Take a deep breath, Yankees fans. The sky is not falling. The season is not over.
But yeah, this was bad.
The cellar-dwelling Baltimore Orioles beat the Yankees for the second time in three games, this time 6-5 on a walk-off single from Jonathan Schoop in the bottom of the ninth. This happened after Greg Bird homered earlier in the game to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Then he hit a sac fly to break a 3-3 tie. The Yankees led by two going into the bottom of the seventh and still could not make it last.
Now 3.5 games behind the Red Sox, who just don’t lose anymore, the Yankees will look to salvage a split with the worst team in baseball on Wednesday with Sonny Gray on the mound.
The two-run home run from Manny Machado in the bottom of the seventh was about as brutal a gut punch as you could have in July. The Yankees had fought back twice already in this game and finally appeared to have some breathing room with a two-run lead and their lock-down bullpen in the game. It took one swing from Machado to change that. Sure, it only tied the game at 5-5, but it felt like that was the crushing blow.
—The Yankees’ lack of success against the lowly Orioles is becoming more than just an odd footnote to the season. It’s seriously hurting the Yankees’ chances at the division. Sure, it’s only July and the Yankees are only 3.5 back. But the Red Sox don’t lose. Especially against bad teams. Making up ground is going to be really tough and these games should be the gimmes. Losing three out of four to the O’s — a distinct possibility with Gray pitching tomorrow — would be inexcusable.
—It was good to see Masahiro Tanaka back, even if his final line wasn’t that great. He wasn’t his sharpest, but at least for his first three innings of work, was able to find his way out of trouble. He’s not the reason the Yankees lost this game and you can expect him to get better as he continues to work his way back.
—A good way to keep Machado from killing the Yankees in the future would be for him to be on the Yankees. Just saying.
Player of the game: If you want to go for a Yankee, it’s Greg Bird. If you want to go for a future Yankee, it’s Manny Machado (jokes, maybe). As noted above, Bird got the Yankees on the board with his three-run home run then put them ahead later with a sac fly. We could ignore everything that happened after that. Now comes the big question: Is this what gets Bird going? Despite six home runs in truncated time, his average is still hovering just above .200. Some more consistency from him would give Yankees fans some peace of mind and maybe quiet those Mike Moustakas murmurs for a little bit.
The Yankees are missing the mark when it comes to social issues
Locked On Yankees is a Yankees blog, first and foremost. We talk about the on-field product and analyze it on a microscopic level. But, baseball is a sport that holds cultural significance at a global level. Because of that, it is important to talk about the cultural impact the Yankees have or in this case, have not had this year.
The inspiration for this post was this tweet:
Statement from the New York Yankees regarding Papa John’s:
“In response to the reprehensible remarks made by Papa John’s founder and owner, the New York Yankees are suspending their relationship with the company.”
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 13, 2018
The wording of this tweet is extremely important.
The Yankees are not terminating their relationship with Papa John’s. They are suspending, which ostensibly means they could restart the relationship later. They are not alone, other major league baseball teams have also suspended their relationship, with the MLB indefinitely suspending its relationship. But this is a Yankees blog, so we will focus on the Yankees.
The bar was set extremely low for the Yankees to do something worthwhile. Forget that the quality of Papa John’s pales in comparison to literally any New York pizza joint and the relationships the Yankees could build with those local businesses.
All the Yankees had to do was end the relationship, full stop. Cutting ties with a now toxic brand is not hard. Sure, it hurts monetarily short term, but overall it is a more positive action. Instead, they suspended, because the possibility of money in the future when this all blows over is still real.
John Schnatter’s recent racist remarks directed at African Americans (and the comments he made about football players driving his sales down) should have been enough. The Bronx, per the Census Bureau, is 43.7% Black or African American as of July 1, 2017. If you walk around the Bronx for even ten minutes, you will see countless people wearing Yankees gear. The Yankees and the Bronx are forever connected. At the very least, ending the relationship with Papa John’s would have shown a core of the Bronx population, that the Yankees do care. Instead, they did the bare minimum.
In an area with such a large African American population, engagement with the fans should be a priority. The RBI program and Play Ball initiatives are good on face value, but in terms of meaningful progress, have amounted to little. On Opening Day of 2018, only 8.4% of Major League Baseball players were black. In the 1970s that number was 18%. Making baseball more appealing and more accessible, i.e. with cheaper ticket sales and impactful cultural nights, is something where the MLB and the Yankees have failed.
Which brings up another failure that is just as important. The Yankees, as of 2019, will be the only team in Major League Baseball to never hold a Pride Day/Night. In 2018, the Yankees and the Angels were the only teams to not have a Pride Day/Night event. Again, you may believe that a single Pride event is not nearly enough to show an organization cares about the LGBTQ+ community. I agree but it is at least something. Especially in New York City, which is host to one of the largest Pride parades in the world, this is a complete failure by the organization. A Pride event is the first step to a longer and more meaningful relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.
The LGBTQ+ community has had a long, tumultuous history in the city, starting with the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. Sports teams have slowly come around to holding pride events during pride month in June and the Yankees, being in the epicenter of the pride movement’s beginning, still have not held a Pride Night for their fans. Skipping over the fact that this would bring in thousands of fans to the stadium, it is disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ fan base to not even acknowledge them or their movement.
As the New York Times notes, the Yankees have “shied away from promotions with ethnic or cultural flair,” though a team spokesman noted that there is far more going on behind the scenes. Both Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s executive who works to promote inclusion in the sport and David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network had reached out the Yankees on separate occasions for a pride night but received no response. Bean noted that not “having a pride event does not paint an entire picture of the organization’s position on inclusivity” but followed up that it opens more opportunities with the LGBTQ+ community.
Baseball has an issue with engaging Millennials and younger generations. The millennial generation is one of the most inclusive. Nearly half of millennials surveyed by the Institute for Public Relations said that diversity and inclusion were important in their workplace. Minor league teams are now running promotions like this as some type of joke?
Offended? Feel free to fight your battles IRL and visit us at Riverwalk Stadium. Any millennials that actually come by during office hours before next Saturday and submits a valid complaint in person to our “Millennial Night Thinktank” may get a free ticket or two! https://t.co/XUNOz29gkO
— Montgomery Biscuits (@BiscuitBaseball) July 11, 2018
They seem to think we are all still children who like having our intelligence insulted. The thing about my generation and the even younger generations is that we care. We care about social issues, we care about inclusion because the older generations did not, and we must do the work to fix their shortcomings.
So, when sports teams do things like failing to reach out to historically marginalized communities, we respond by ignoring them and choosing not to pay for their product. If it creates hundreds of think pieces stating that “Millennials are killing baseball,” then it is worth it because maybe Major League Baseball will pay attention. Money talks.
Bringing this all back around: the Yankees are instantly recognizable around the world. If they fail to engage and do small acts of outreach to their fans, people notice. These are acts of social outreach, acts of goodwill towards your fanbase that they should be doing and should have been doing for years. Showing that you care about your fans and care that they support your team. Instead, the Yankees have maintained their reputation as a business, or more simply, they have put money first.
MLB sees continued increase in diversity
MLB race and gender report card shows progress still needed
Black MLB participation inches up, but is still pitifully low
Yankees set to be only MLB team not to host LGBTQ Pride Night
25 Major League Baseball teams to host LGBT Pride nights in 2018
As More Teams Host Gay Pride Events, Yankees Remain a Holdout
Series Preview | The Mets against the Yankees, Part 2
After an All-Star break that felt like three weeks long, the Yankees are finally back in action Friday night. The Mets are visiting Yankee Stadium for the second edition of the Subway Series. The last time the two teams met, the Yankees took two out of three in Citi Field and lost Masahiro Tanaka to hamstring injuries. This time, the Yankees will be facing both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom while not countering with their ace Luis Severino. He gets to watch from the dugout. Syndergaard had been out with an injury but returned to action on July 13 in a 4-2 win over the Nationals. And speaking of returning to action, Gary Sanchez was activated just in time for the series. He had been out since June 24 with a groin injury. Kyle Higashioka was sent back down to Triple-A. Rookie Gleyber Torres is still out with a hip injury and won’t be playing in this series.
On Friday night, Noah Syndergaard will be making his first ever start in Yankee Stadium. He’s matched up against Domingo German who hasn’t won a game since June 19. German has pitched 78 2/3 innings so far and has given up 50 runs and 72 hits—14 of those hits were home runs. In his last start, German lasted only four innings and he gave up six runs on five hits. He also walked four while striking out six. Syndergaard missed all of June but his return against the Nationals last weekend was encouraging. He threw five innings, gave up seven hits, one run and he struck out two while walking one batter.
Saturday’s game is an afternoon start which pits Steven Matz against Sonny Gray. Gray’s last start was a bit encouraging. After not being able to clear the third inning in his previous two starts against Boston and Toronto, Gray pitched six strong innings against Baltimore. He didn’t allow a run, gave up three hits and struck out eight batters. Gray faced the Yankees last season and pitched six innings and gave up two runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Matz is coming into this series with two losses in his last three starts. His season ERA is 3.38 and he’s 4-7 but he’s pitched to a 2.91 ERA since the beginning of May. Matz pitched 6 1/3 innings against Washington in his last start but picked up the loss.
In Sunday night’s finale, Masahiro Tanaka and Jacob deGrom get the start. Tanaka was on the shelf for a bit after injuring himself in the last Subway Series. Luckily for him, he won’t have to run the bases in Yankee Stadium. He’s made two starts since returning from the disabled list and in his last one, he pitched 6 1/3 innings while only giving up two runs against the Indians. He didn’t factor into the decision as the bullpen blew the game. One issue plaguing Tanaka is his penchant for giving up the long ball. He hasn’t made a start without giving up a home run since his start in Houston on May 3 and he’s only made two starts all season with giving up at least one home run. deGrom’s name has been in the news thanks to a statement from him and from his agent regarding his future with the Mets. He’d like to remain a Met but if they’re not going to do anything to improve the team, why would he stay? deGrom is the biggest victim of the Mets’ ineptitude this season. Right now, deGrom is 5-4 with a 1.63 ERA but he also has 10 no decisions. Either the Mets offense can’t get enough runs to support him or his bullpen blows his leads.
The trade deadline, the Yankees needs and the Subway Series
Welcome to Locked On Yankees, your daily podcast covering the New York Yankees as part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
In today’s episode, Sean and Gary discuss the Yankees needs, take a look at who’s still available and what the Yankees could/should do before the trade deadline. They talk about how the Yankees have done thus far this season and evaluate individual performances. And finally, they preview the Subway Series Part 2.
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