ALDS Yankees Rays Baseball
NEW YORK (AP) — Luke Voit, backwards cap atop his head, was disgusted and dismayed.
Eyes downcast, he summed up the New York Yankees’ 11th straight season without a title, the team’s widest expanse of failure since the desert between the Reggie Jackson era and the Derek Jeter renaissance.
“I hate this feeling. It sucks, the third year in a row going through it,” the major league home run champion said. “So I’m going to use it in every workout, every BP session, cage session I have and be ready for spring training this year.”
The 2020 season was so different, with the novel coronavirus pandemic cutting the schedule from 162 games to 60, sparking a summer camp of training part two and causing Yankee Stadium’s stands to fill with echoes on game nights rather than the usual boisterous fans.
But the denouement was similar to 2019's. Aroldis Chapman gave up a home run that eliminated New York from the playoffs, this time Mike Brosseau’s eighth-inning drive in Division Series Game 5 against Tampa Bay following a walkoff shot by Houston’s José Altuve in the ninth inning of Championship Series Game 6.
Not even the addition of ace Gerrit Cole for a $324 million, nine-year contract was enough to make the difference.
Now general manager Brian Cashman faces a series of key decisions. Big league batting champion DJ LeMahieu is eligible for free agency along with pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton. New York has a $17 million option on pitcher J.A. Happ the team made sure would not become guaranteed and a $10 million option on 37-year-old outfielder Brett Gardner, the last link to the Yankees’ 2009 champions.
Giancarlo Stanton is expected to keep the remaining $218 million and seven guaranteed seasons left in his contract rather than opt out, and reliever Zack Britton appears likely to stay under either player or club options.
“We’re going to get there. I know it. And it’s going to make it all the sweeter,” Aaron Boone said after his third unfulfilling season as manager.
New York is expected to exercise Boone’s option for 2021 or to give him a new contract.
“There’s a lot of pain in that room. There’s a lot of closeness and love for one another in that room,” Boone said after Friday night’s 2-1 loss. “A lot of people in that room have been through the battles together, where we’ve had a lot of success and had some heartbreaking playoff losses. And it stinks, you know, it stings. I do believe it makes us closer and hopefully continues to make us hungrier.”
Boone knows he’s being second-guessed for his decision to use rookie Deivi García as an opener in Game 2 and replace him after one inning with Happ. García gave up a solo homer and Happ a pair of two-run drives in an 7-5 loss. Happ revealed he had lobbied to start and brusquely deferred questions on his use to Boone.
“I’m sure there will be people that take it to if we just started a guy and went with them, we win the game,” Boone said, “I mean, that’s kind of ridiculous. All over the league things like this are done and done really effectively, and we’ve done really effectively."
“So it was just a great back-and-forth series with another great team that has a chance to go win a world championship, and it came down to basically the last inning of the series. I don’t think anyone’s surprised by that necessarily. And we came up short. I dissect everything, usually on a nightly basis. I certainly can look back and reflect on things, but I don’t have them regrets,” he said.
Despite an $84 million payroll as adjusted for the shortened season, third-highest in the major leagues, the Yankees lost to the $29 million Rays, a team whose spending was third from bottom. Tampa Bay beat the Yankees eight of 10 times during the regular season,
For the second straight season, the Yankees were decimated by injuries. After 30 players made 39 trips to the injured list in 2019, the Yankee restructured their health and performance staff and replaced pitching coach Larry Rothschild with the more analytically minded Matt Blake. In a season just 37% of normal length, 16 players had 18 stints on the IL.
Aaron Judge (strained right calf) and Stanton (strained left hamstring) missed long stretches for the second year in a row. While Stanton batted .308 with six homers and 13 RBIs in the playoffs, Judge hit .133 (4 for 30) with three homers and five RBIs.
Voit, who led the major leagues with 22 home runs during the season despite plantar fasciitis in a foot that might need surgery, was 2 for 18 (.111) with a solo homer against the Rays. Gio Urshela was 2 for 19 (.105) and catcher Gary Sánchez was benched for four of five games in favor of Kyle Higashioka.
Attention immediately turned to the offseason and 2021. The rotation must be filled out behind Cole, García and left-hander Jordan Montgomery,
Former ace Luis Severino is expected back next season following Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, but hard-throwing reliever Tommy Kahnle had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 4 and is likely to miss all of next year.
Domingo Germán, who led the pitching staff for much of 2019, also was out the entire season while completing an 80-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
“We have the talent to do it,” Stanton said. “It’s just a matter of getting it done.”
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