Finishing April in last place at a 15-14 record with one of (if not the) least productive offenses in baseball is certainly not what anybody had in mind on opening day. Yes, the Yankees have enough time to recover, especially to re-gain ground in the near future, but that does not mean this start to the season, and the newest Yankees slump, is not a problem.
The Yankees Slump
There is such a problem with the phrase “it’s only April.” When September comes, and you’re favorite team is a handful of games shy of a more desirable place in the standings, you are going to be wishing your team capitalized on a few more opportunities, no matter what month those missed opportunities took place in. April is apart of the schedule, April has value.
The Yankees should know this better than any other team. In 2022, the Yankees finished April in 1st place before exploding to a commanding division lead during the first half of the year year, buying them plenty of margin of error to keep atop the division by surviving a near nuclear meltdown in late season. As my high school coach would say: “pick up your Pennie’s when walking down the street, eventually you will need a dollar.”
To further drive home the point, between 2015 and 2021, the Yankees had played in 4 winner-take-all Wild Card games. In 3 of those years, the Yankees finished April out of 1st place. Now, does the Yankees slump end any chance to win the division? Not at all. Did they put themselves in a hole where they need to work harder to compensate for missed opportunities? Absolutely.
The Beginning of the Yankees Slump
All was well until April 21st. Up to that point, the Yankees had been the sole surviving team to have not lost a series, including some encouraging wins against the defending NL Champion Phillies, possible AL Central winning Guardians, and series split against the other possible AL Central favorite Twins. At that point, the Yankees were preparing to make an important statement against the division rival Blue Jays, and faltered. Since April 21st, the Yankees slump has seen the team go 3-7, having been out scored by their opponents 55-27.
The Bronx Bombers once again find themselves in need of effective pitching and are desperately missing their whopping 6 pitchers on the IL, two of which being Luis Severino and off season acquisition Carlos Rodon, who has yet to throw a pitch in a Yankee uniform this season. The Yankees are finding it almost impossible to keep their opponent from scoring.
Almost as impossible is the Yankees ability to score runs. The entire starting outfield, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Harrison Bader, is on the IL, further contributing to the Yankees slumo. Not only is this the Yanks’ best outfield defenders, but also 3 of their main-event bats in the lineup. Let’s not pretend like their replacements have done much to hep the Yankees struggles, because they certainly have not.
Oswaldo Cabrera, while good for a flashy play once in a while, does not have much offense to contribute. Even worse is Aaron Hicks who continues to sink like a shipwreck on both sides of the ball. To add a nail to the coffin, prospect Jake Bauers immediately injured himself making a stellar diving catch in his first inning with the Yankees.
Yes, of course there is optimism for when the Yankees get back and the Yankees slump is over. After all, the Yankees that are currently losing are not the Yankees who Brian Cashman had planned for. Here is the question: is anyone else tired of saying “wait till everyone come back from the IL?” It feels like the Yankees have to do this same motion every single year. In this case, Brian Cashman must be at fault for assembling a team not durable enough, and also not equipping players with personnel and expertise to prevent injuries from happening. The blame goes all the way around.
Ending the Yankees Slump
To end on a positive note, Gerrit Cole looks the best he ever has in a Yankee uniform, having thrown 23 scoreless innings so far this year, including a complete game shut out. “Nasty” Nestor Cortez continues his realizable mojo from last year, minus an uncharacteristic bad start against the Rangers. Anthony Volpe is 8 for 8 in stolen base attempts, adding a base running weapon the Yankees desperately need. And finally, Anthony Rizzo had been batting over .300 for the majority of the month of April. Unfortunately, these perks are too few and far in between.
The team, and the Yankees slump, goes into May with their biggest challenge yet beyond the horizon: the historic start of the Tampa Bay Rays. This is the golden opportunity to shrink the division lead, however unrealistic as that sounds.
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