Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
No one could have been surprised the Yankees made moves. It’s what they do. It was hard for them to fool anyone since the division is still winnable. The Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox in the AL East by 8 ½ games heading to Friday’s game against the Miami Marlins in Miami. As baseball wonks know, this deficit is not insurmountable.
Yes, it’s not in the Yankees DNA to quit, but remember something else here: They are in it to make money first and foremost. By making a couple of acquisitions prior to the trade deadline, they gave fans incentive to go to the games whether it’s home or away and watch them on television. They need to keep the revenue pot going.
The Yankees acquired power hitters Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo in two separate deals. There’s no question this move gets Yankees fans excited. The Yankees get back page cover from the New York tabloids, which would make the late George Steinbrenner proud since it mattered to him. Their swagger returns in the clubhouse.
But these moves do not guarantee a championship or a World Series appearance. Shoot, it does not even mean a divisional crown or a wild-card berth. In other words, it does nothing for the Yankees. It gives Yankees fans something to be desperate about being proud of their team, and nothing else. They haven’t had much to talk about this season.
It would have been more impressive if they landed Trea Turner and Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. Instead, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired them on Thursday. Here’s what’s damning: The Dodgers gave up nothing for both.
The Yankees can congratulate themselves for taking the salary of Gallo and Rizzo while giving up nothing since they have nothing to offer. But they could have done better than that. They should have done better. So what if Scherzer made so much money for Hal Steinbrenner to commit, it’s chump change. Luxury tax should be damned when the opportunity presents the Yankees to win it all in a sport that has no great teams.
Imagine pairing Scherzer with Gerrit Cole for the first two games in the playoff rounds. The type of formula that wins championships. Just ask the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks that boasted Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Ask the Washington Nationals from a few years ago in boasting Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Put the two best starters on that team and they should like their chances. That should have been the plan, not adding a couple of home run hitters.
Home run hitters can be great for the stretch run, but pitching wins championships. In October, small ball matters more than guys swinging for the fences. The Yankees have been a home run hitting team since they lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks in 2001. They bludgeon pitchers from horrible to mediocre teams in the regular season. But come postseason, they struggle against elite pitching and pitchers that throw soft. There’s a reason they won only one World Series championship since 2001.
The Yankees need to diversify the lineup. That’s where Turner comes to play. He can spray the ball well and extend singles to doubles. He knows how to grind down at-bats. He steals bases. He can set the table. He would fit right in with the Yankees dynasty teams. He would be a difference-maker.
The Yankees feature enough feast or famine hitters as it is. Getting Gallo and Rizzo represents doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It’s called insanity as Albert Einstein would say.
Obviously, pitching can be hard to get, so the Yankees are trying to win by outhitting the other team once again, even though they showed it hasn’t worked.
The Yankees did not address their real need. A bonafide No. 2 starter. A table setter in the lineup. Instead, the Dodgers beat them to it.
Don’t make me laugh about Corey Kluber and Luis Severino making a difference. I believe they will pitch when I see it. Even if they pitch, no one confuses them as game-changers. This rotation may be pitching well for now, but it’s hard to think Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes Jr, Jameson Taillon and Domingo German can sustain this for two more months. A few good starts do nothing but offer a mirage at best.
It’s hard to believe the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers or any other contender are worried about the Yankees getting Gallo and Rizzo. Even Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows he is guessing and hoping something sticks with his new acquisitions and the current starting rotation. Hoping is not exactly a strategy.
These moves are more of a risk than proven. Think Yankees acquiring Jeff Weaver in 2003 to make the rotation fearsome. It obviously did not work out well.
There’s a reason the national media and baseball fans spent more time talking about the Dodgers moves on Thursday. The Dodgers improved their chances of repeating as World Series champions with this move while the Yankeees are hoping for the best.
Maybe Cashman redeems himself by getting Trevor Story and German Marquez from the Colorado Rockies. He still has 4 o’clock at the end of the trade deadline on Friday to get it done.
Right now, these moves are good enough to fill in airtime on sports radio and make the tabloid back pages snazzy only for a few days.
It’s not good enough to get championship No. 28 or a playoff appearance.