It was clear who was the better team in the American League East this season, and it was clear who was the better team in the AL Division Series between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. To be blunt, it was not even close.
It was the Red Sox. It showed in their play in the ALDS, and that’s why they will be advancing to the American League Championship Series to face the defending World Series champion Houston Astros Saturday night at Fenway Park while the Yankees will be stewing all offseason of why the Red Sox got the best of them.
The Red Sox hit, pitched, fielded and managed better than their counterparts in the ALDS. It appeared they were one step ahead of their AL East archrivals in Games 1, 3 and 4. They finally dispatched the Yankees 4-3 Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in Game 4 of the ALDS, winning the best-of-five series in four games.
Sure the Yankees made it interesting against the ineffective Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel by loading up the bases and scoring two runs off him, but that’s good enough for a cup of coffee. In the end, it was meaningless. The Red Sox celebrated on the Yankees’ field while the Yankees went back to their clubhouse. To rub it in, the Red Sox took a team picture on the Yankee Stadium’s grass and then they blared “New York New York” song by Frank Sinatra in their locker room in response to Aaron Judge strolling along the Fenway Park concourse with his boombox blaring “New York New York” after the Yankees won Game 2 Saturday night.
To the victor goes the spoils. All’s fair in love and war in the best rivalry in baseball.
The Yankees never showed why they should have been taken seriously as a championship contender all season long. They relied on home runs to win games rather than bunt, speed and smarts. Their starting rotation was not championship standards. The managing left so much to be desired. Outside of Judge, they did not have the stars who had it in them to produce in a pressure situation. It all came to play in the ALDS.
The Yankees have gotten by against a flawed Oakland Athletics team in the wild-card game, but against a World Series contender in the Red Sox, they would be hard-pressed to do so.
Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees never had the starters who can finish the Red Sox off with two strikes, and they could not get the Red Sox stars out.
The Red Sox not only hit home runs against the Yankees, but they were able to move runners in scoring position through bunting and they used their speed to take the extra base through a hit. They did a great job of scoring off Yankees’ outfielders. They took better at-bats than their counterparts.
The Red Sox’ stars performed better than the Yankees’ stars. The Red Sox had big hits from J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. while the Yankees had their big hits from Aaron Judge and that’s it.
Giancarlo Stanton had a chance to not only create a Yankee moment of his own in the ninth inning, but become part of the folklore of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry with one swing of a bat. With the Yankees trailing 4-1 in the ninth inning and Aaron Judge (walk) and Didi Gregorius (single) on base, he swung at what would be ball two, and in the end, he struck out against Kimbrel, who struggled to throw strikes.
This shouldn’t be surprising. In big moments this regular season, he came up small.
Stanton was better off not swinging and just get on base. This is where he has to be smarter when he is hitting. He needs to take what the pitcher gives him. With the way he has been pressing, it was not wise for him to go for a three-run blast.
Stanton’s problem is he is a home run or bust. He is not a guy the Yankees can rely on to get base hits. That’s a problem moving forward. It’s hard to tell if he can make the adjustments to be a pull hitter than swing for the fences. He is set in his own ways at this point of his career.
Here are the ugly numbers by the Yankees’ mercenary in the ALDS: He hit .222 with no home runs and no RBI while striking out six times. His five hits were singles only.
This is not what the Yankees had in mind when they acquired him, and one has to wonder if playing in New York may be too much for him. He does not appear like he is a true Yankee when he shrinks in a spotlight such as the series with the Red Sox. It was not a great season all around. He did not have that Yankees moment that would define him.
There’s no doubt he symbolizes the Yankees underachieving this season and in the postseason.
Then, there’s Aaron Boone. He did not have a great year as a first-year Yankees manager. His decisions lacked logic. For instance in Game 3 of the ALDS, he inexplicably let Luis Severino in the game when he had nothing in the fourth inning as he had two runners on base. The game got away from the Yankees altogether when the Red Sox scored seven runs in that inning to take a 10-0 lead en route to their 16-1 victory.
Too many times, he leaves the starters in when they are gassed or when they don’t have it. He does not put his players in the right position to succeed. He also does not manage with a sense of urgency, and his players took on his personality with their approach of the game.
But then again, it’s hard to take Boone seriously as a manager when he takes orders from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman when it comes to using his players and managing a game. Think of it as Boone being a yes man to his boss the way the incompetent Jason Garrett is a yes man to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The bottom line is the Yankees were a flawed 100-win team. Too many weakness made them a pretender than a contender. It’s hard to say this season was a success.
They talked a good game about being a World Series contender. They talked about being in the Red Sox’ level.
In the end, the Red Sox exposed the Yankees for what they were.