The good news for the New York Yankees is they would be in first place if they were in the American League Central. The bad news is they aren’t — well, that and just about everything else that’s unfolded for this team over the last six weeks or so.
When Aaron Judge hit the injured list on Tuesday, June 6, New York sat at 36-25, a season-best 11 games over .500 and in great shape in the AL Wild Card race. The wheels have fully come off since, and the past few days in Anaheim have felt like rock bottom. New York lost in miserable fashion again on Wednesday night, finishing off a sweep at the hands of the previously-struggling Los Angeles Angels (which came on the heels of losing two of three against the really previously-struggling Colorado Rockies last weekend). The team now sits at 50-47, dead last in the AL Central — the first time the Yankees have been in the basement in the month of July since way back in 1990.
1990 is also the last year the Yankees finished in last place, an outcome that seems increasingly likely as the team continues to struggle and the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox start to heat up ahead of them. That ‘90 season was an all-time disaster: manager Bucky Dent was fired by June, George Steinbrenner got (temporarily) banned from baseball for life after paying a gambler to dig up dirt on star Dave Winfield and the team limped to a 67-95 finish — seven games worse than the sixth-place Milwaukee Brewers.
Things don’t figure to get quite that bad this time around, but the vibes aren’t great at the moment. The Yankees are now a dismal 14-20 since Judge went down, with an offense that ranks 29th in batting average and 27th in OPS. The rotation has melted down behind Gerrit Cole, with Nestor Cortes out with a shoulder injury and Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino pitching well, well below expectations. Even the bullpen, the team’s strength all year, has come apart at the seams of late, coughing up leads on Sunday and Monday. Tommy Kahnle is stomping dugout fans to pieces:
Tommy Kahnle is furious with himself pic.twitter.com/tIiiiabRkp— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) July 20, 2023
Carlos Rodon is getting booed off the field and blowing kisses to the fans in response:
Yankees fans in attendance were clearly not thrilled with Carlos Rodon's outing, and he wasn't too happy with their booing... pic.twitter.com/A8aRaywoiv— The Comeback (@thecomeback) July 20, 2023
The Yankees are certainly victims of the toughest division in baseball — and what’s been a pretty tough schedule overall so far — but we now have six weeks of evidence suggesting that this isn’t a competitive baseball team. Unless things turn around, this season will mark the first time New York misses the playoffs since 2016. That season featured a sell job at the deadline which resulted in a bevy of top prospects, including one Gleyber Torres. It remains to be seen how Hal Steinbrenner and Co. will handle things this time around, although it seems like his biggest concern right now is the luxury tax.