SAN DIEGO — Luke Voit sat in a room somewhere in Petco Park, hunched over, elbows on his knees, his dejection obvious on his face. Outside, the Tampa Bay Rays were on the field in a nearly empty ballpark. In a perfect 2020 coronavirus pandemic picture, their family members stayed about a dozen rows back — socially distant — as the players danced on the field to the Yankees signature song: Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
The Rays were pointed in celebrating their American League Division Series-clinching 2-1 win over the Yankees. It could not make Voit or the Yankees feel any worse.
“There’s always a loser, and it sucks being on the losing end and I hate this feeling,” Voit said. “But I’m gonna do everything possible to figure it out because I was terrible this series. I feel like I let my team down and after, you know, having a good year. I need to be better. So there’s a lot of stuff I got to work on and improve overall as a player, hitting defense, you know, everything.
“They are awesome guys in this locker room, and that just kind of makes me want it more and more and more. I can’t play forever. So you gotta do what you can to take advantage of these opportunities when you get them.”
Friday night, the strangest, heaviest season in Yankees history ended in that bizarrely familiar fashion. For the fourth straight year, the Yankees season ended in disappointment. After spending a record $324 million on Gerrit Cole, and coming in with World Series expectations, the Yankees could not get out of the ALDS for the second time in four years.
“It’s tough every year, we come into spring training with a stacked team, ready to roll, a team that’s ready to compete for a World Series title every single year,” Aaron Judge said. “To come up short, the past couple years have been tough. Those are just scars.”
“They’re going to continue to make this team stronger, continue to make this team better. And it’s going to make that World Series title so much sweeter in the end,” Judge said. “So it’s just guys just need to continue to hold each other accountable. We’re gonna hold each other accountable in that room to continue to push each other and all season and in spring training next year and during the season and that’s all you can do as a team.”
The Yankees season ended with Aroldis Chapman giving up the game-winning home run for the second straight year. Last year it was the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve, who knew a slider was coming, and crushed it. Friday night, it was Mike Brosseau who hammered the Yankee closer’s fastball.
“I feel terrible,” Chapman said through team translator Marlon Abreu. “Nobody in our team wants to lose the game. Nobody wants to lose. I don’t, I particularly do not want to lose.”
“As a closer it’s part of my job to go into a game where it’s either we’re going to win or we’re going to lose and it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen both ways,” Chapman said. “It’s tough. But I do have a tough mind and you gotta put it aside and you got to keep moving.”
In the end, the Yankees were hurt by a lack of starting pitching depth with Luis Severino missing the year after Tommy John surgery. James Paxton was shut down in August with a flexor tendon strain. Domingo German spent the season serving a suspension under the league’s joint domestic violence policy.
Voit led the majors with home runs in the weird 60-game season and DJ LeMahieu, who is a free agent and should be a priority to re-sign, won the batting title. Judge and Giancarlo Stanton missed half the season with injuries. And on Friday, their bats went quiet. Judge’s home run was the Yankees’ only offense.
But Stanton was not ready to look at 2020 and diagnose the issues, nor was he ready to describe what the Yankees need to get over the hump.
“We have the talent to do it. I mean, I’m not gonna pick apart changes. We have the talent to do it,” Stanton said. “It’s just a matter of you haven’t got it done. And that’s, that.”
Aaron Bone snapped when asked if this season was a failure. The Yankees seemingly eternally optimistic manager said it’s just a matter of time.
“I hate that question every year because there’s failures and successes and no one in that room is a failure,” Boone said. “Our goal is to win a World Championship. That’s what we feel like we’re capable of. That’s the goal when we set out play back in Tampa and spring and then summer camp, nothing changed. Entering the playoff, nothing changed. We have a team capable I feel of being a champion. We haven’t gotten there yet. I believe in my heart we will and we just gotta keep keep grinding away at it.”
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