April 2, 2018

Schadenfreude 219 (A Continuing Series)

After the Yankees won 6-1 on Opening Day, the Post published this front page:

The Yankees are now 2-2, and are looking up at the Red Sox (3-1) in the AL East standings. Fourteen teams have grounded into fewer double plays than Aaron Judge has all by himself. Four outfielders have gone on the DL since the season began. Dellin Betances and David Robertson blew late-inning leads on consecutive days to the lowly Blue Jays.

The Post should have slapped this on the Monday morning edition:

Peter Botte, Daily News:
And Boone goes the dynamite, for the first time as manager of the Yankees.

The second-guessing of Joe Girardi's replacement holding the pinstriped binder started immediately on Sunday, even before the supposed biggest strength of this loaded team – its bullpen – completely imploded for the second consecutive day, with David Robertson surrendering a go-behind grand slam to Justin Smoak in the eighth inning of a gut-punching 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays.

Before anyone starts thinking about chanting that it's already time for Aaron Boone to go – or about flying a plane pulling a banner saying as much – during Monday's home opener festivities back in the Bronx, however, know that Robertson insisted afterward that his manager presented him the choice of facing ailing former AL MVP Josh Donaldson or Smoak – who wore out Yankees pitching all weekend – in that inning.

The veteran reliever chose to issue the intentional walk to Donaldson to load the bases and go after Smoak.

Smoak 'em if ya got 'em. ...

Even if completely true, this undoubtedly was the first true questionable decision Boone had to answer for since his surprise ascension to the manager's seat, despite no prior experience in that job at any level.
Joel Sherman, Post:
For a team with a great bullpen, the Yankees so far have one lousy bullpen.

Aaron Boone noted it has been just four games and that small samples are magnified this time of year because all that is available are small samples. He promised that over the full season the relief corps would be "not just a strength but an overwhelming strength."

For now, though, it is making the new manager look bad. He was burned asking Dellin Betances to go a second inning Saturday. And on Sunday, he made the kind of by-the-numbers decision that turned his predecessor, Joe Girardi, into a caricature of a binder with legs. ...

After Smoak clobbered a grand slam off Robertson to create what would be the 7-4 final, the bullpen was responsible for 11 of the 15 runs scored against the Yankees this year. Remove three dominant innings of relief by Green – including two Sunday – and the rest of the pen has yielded four homers in 40 at-bats and pitched to a 9.90 ERA.

In fact, neither area of power that made leaving the broadcast booth for this job so attractive to Boone has yet really manifested. ...

"I was one pitch away and I didn’t get it done," Robertson said.

Nope. The fastball was Smoak-ed. Robertson had yielded his first grand slam since 2010. And after the glee of opening the season and Boone's tenure 2-0, the Yanks return for their 116th home opener having penned a terrible conclusion to their first series of the year.
George A. King III, Post:
Two areas of Yankees strength are the reasons they are limping into the home opener Monday.

Throughout spring training, the Florida air was filled with talk about how deep the Yankees' bullpen was and how powerful the middle of the lineup was going to be.

After Sunday's heartbreaking, 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays ... the bullpen is taking on water and Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are swinging wet newspapers.

First it was Tommy Kahnle giving up a two-run homer to [Justin] Smoak in the seventh that cut the Yankees' lead to 4-3. Then it was David Robertson, who, on orders from the bench, walked Josh Donaldson intentionally to load the bases for Smoak, and watched a 3-2 pitch disappear over the center-field fence for a grand slam.

Judge and Sanchez are a combined 1-for-20 in the past three games. ...

Chris Thompson, Deadspin:
Kevin Pillar Ruins Loathsome Yankees By Stealing Second, Third, And Home In One Inning

[G]et a load of this truly badass sequence from Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar, from the bottom of the 8th inning ...

Pillar gets second and third without a throw, and then takes off for home before Betances has even started his windup, basically daring the pitcher to beat him with an accurate throw. The throw is nowhere close, and Pillar glides in standing up. That it happened at all is pretty neat. That it happened against the Yankees is just wonderful.

Mike Mazzeo, Daily News:
So this is what the first real adversity of the Aaron Boone era looks like: Dellin Betances unraveling on the mound yet again as Kevin Pillar pulls off the unthinkable in the eighth inning – stealing second, then third, and then home.

With two outs in the frame and a 2-2 count on No. 9 hitter Gift Ngoepe, Pillar [danced] off third, timing Betances' set perfectly and then making his dash for the plate.

Betances should've stepped off right away when he saw what Pillar was up to. He didn't. And when he finally realized what was happening, he stepped off the mound and rushed his throw to Gary Sanchez, a bad grip sending the ball sailing to the backstop. Pillar was able to scoot home untouched, scoring a key insurance run standing up. ...

According to the YES Network, Pillar's feat of stealing second, third and home hadn't been done in the same inning against the Yankees since July 25, 1928 – nearly 90 years ago.

In Betances' first two appearances of 2018, the four-time All-Star has been largely ineffective.

Boone expressed confidence in Betances after his team's 5-3 loss to Toronto, but you wonder how much longer the first-year manager can run him out there in high-leverage situations if this type of performance continues, especially after what happened in the second half of 2017. ...

On Opening Day, Pillar ambushed Betances by hitting his first pitch out of the ballpark.

On Saturday, the 29-year-old flamethrower grooved a 2-0 97-mph fastball that ex-Bomber Yangervis Solarte crushed 455 feet for the go-ahead solo homer. Last season, Betances didn't give up his second homer of the year until Sept. 4, according to researcher Katie Sharp.

Stolen bases have always been a bigger problem for the 6-foot-8 Betances, so much that the Bombers used it against him in their contentious arbitration hearing prior to the 2017 campaign. The Blue Jays recorded four steals in the eighth alone. ...

Two scouts I spoke with during the spring felt the Yankees should've tried to trade Betances in the offseason. ... "He's so inconsistent. He doesn't repeat his delivery enough. He concerns me a lot of the time, he really does."
Joel Sherman, Post:
After an encouraging spring, Betances' first two outings have played like a continuation of last September – too many long balls, too susceptible to the running game, too quick to unravel. The Yankees stressed all the encouraging, self-help blather then as well – right up to Joe Girardi essentially putting him on ice for most of the playoffs.

On Saturday, Betances gave up his second homer in two outings. It was a tiebreaking shot by Yangervis Solarte opening the eighth inning. Yet, it was not the most disturbing part of the inning. Betances would allow two more baserunners and four steals to the team that had the second-fewest thefts in the majors last year. ...

The Yankees pen is supposed to be a strength and has given up runs in all three games. Twice Betances has been a culprit.

In the season opener – in an ominous moment – Pillar hit the first pitch Betances threw this season for a homer. ...

Perhaps Betances should not have even been pitching to surrender his second homer. In his first questionable move, Boone sent Betances out for the eighth after a scoreless seventh, though Chad Green was warmed. ...

Rothschild reiterated Betances must vary his delivery times and use step-offs to counter thefts. But the word is out on Betances and that word includes that he seems to have the yips throwing to bases. ...

Boone said, "We will continue to work with him and believe in him and continue to need him in big situations." ...

But Boone and anyone around the Yankees must also recognize how fast Betances can plummet from dominant to doomed as he battles with his size, mechanics and – perhaps – psyche.
Peter Botte, Daily News:
Admit it, you never thought Jacoby Ellsbury could be so missed, so early, this season.

The Yankees continue to fly through outfielders like the fictional band Spinal Tap mythically used to go through drummers, and they incredibly added yet another name to their growing injury list [on Saturday] ... falling painfully and bizarrely by a 5-3 final margin against the Blue Jays ...

A couple of hours before Dellin Betances' latest mound implosion ... Yanks rookie Billy McKinney became the fourth outfielder to land on the DL just three games into the new season by messing up his left shoulder in a first-inning collision with the field-level scoreboard in left-center. ...

The $153 million reserve is eligible for activation on Thursday, and that suddenly feels like it's not soon enough, doesn't it?
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
[E]very time the Yankees take the field so far this year, they are doing so hoping to avoid various banana peels hidden throughout the field, eager to trip them up, eager to sabotage this parade-perfect roster. ...

[Billy McKinney made his major league debut on Friday] ... and then Saturday, two batters into the bottom of the first, he was flat on his back in left field. He'd crashed into the fence chasing a double off the bat of Josh Donaldson, and it was clear he'd hit his head ...

The diagnosis: left AC sprain. That's a DL stint. ...

A few innings later it was Adam Warren, who took a rocket shot from Aledmys Diaz off his right ankle, tried to shake it off and tried to laugh it off but wound up limping off the mound.

So to recap: The Yankees broke camp with Greg Bird, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier already on the DL. They lost Hicks on Opening Day. They lost Hicks' replacement (McKinney) and a key cog in the bullpen (Warren, for at least a few days) on Day 3.

Good thing there's only 159 more games to go.

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