Despite what you might think, the Yankees are playing with urgency.
Despite what you might think, they want to win — maybe more than ever this season. Through this miserable 3-11 month, which only got worse with another offensive struggle last night in a 3-1 loss to the Rays, they are pressing on the gas and continually sputtering.
Attempting to accelerate rather than cruising appears to be a big part of the problem. Baseball is not football, where desire can translate into results. Especially with hitters, the more they want a hit, the further away it can grow.
Despite what you might think as the losses pile up, the Yankees are trying — they’re just trying too hard.
“There’s a high level of urgency even when we’re winning,” Gerrit Cole said after the 4-0 loss to the Rays on Monday. “The level of urgency is rather consistent, I would say.”
The argument here is the level of urgency has been cranked up during a time when Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Carpenter are hurt, and the offense has been underperforming.
Anthony Rizzo’s dugout tirade, in which he punished his helmet for failing him, hints at how much Rizzo wants to succeed. Everything that came before the blow-up from the Yankees first baseman hints at why he might not be succeeding.
Rizzo is the Yankees’ No. 3 hitter. His bat has been badly needed and badly missed through their brutal play in August. Rizzo entered his third-inning at-bat Monday 2 for his last 20. He had reached the point of desperation, and as he looked at Tampa Bay’s shift, he decided to try to claw his way on base. He attempted a bunt down the third-base line and was not able to get it down. Rays lefty Jalen Beeks then missed inside with a breaking ball, and Rizzo bent his knees, but did not make much of an effort to get out of the way of the pitch.
Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn made a call that Rizzo said had never been made in the 195 previous times he had been hit by a pitch: Reyburn refused to let him take first base, ruling he did not try to avoid the offering.
Aaron Boone called it a “bad call.” Rizzo said he got “screwed over.”
Would a confident, rolling Rizzo be trying to bunt or lean his way to first base? Shouldn’t the Yankees’ No. 3 hitter want a chance to inflict more damage?
The way things are going, a frustrated Rizzo appears to be open to scheming his way on base any way he can because his desire is outstripping his results.
Fans complain often about players “not wanting it enough.” Rizzo, who went 0-for-4 with another strikeout last night and whose average is down to .218, wants it too much right now.
The most tangible sign of pressing — of a burning desire backfiring on a player — can be seen from a hitter chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Players want to be disciplined and take their walks while selectively swinging at pitches they can hit hard.
During this Yankees tailspin, in which more has been asked from players such as Rizzo, he has tried to respond. From Aug. 2 through Monday, a span in which the Yankees went 2-10, Rizzo had seen 52 pitches that were not in the strike zone, and he swung at 20 at them. He was swinging at would-be balls nearly 39 percent of the time, including striking out on two breaking balls far out of the strike zone Monday. This level of desperation has not been the norm: Rizzo has swung at about 31 percent of pitches out of the zone this season.
A hitter abandoning his discipline in an effort to try to make something happen is precisely the type of pressing that does not work in baseball and precisely the type of urgency that many call for when a team begins losing.
Aaron Hicks is one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball. The center fielder has chased pitches outside the strike zone just 21.9 percent of the time, which trails only Max Muncy, Alex Bregman and Juan Soto. Pretty good company!
Hicks struck out in his first at-bat Monday, stranding two on base. He then turned a routine fly ball out into a triple in the top of the fourth inning, when he got turned around at the warning track and flailed helplessly at a ball every outfielder should be able to catch.
It is very much possible Hicks craved redemption badly enough to allow it to interfere with his approach at the plate. He came up in the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded, and the fourth-most disciplined hitter in baseball swung at pitch No. 3 below:
He chased a curveball that would have been a ball, and he grounded into a 1-2-3 double play.
Hicks has become the new Joey Gallo. Boos follow his every move at Yankee Stadium, and he acknowledged after the game that the fans turning on him makes it more difficult to bounce back.
“I’m out there trying to compete and help this team win. Obviously, it’s not nice to hear boos. But when you’re having the season I am, that’s kind of the way it goes. Especially around here,” said Hicks, who sat Tuesday and could have his playing time curtailed with the Yankees expect to call up Estevan Florial. “They want results.”
So do the Yankees players, who are pressing.
Yes, angry Yankees fan, they are trying. That’s part of the problem.
Today’s back page
Mets: This will hurt a bit
Buck Showalter was asked Saturday about the Mets’ abnormally healthy season. Yes, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer missed significant time, but the rest of the rotation (plus David Peterson and Trevor Williams) had been rolling. Among position players, James McCann had been the lone true contributor lost to the injured list this season.
“Now that you totally jinxed us,” the Mets manager began his answer, to laughs around the room.
In the three days that followed, it was apparent no one knocked on wood. Suddenly, there are concerns about Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker – concerns that are bigger than the first two losses in their series in Atlanta.
On Sunday, Guillorme suffered a moderate left groin strain that will keep the infielder sidelined for four to six weeks. The timing was especially painful for the Mets because Guillorme’s platoon partner at third base, Eduardo Escobar, is nursing an oblique injury.
On Monday, Nido was placed on the COVID-19 list, and he has not been active during the series against the Braves.
And on Tuesday, the Mets officially lost Carrasco for a while and will cross their fingers on Walker.
Carrasco suffered a low-grade left oblique strain a night prior, when he returned to the mound following a 55-minute rain delay and then felt his side tighten on his final pitch. The starter is expected to miss three to four weeks.
The most exciting of the reinforcements should arrive Wednesday, when third baseman Brett Baty, the team’s No. 2 prospect, is expected to be activated. Journeyman catcher Michael Perez filled in last night, when he threw out two baserunners.
This is when a club gets tested – and the timing could have been better. The rotation has holes, position players are debuting and their division lead has been trimmed to 3 ½ games.
Baty may not have much time to savor his first major league days. The Mets need him.
Zach on track back
The news is good on Zach Wilson, which means the Jets’ season is not over in mid-August.
The Jets quarterback underwent surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles that, the team said, successfully trimmed his meniscus without further complications. He will miss a few weeks. His status for Week 1 is up in the air. But he will play this season.
If the second-year quarterback takes a large step and asserts himself as an above-average signal-caller, the season will be a success regardless of how many games the Jets win. They believe he is their future, and the only way to judge that belief is if Wilson is present.
Expectations are not high around here for either New York football team, but at least the Jets and Giants have hope on Aug. 17. Check back on Sept. 17.
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