseball (except Atlanta and Texas), and the Yankees had come into the year with 3 to 4 Aces — and ended up with 1 (Cole). Throw in Domingo German’s alcoholism and inconsistent starts and that makes 4 of the 6 pitchers the Yanks went into the season with bombed out in one way or another.
The Yanks were left with Cole and Schmidt and pray for Jhony Brito.
Take a look at NY vs Baltimore vs Tampa’s starting staffs below. The Yankees entered the year with the best starting staff by far — but the other teams’ pitchers were on the mound winning consistently.
8. Who’s On 3rd Base?
The Yanks went into the season with:
- Josh Donaldson at 3rd, with
- DJ LeMahieu backing up, with
- Former Gold Glover Isiah Kiner-Falefa backing him up, and with
- Oswald Peraza also around to win a position.
In 2022, Donaldson had slashed 15-62-.222 (.308) and played Great defense but 2023 was a disaster for the 37 year old. He played the first 5 game of the year then pulled a hamstring and missed most of April and all of May. He returned in June and hit homers at a good clip — but hit for a miserable batting average. He slashed 10-15-.142 (.225 OBP) for NY in 106 at bats. Incredibly, he got 15 hits for NY and 10 of them were homers — so his HR rate was up.
Then on July 16 he went out with a Grade 3 high calf strain. The Yanks put him on waivers at the end of August so he could be picked up by a playoff-bound team. Milwaukee signed him and he went to the playoffs.
LeMahieu Hit Like Crap 1st Half of Year; Moved to 1st After Rizzo Injury
DJ LeMahieu was the Yankee 3rd baseman in April and May when Donaldson was out with the hamstring. He played 3rd after Donaldson went out with the calf strain, then became the Yankee 1st baseman when Anthony Rizzo was put on the IL with post-concussion symptoms.
LeMahieu looked like dogshit for most of the season, then came on in the last month and a half — coincidentally or not — after the Yanks fired their hitting coach Dillon Lawson and replaced him with Sean Casey. LeMahieu played 1st base from mid August to the end of the season and finished slashing 15-44-.243 (.327 OBP) which, believe it or not, was a respectable average in this era of historically low batting averages.
IKF Didn’t Play 3rd Much
Isiah Kiner-Falefa did not play much 3rd base — he was in left field or center when he played. IKF had a pretty good year: 6-37-.242 (.306 OBP) and played ably anywhere the Yanks put him, including pitcher. IKF was 0-0 2.25 in 4 innings as a pitcher in games the Yanks were getting clobbered.
Peraza Played 3rd in September
The year ended with Oswald Peraza being given 3rd base.
- Peraza started the year for NY, and batted .188 in April into early May in 10 games started — so the Yanks sent him down to AAA, where he did well — hitting homers and batting in the .260s.
- The Yanks brought him back up on July 16, and he had 2 great games — walking 4 times in one — before going 1-18 with 13 strikeouts in the next 5 games so they sent him back down again.
- NY brought Peraza back up on August 22 to play 3rd base with Donaldson injured and LeMahieu at 1st — and Peraza went 2 for 33 before having a 3-hit day on Sept 3rd.
- Peraza hit the ball pretty well in September and finished the year 2-14-.191 (.267) in 173 at bats.
- He has shown an ability to walk and hit the long ball, and can Really pick it in the field with a Strong arm — but he swings through some pitches and the batting average shows it.
9. Left Field
Oswaldo had looked so good at the end of 2022, the Yankees opted to give him a shot at left field — instead of re-signing Andrew Benintendi — with Hicks the backup if the newbie failed.
Well the newbie failed. And Aaron Hicks failed.
Oswaldo was a major disappointment for most of the year, then finally heated up in September and started to look like the player the Yanks saw the year before.
Oswaldo slashed 5-29-.211 (.275 OBP) in 298 at bats.
Aaron Hicks was a complete disaster, batting .188 in 69 at bats but more importantly, complaining that he was not playing. He ended the prior season having asked through the media to be traded in early September in the middle of a pennant race, then started April 0f 2023 saying he didn’t understand his role (throwing the manager under the bus), then played poorly, and then got DFA’d by the Yanks on May 20.
Baltimore picked up Hicks and he had a great season for them, 7-31-.275 (.381 OBP) in 200 at bats.
PS: The 28-year old Andrew Benintendi slashed 5-45-.262 (.326 OBP) with the White Sox after having signed a 5-year, $17M a year deal with them.
10. Franchy, Bauers, McKinney, Calhoun
This was the year of Franchy Cordero, Jake Bauers, Billy McKinney, and Willie Calhoun — all lefty batters who the Yanks brought in on the cheap to give the lineup lefty punch. All did surprisingly well for a while, but then the glass slippers got lost.
GM Brian Cashman finally seems to have come to the realization that Yankee teams with lefty power hitters do well, because Yankee Stadium is made for them.
- GM Gabe Paul knew this in the 1970’s, and built a 2-time Yankee championship team around that fact (with Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Oscar Gamble, Jim Spencer and switch hitter Roy White).
- The Yankees of the late 90’s also had some top-tier lefty power bats (Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Darryl Strawberry, and switch hitters Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada), as did
- The 2009 team (Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, and switch hitters Posada, Mark Texeira, Nick Swisher, and Melky Cabrera).
This Aaron Judge Yankee team has had almost exclusively righty power hitters. Anthony Rizzo was brought in to play 1st base. Oswaldo Cabrera is a switch hitter. And that’s it.
- Franchy Cordero started off RED HOT in April, but then got ICE COLD, and finished the year 6-13-.188 (.211 OBP) in 69 at bats. He slashed 13-61-.288 (.403 OBP) in 292 at bats in AAA Scranton — that only shows the HUGE difference these days between AAA and the majors.
- Jake Bauers also started off RED HOT but finished at 12-30-.202 (.279 OBP) in 242 at bats. He was with the team most of the year — playing an excellent defensive left field and right field, and a not-so-excellent 1st base even though he originally came up with Tampa as a great defensive 1st baseman (said Suzyn Waldman on the radio constantly). Bauers started the year in AAA and slashed 11-23-.359 (.485 OBP) in 78 at bats at Scranton — which again shows the HUGE difference between MLB and AAA these days — teams don’t have the bullpens in AAA that MLB teams have.
- Billy McKinney slashed 6-14-.227 (.320) in 128 at bats and had a lot of big hits in the 2nd half of the year. In this era of historically low averages, it’s hard to say how well he did. Would he bat .260 ten years ago? McKinney also played a tremendous defensive outfield.
- Willie Calhoun can hit hit hit. His slash line: 5-16-.239 (.309). He was DFA’d in July to make room for Greg Allen and his speed and defense. Allen was later DFA’d when NY brought up the kids in September.
11. Trevino Injury
Jose Trevino was an All Star in 2022 (finishing at 11-43-.248 (.283 OBP), but didn’t look as good out of the gate in 2023. His batting was down (4-15-.210 (.257 OBP)) and he didn’t look the same defensively. In mid July it was announced that Trevino had a torn ligament in his right wrist that he had been playing with since an injury in Spring training.
The Trevino injury didn’t hurt the Yankees that badly as they had an abundance of catchers. Kyle Higashioka became the starting catcher. Ben Rortvedt, finally healthy, took over as the backup and did well, becoming Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. In September, Austin Wells came up and took over the starting catching job, with Higgy the backup, and with Rortvedt as Cole’s catcher.
12. German Alcoholism
After the Perfect Game, German had a so-so July, getting belted a few times, but on July 31 threw 5 shutout innings in a start against Tampa. It would be his last start, as the Yankees suspended him for an alcoholic outburst in the clubhouse and we all learned that he’s been dealing with a drinking problem for years — thus the incident with his girlfriend-at-the-time-now-wife several years ago.
German slashed an inconsistent 5-7 4.56. He likely will never play again for the Yankees.
13. Injuries to Loaisiga, Trivino
The Yankees had a great bullpen all year. But it could’ve been even better.
Jonathan Loaisiga went out after 3 appearances in early April for surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. He came back on August 11th and made 17 appearances — going 0-2 3.06 in 17 innings. But on Sept 15 he was put back on the IL with elbow inflammation.
Lou Trivino, the former ace reliever who had done so well for NY late in 2022 after being acquired from Oakland — was out all season.
And then there is of course Aaron Boone, who some fans hate and want fired, and others are kind of ok with.
Boone has a penchant for pulling a contrary move with his bullpen based on an old-fashioned hunch that often doesn’t work out. Some fans say he costs the Yanks 5-7 games a year with those Boone-headed moves.
This season, he seemed to cost the Yanks 5 or 6 games in the 1st half with those moves, but his hunches seemed to play out better in the 2nd half. There weren’t many games — even during the 9-game losing streak — where fans were screaming at a Boone move. Although there were a few..
Boone has made a name for himself as an excellent argue-er with umps so there’s that. And the players love him — with Aaron Judge amongst other outwardly sticking up for him.
Next: Part 3 of 3 — What’s Next?