Saturday night the New York Yankees clinched their postseason berth and one of the two American League Wild Card slots, by defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2 in extra innings. There was elation in the air in the Bronx as Aaron Hicks roped a ball down the right field line that brought Didi Gregorius in to score from first base. Champagne was popped, speeches were given, and, for one night, the pressure was off from the team.
Then the morning came.
Gregorius scored the game winning run, sliding home head first, and in the process, tearing cartilage in his right wrist. Manager Aaron Boone addressed the media following a 6-3 loss in the final home game of the season, saying there was “a real possibility that we do, and a real possibility that we don’t”, when asked if the team will have Gregorius during their upcoming playoff run.
But that’s just the newest worry, in a season that started with hopes of winning the division, but has been filled with injuries, letdown, and a good amount of stress. So, as the playoffs approach, let’s take a look at 5 things the Yankees, and their fans, should be worried about:
5. Didi Gregorius’ Health:
I put this one at number 5 because while it is the newest, and most threatening injury, just yesterday Didi and Boone said they expect the shortstop to be back later this week. I would venture to say that the injury is going to be pain tolerance thing, meaning he will play if he can bear the pain. That’s great for a wild card game, but what about for a 5 or 7 game series? Will he be able to tough it out when he’s playing a game every other day? What if he slides head first again and the wrist gets caught again? While it’s not a huge risk, it’s definitely something to be wary of during these last few days of the season.
4. Overall Health of the Team:
Didi isn’t the only Yankee fighting the injury bug at the moment. Aroldis Chapman is still getting over the knee issues he’s been having all season, Gary Sanchez is clearly not healthy (more on that later), Aaron Judge just came back from a fractured wrist, Giancarlo Stanton is still fighting hamstring pain, and just last night, Aaron Hicks exited the game early with hamstring tightness. And that’s just in the last couple of months. However, for the first time in a long time, all of the starters are looking to be in the lineup in the upcoming stretch of games. They just aren’t completely healthy, and we know that unhealthy players don’t produce anywhere near as well as they would if they were healthy. So yes, given how well the A’s are playing, and that potential ALDS matchup with Boston, you’d rather your playmakers be healthy coming into the postseason.
3. Luis Severino
Sevy is one of the most important players on this team. But the numbers do not lie. He has been a complete mess since the All Star Break. Prior to the break, he went 14-2 with a 2.31 ERA and was a hot pick for the Cy Young Award; since the break, he’s gone 4-6 with a 5.74 ERA and had many people wondering if he was injured or just playing bad. However, Severino pitched lights out against Boston last Wednesday, allowing one run in 7 innings of work, his best outing since the All Star Game. Severino was the pitcher in the wild card game last season, and he lasted 1/3 of an inning against the Twins, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. If Sevy is given the ball this time around, he’s going to have to give better numbers, and the Yankees are going to need him in the form he was in before the All Star Game if they want to make a run at the World Series.
2. Aaron Boone’s Managing Skills
It’s something every fan worries about: how a coach’s decision can determine a game. We’ve already seen it a few times this season, whether it be leaving a pitcher in too long, or making a wrong move to the bullpen, it seems like every move Boone makes is second guessed, and oftentimes in a negative way. Boone hasn’t managed a game under the amount of pressure that will be under him in the wild card game, and that could very easily cause him to make bad decisions. Yes, he’s taken the Yankees to a 96-60 record thus far in his first season, but he also has one of the most talented teams in the league, and not winning the division is a little bit of a disappointment in itself. We’ll see how he does under the big lights.
1. Gary Sanchez
Gary Sanchez is going to cause a lot of Yankees fans to go insane. He’s so talented at the plate, and he has an absolute cannon of an arm, but the guy just has not been able to put it together behind the plate, and it has cost the Yankees, big time. However, this season he’s struggled at the plate as well, batting an abysmal .180, compared to last season’s average of .278. Yes, I know he’s missed a good amount of time this year, but still… .180 is not good, at all. The bigger problem, though, is the passed balls. In 72 games, he has 17 passed balls (the most in MLB), and 6 errors. That’s not what you want from a catcher. If Gary can stop the ball, and play to his potential, this Yankees team can win their 28th World Series, but if he doesn’t, it could be an early exit for the Bronx Bombers.