Entering the Baseball Twilight Zone: The Yankees are Becoming the Mets

The New York Yankees are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. With 27 world championships and a seemingly limitless bank account, the Yankees were historically dubbed the “evil empire.” This title is ironically embraced, as it is anticipated that money will be no object when General Manager Brian Cashman needs to fix a hole on the Yankees roster to make the Yankees a winning team. This offseason, Cashman went on a playoff-hopeful Yankees shopping spree, acquiring new starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber to bolster the rotation and veteran journeyman Jay Bruce to slot into the outfield and take some time at first base. But just a few weeks into the season, the Yankees are really bad, owning one of the worst records in the MLB.

The Yankees now need to fix their game and psyches, as well as their lineup, in order to turn things around. While the Yankees have fought through injury-prone seasons the past few seasons, only first baseman Luke Voit and set-up man Zack Britton have spent time on the injured list (IL) this year. The team has a roster filled with healthy superstars, none of whom are living up to their potential. 

Yet, this roster of superstars and former MVP’s or near-MVP’s (some of whom have had seasons with 30-plus home runs) is batting at .210. As of April 24, the Yankees have the league’s worst team batting average. This record and this start to the season makes no sense. By reputation and recent history, the Yankees should have an unstoppable offense. They led the American League in runs per game in 2020 and brought almost everyone back for the 2021 season. So what’s stopping this team from hitting every pitch out of the park?

As part of a team with a worldwide fanbase, playing for the Yankees requires more than exceptional skills. There is a strong mental component required to becoming a successful New York Yankee. And this year, as the team is floundering and the fans who are back in the stands are losing patience, players have to be more physically skilled and mentally resilient than ever. Whether playing for fans in the Bronx or at Boston’s Fenway Park, the fans are booing the Yankees’ weak performances and losing record. 

The morale in the stands is resonating with the players. Bruce has already jumped ship and retired, before even completing a half of a season with the Yankees. Multiple players are phoning it in, giving up on plays in the outfield and not running their hardest on the basepaths. Shaky starting pitching is also to blame. In the 11 games not started by Gerrit Cole, Yankees starters are 1-6 with a 6.39 earned run average. 

Perhaps it’s the dynamic of the team. Maybe the Yankees are missing fun-loving guys like Nick Swisher who helped lighten the mood for stalwarts like Derek Jeter after a tough game. Maybe the team hasn’t completely jelled. That’s something on which Manager Aaron Boone and Captain Aaron Judge will need to work. It’s not something to look for in trades, but encouraging that strong bond among teammates, that light-hearted banter, might relieve some of the pressure. Let’s face it, they play a game for a living. If they have fun, they might perform better.

This season is the Yankees’ worst start since 1997. But it’s nothing to freak out over. It’s only April. The Yankees have won four out of their last six games, and fans should be optimistic that the tide is turning. But if the Yankees keep striking out and don’t strike back, the “evil empire” will be destined to experience a Mets-like existence, mired in misery and defeat.