The franchise of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, Jeter and Rivera is a pinstriped mess.
The only recognizable thing about this storied club is the “New York” stitched across its uniforms.
These are the Damned Yankees.
“We’re not showing up,” Aaron Judge conceded. “No one’s happy about it.”
Speak for yourself, Mr. Judge.
Much of the baseball world is gloating about the misfortune of America’s most famous sports team, the one that always receives out-of-proportion media coverage and excessive slots in the national television lineup, the one that has hoarded 27 World Series titles — more than twice as many as any other team.
But, here’s the thing: It’s much more fun to pile on the haughty Yankees when they’re piling up pennants.
This group is hardly worthy of the jealous vitriol.
New York sits last in the AL East, 14 games in arrears to the up-and-coming Baltimore Orioles. While there is still irrational banter about making a playoff run, it seems downright laughable at this point. A more feasible target is avoiding the team’s first losing season since 1992.
How rare is it to find the Yankees under .500 as the the calendar speeds toward September?
You must go all the way back to 1995 — Sept. 5, to be exact — to find the last time the Yankees were saddled with a losing mark (60-61) at least 120 games into the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Their amazing run of 30 straight winning seasons, the third-longest in the history of the four major U.S. sports leagues, is in serious jeopardy.
Only the Ruthian-inspired Yankees, who ripped off 39 consecutive winning seasons from 1926-64, and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, with a string of 32 in a row from 1952-83, have longer streaks than this New York team.
Yet here we are, New York hobbling along at 60-61 after a lost series in Atlanta, where the gap between the Yankees and baseball’s best team couldn’t have been more glaring.
The MLB-leading Braves, cruising along at 78-42, swept all three games by a cumulative score of 18-3. If this had been a heavyweight fight, the ref would’ve stepped in to stop it about midway through Game 1.
Over the final 25 innings of the series, the mighty Yankees scored a grand total of one run.
A lineup featuring Judge and Giancarlo Stanton scraped out just 12 hits — all but two of them singles — in their final 79 at-bats against the Braves, which translates to a .152 average. New York was held to a single hit in a 5-0 loss Tuesday and managed just four feeble one-baggers in a 2-0 defeat Wednesday.
Anthony Volpe had the only extra-base hits of the entire series for the New Yorkers, including the most meaningless run-scoring triple you’ll ever see. It came with two outs in the ninth inning on Monday, leaving the Yankees with a loss that read 11-3 instead of 11-2.
In those rare times when the Yankees put runners on base, many of them were wiped out by double plays. The Braves turned seven of those. And, in a boneheaded move that epitomized a season lost, Harrison Bader was picked off first with his team trailing by six runs in the series opener.
In Atlanta, the Yankees got a first-hand look at the team they want to be and just how far away they are from that goal.
“I’ve gotta give love to the Braves,” acclaimed director Spike Lee, a Yankees fan who was at Truist Park for the beatdown, told Bally Sports South in an interview from his seat. “They’re the best team in baseball. They’re kicking our butts.”
Throw in a dismal season by the neighboring New York Mets, and it’s truly been a lost year for the national pastime in the Big Apple.
The Yankees have certainly dealt with more than their share of injuries, most notably a toe issue that sidelined Judge, the reigning AL MVP, for nearly two months and is still thwarting him from being at his best. Stanton also missed significant time with a hamstring issue and has struggled mightily since returning, his average (.201) hovering around the Mendoza Line.
Then there’s Anthony Rizzo, who’s out with concussion-related symptoms that won’t seem to go away, and 37-year-old Josh Donaldson, who’s been hurt most of the season and barely played at all.
A year ago, when the Yankees claimed 99 wins and the AL East title, that quartet combined for 140 homers (including a league-record 62 by Judge ) and 346 RBIs. This season, they’ve totaled 62 dingers and 146 RBIs.
The pitching hasn’t been much better outside of Gerrit Cole. Two-time All-Star Luis Severino can’t seem to get anyone out in the first inning, leaving him with just two wins and an ERA hovering around 8.00. Domingo German checked into alcohol rehab and won’t pitch again this season.
Embattled manager Aaron Boone, whose job security seems more precarious by the day, insists that the Yankees aren’t throwing in the towel on the season.
“A quarter of a season left. We’ve got to keep working to try to figure it out,” he said. “It doesn’t always go the way you script it or hope, but you’ve got to keep fighting.”
Brave words from the skipper, but there’s nothing to suggest a stunning turnaround is imminent.
Since the end of June, the Yankees are 15-25 and have just one series victory out of 13 tries, that being a sweep of the lowly Kansas City Royals nearly a month ago.
“The game is still littered with examples of teams going on unlikely runs,” Boone insisted. “I get it. It looks bleak and I don’t want to even suggest that we’re in a position to even talk about a streak like that. We’ve got to fix our own house and get going. But there’s a lot of season left, too, and we’ve got to look at it that way.”
Now, back to reality.
This season is over for the Yankees, at least as far as making the playoffs for the seventh year in row.
The only goals within reach are extending the streak of winning seasons and building some positive vibes heading into 2024.
And, yes, we’re pulling for them to turn things around.
Frankly, the Yankees are much more fun to hate when they’re winning.
This bunch isn’t worth the trouble.
Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected]
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this column.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb