Seven years ago on this day, Aaron Judge took an overnight six hour car ride from Rochester to the New York area in preparation for his MLB debut.
The debut occurred less than 24 hours after Alex Rodriguez’s eventful Yankee tenure ended with an emotional night and in his first at-bat Judge announced his presence with a homer in his first at-bat.
Fast forward to the present and Judge is the captain of a team in dangerous waters, flirting with the .500 mark and getting close to sinking under the mark and threatening a run of winning seasons dating back to 1992. It is due to the Yankee inability to capitalize on a compelling 91-win 2017 by going from Game 7 of the ALCS to the next step of building a team capable of winning the whole thing.
Recent events are thanks to a series of catastrophic series of events from various injuries and absences leaving them with a barren starting rotation, an offense that beyond Judge often does not hit consistently and an occasional bullpen failure that results in new additions to the worst loss of the season which is what happened when Clay Holmes and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow five runs in a ninth inning to forget.
Drastic things are always possible like a big run such as the 1995 finish especially since several teams have made the postseason after holding 60-58 records, including that version of the Yankees, who unlike this incarnation added at the trade deadline by getting David Cone and Ruben Sierra.
There also seems not to be enough compelling evidence through 118 games to indicate a massive run is forthcoming and Fangraphs projects the odds to be 6.3 percent. The evidence is even more lacking if they cannot win the games Gerrit Cole pitches or the games where they score seven runs. For the record, the Yankees are 16-9 in his starts but also 5-7 in his last 12 outings.
The Yankees also provide less than compelling evidence based on their inability to win a series recently. Their last two series wins were against Oakland and Kansas City. The series win against Oakland featured an unlikely perfect game by someone whose rotation spot they are scrambling to fill especially with injuries to Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes.
The series in Oakland was part of a respectable 9-5 stretch that brought the Yankees to the coveted 10 games over .500 at 48-38. Getting to 10 games over often means a team is on the upswing but since then the Yankees 12-20 in their past 32 games, hardly the bastion of consistency.
The only sense of consistency was a three-game sweep against the Royals July 21-23 that halted a two-week streak of worst losses of the season taking place on Sundays since the Yankee flushed a 4-1 lead July 9 to the Cubs and got the hitting coach fired and then dropped an 8-7 technical decision to Colorado a week later ahead of a three-game sweep to the Angels that seemingly inspired that team to buy at the deadline.
Which is why when anyone watching the postgame show on the YES Network got the sense of a group struggling more than usual to cope with the reality of the latest version of the worst loss of the season.
“Every loss at this point, it’s not fun,” Holmes told reporters. “We know that the mountain gets bigger with every loss. We know we have to put together some wins, string them together and get some momentum going. Losses like these, they hurt.”
The Yankees have been making comments like Holmes’ remarks for weeks, saying things like the famous “it’s right in front of us” or “we hold the pen”.
“We’ve just got to flush it and get back on the process,” Cole told reporters. “We’ve got a tough series coming up. As a player, you’ve got to have a short memory in this situation and try to prepare for tomorrow as quickly as possible.”
Tomorrow means a stop in Atlanta for a meeting with the Braves, who posted a 27-3 football score in two games against the Mets. The Braves deploy a significantly lower-priced group who plays almost every day and was considerate enough to lose on Sunday to prevent both New York teams from falling into last place for the first time at this late date in the season.
In the meantime, barring a drastic shift in performance, the Yankees are likely staring at a day of reflecting on things to go wrong shortly after the final out is recorded Oct. 1 in Kansas City.