The Yankees were 16-6 after a four-game sweep of the Red Sox in mid-August. They won only five of their next 15 games and fell into third place.
After his team lost three of four at Baltimore last week, general manager Brian Cashman joined the team in Buffalo and talked to them as a group. Cashman described the underachieving Yankees as being out to sea in a storm.
“The Coast Guard’s not coming to save us. We have to find a way to swim to shore,” he said.
Eight teams will advance to the postseason in each league, the top two in each division and two wild cards. Unless they fall into fourth place, the Yankees should get a berth.
But what will they do with it? The Yankees entered the weekend ninth in the American League in runs per game and eighth in earned run average. They’re also mediocre defensively based on the metrics.
Take away their seven wins against the Red Sox, and the Yankees are a losing team with a negative run differential.
“We’ve lost our way the last three weeks,” Cashman said.
All games in the best-of-three first round will be played at the higher seed. So the Yankees could find themselves having to take two road games to advance. That’s precarious for a team once favored to advance to the World Series.
“We have players who haven’t performed to their capabilities,” Cashman said. “You have to run to a problem to fix it.”
The Yankees could get oft-injured Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton back this coming week. Judge has played only 18 games, and Stanton 14.
But it goes beyond that. Gary Sanchez was hitting .121 with 50 strikeouts in 122 plate appearances when he was benched. They also are 6-4 in the first 10 games Gerrit Cole started.
Aroldis Chapman didn’t make an appearance until Aug. 17 because of a positive coronavirus test and hasn’t pitched well. The closer also will serve a suspension at some point this month for throwing at Tampa Bay’s Mike Brosseau on Sept. 1. Chapman appealed a three-game ban, but is sure to sit for at least two.
Cashman explored moves prior to the trade deadline, but ultimately kept the same team in place.
“The opportunities didn’t exist,” he said. “The players that we tried to import potentially could have been impactful for us. They did not get traded elsewhere.”
Cashman said the deals he was offered would have cost players on the major league roster.
“I think we’d be worse off,” he said.
Starting Tuesday, the Yankees and Blue Jays are scheduled to play seven times over 10 days. They will likely determine who finishes second in the division.
Cashman’s meeting could well work. He flew to Atlanta to meet with a slumping team in 2009 and the Yankees went on to win the World Series.
“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility,” Cashman said.
Dalbec was once targeted for mound
Bobby Dalbec has introduced himself to the majors with a series of no-doubt home runs. It’s easy to forget there was once a question of whether teams would want him as a hitter or pitcher.
Dalbec was 11-5 with a 2.65 ERA as a junior at Arizona. He started three games over a 11-day period in the 2016 College World Series and allowed two earned runs over 20⅔ innings while striking out 26.
The righthander featured a mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider. Some scouts saw him as better fit on the mound, perhaps as a closer.
But Dalbec never wavered from his desire to be a position player and told teams not to draft him as a pitcher. The Red Sox took him in the fourth round.
Alex Cora, who covered that College World Series for ESPN, said at the time he believed Dalbec would last a year as a hitter, then convert to the mound.
When he reported for minor league spring training in 2017, Dalbec was asked if he regarded pitching as a fallback.
“I really don’t,” he said. “I haven’t even been introduced to the pitching coaches. I like playing every day.”
He made it work. Dalbec had a .362 on-base in the minors and if he continues to develop his plate discipline, he’ll be a force. The Sox haven’t accomplished much this season. But putting Dalbec on the infield with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers is a step in the right direction.
A few other observations about the Red Sox:
▪ Mike Kickham went seven years, two months, and 10 days between major league starts before facing the Rays on Thursday night. The lefthander went four innings and allowed two runs in a game the Sox went on to win.
Kickham, 31, came up with the Giants and started three games as a rookie in 2013. Prior to this season he had not pitched in the majors since two games as a September call-up in 2014.
“You put the work in and you never know where it will get you,” Kickham said.
Kickham has thrown 157 pitches in three appearances, only 21 of them four-seam fastballs. It’s a flow of sliders and curveballs.
▪ Sox pitchers had a 1.68 WHIP through Friday, the highest in team history. It’s not just hits. The Sox are walking 4.6 per nine innings, their highest rate since 1950 and the worst in the majors this season.
To be sure, some of that is lack of talent. The Sox have run through a variety of fringe big leaguers this season hoping to discover some unpolished gems.
But Matt Barnes (6.1), Ryan Brasier (4.8), and Martin Perez (4.6) all have high walk rates. The same was true of Brandon Workman (5.4). Sox pitchers give in much too easily.
▪ Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell on the Red Sox: "I still think they’re a really good team. I think they’re very talented. I think they have a lot of hitters that are a patient. They’re good, they know what they can do, so it’s always a fun challenge.
“I like [Alex] Verdugo. I like his confidence; I like his swag. I like being able to face him because he’s a tough out; he’s a tough at-bat.”
▪ Hudson Potts, the 21-year-old third baseman the Sox received from the Padres for Mitch Moreland, was known as Hudson Sanchez as a high school star in Texas when he was a first-round pick in 2016. He took his stepfather’s last name shortly after.
“He’s been my dad my whole life,” Potts said. “Once I was able to change my name, I changed my name. I wasn’t able to change it until I turned 18. I thought of myself as a Potts my whole life.”
Potts is from Southlake, Texas, and grew up rooting for the Rangers teams Moreland played for.
“I had season tickets a few years. I was a big fan of Michael Young and Ian Kinsler when I was younger because I was an infielder. I liked how they went about their business.”
Potts hit 57 home runs in the minors from 2017–19 but had a .290 OBP for Double A Amarillo last season. At 6 feet 3 inches, 218 pounds, he’s more of a physical presence who needs polishing. Teams are always enticed by power, and the Sox hope their coaches can give him more of a plan at the plate.
Catching Seaver honor for Gedman
Rich Gedman was a two-time All-Star when Tom Seaver joined the Red Sox in 1986. But he couldn’t help but be impressed by his new teammate.
“He was the consummate pro, certainly somebody you looked up to,” Gedman said. "As a catcher, you sit there and think, ‘I have a chance to catch a Hall of Famer.’
“But the neat part was, as complicated a man as he might have been on the mound, how simplistic his thinking was. He always stuck to his plan, but he always wanted to have the option to be able to throw his changeup whenever he wanted so he didn’t have to shake to it.”
Seaver, who died on Aug. 31, was in his final season at age 41. But he had a 3.80 earned run average in 16 starts.
“Even as a veteran pitcher playing his career out, I know that he was pretty excited to come and pitch for us because of [manager] John McNamara and [pitching coach] Bill Fischer,” Gedman said.
“When he was with us, he understood what he was capable of doing. He didn’t vary from that.”
Gedman’s fondest memory is of Seaver starting at Cleveland on Aug. 23. The Indians had a hot-shot rookie in 23-year-old Cory Snyder and Seaver struck him out three times.
“After the game, Snyder said it’s the fastest he’d seen anybody throw,” Gedman said. "I’m willing to bet that Seaver didn’t throw a ball over 86. But he did not throw a ball below the letters, either.
“Snyder met somebody that could execute a plan. This guy couldn’t hit a high fastball and Tom was going to exploit that.”
Gedman also remembered Seaver dueling with Reggie Jackson during a game at Fenway, giving up two home runs. He refused to give in and throw off-speed pitches, and kept trying to locate his fastball.
“To be able to pitch that long you have to be able to adapt and understand who you are and what makes you good,” Gedman said. “He did not vary from that and it was pretty neat watching it.”
Seaver, Gedman said, was ahead of his time in understanding the advantage of throwing high fastballs to counter uppercut swings, something that has come back into vogue in recent seasons.
“You get to catch a lot of guys, but not too many Hall of Famers. I would have loved to catch when he was something really special,” Gedman said.
“He was somebody who knew his place in the game and certainly was quite the gentleman and a great baseball man. We were lucky to have him. He touched us all and everybody will remember they met Tom Seaver.”
Sandy Alomar Jr. was considered for a number of managerial vacancies over the years, the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Red Sox among them. He should get more opportunities this winter considering the work he has done with the Indians this season, filling in for Terry Francona for all but a handful of games. With Francona battling health issues and bench coach Brad Mills opting out, Alomar has the Indians fighting for a division title with the Twins and White Sox. Alomar, 54, deserves his own team … Detroit’s Sergio Alcantara hit nine home runs in 2,611 plate appearances in the minor leagues. So naturally he homered on the second pitch he saw in the majors facing Rich Hill of the Twins last Sunday … That the Padres acquired Mitch Moreland became more important when Eric Hosmer fractured his left index finger trying to bunt for a hit on Monday. Hosmer is expected to miss at least two weeks, but may not return until next month. Moreland was 4 for 12 with two doubles, a homer, and four RBIs in the three games that followed, all victories. Meanwhile, why was Hosmer trying to bunt on a two-strike count in the first inning? That’s foolish … Nationals GM Mike Rizzo had an interesting few days. He received a three-year extension believed to be worth roughly $15 million, then umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected him from a game the next day in Atlanta. Rizzo was outside a luxury suite high above the field but could be heard complaining about balls and strikes. “Enough is enough,” crew chief Joe West said. “I wouldn’t take that from a player. I wouldn’t take that from a manager. If it was Donald Trump, I’d eject him, too. But I’d still vote for him.” Meanwhile, with the Nationals out of contention, the 1998-2000 Yankees will remain the last team to repeat as champions … It’s certainly no coincidence that Mike Fiers, who blew the whistle on the Astros cheating, has pitched the day before every Athletics-Astros series this season. Nice maneuvering by manager Bob Melvin … That Daniel Bard returned to the majors after seven years is impressive enough. But he had only five walks and one wild pitch in his first 19 innings after all those years battling wildness. His 5.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best of his career … That Atlanta’s Bryse Wilson was awarded a save for going the final four innings of a 29-9 thrashing of the Marlins on Wednesday suggests that a largely useless statistic should be revisited, if not ignored entirely. Bullpen usage would improve significantly if relievers were judged by something other than saves … Josh Reddick celebrated 10 years of service time this past week. It’s a milestone fewer than 10 percent of players reach, and brings with it lucrative pension benefits of up to $220,000 a year if they wait until age 62 to collect. Reddick was a 17th-round draft pick out of a Georgia junior college by the Red Sox in 2006. He has since played for the Athletics, Dodgers, and Astros and mixed in 61 playoff games along the way … The Giants finally released struggling Pablo Sandoval on Thursday. The team saluted him on social media and Sandoval returned the favor. Sandoval had a .794 OPS over 11 seasons in two stints with the Giants and helped them win three World Series, so the lovefest was understandable. But he’s the same fraud who trashed the Giants after signing with the Red Sox, then dogged his way through three seasons in Boston, admitting after his release that his heart wasn’t in it … The Cubs hit .213 at Wrigley Field through 28 games but are in first place in the NL Central … Back in July, this space had the news on Dave Dombrowski moving to Nashville to join business leaders there in trying to bring a major league team to the city. Tennessee native Justin Timberlake has since joined the group, which gives it even more credibility … Tuesday is the deadline for teams to add any players to their organization who can be eligible for the postseason … Happy 75th birthday to Rick Wise, who pitched 18 seasons in the majors, including from 1974-77 with the Red Sox. The righthander was 47-32 with a 3.96 ERA for the Sox. Wise was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, pitching a scoreless 12th inning. The next batter was, of course, Carlton Fisk. Two other Sox birthdays: Marcus Walden is 32 and Daisuke Matsuzaka is 40. Wonder if Dice-K has mastered the gyroball yet?