By Lenn Robbins
Arguably the most important golf tournament of the year teed off Thursday and you can bet not one of the 88 players woke worrying if he had the yips. If he did, he’s done, of course.
The most wicked sign of the yips? It doesn’t just bang on the door one morning like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and announce its presence. The yips come like the evil spirit in The Exorcist, just blows in through the window one night and you wish your athletic career was over rather than make a fool of yourself in from of thousands.
You remember Chuck Knoblauch? Type that name into the Google search bar and the first thing that comes up is, “Chuck Knoblauch yips.” Knoblauch, once known as “Fundamentally Sound” Knoblauch, was charged with 26 errors in 1999. By 2000 he was so erratic he couldn’t even hit Keith Olbermann in the head. He hit his mother, who, thank goodness, was not seriously hurt.
Steve Sax. Rick Ankiel. Mark O’Meara – “Yip, Yip, Yip, Oy Vey!”
When the Yankees begin a three-game series in Tampa Friday (3:10 p.m.; YES) their fans might be hoping, praying, that Gleyber Torres doesn’t find himself on that dubious yip list. Torres, 24, has been handling the baseball as if was smeared with the substances MLB suspects pitchers are using.
In the Yanks 4-3 loss to the Orioles Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium, it was Torres’ 10th-inning throwing error that allowed for cheap run. The Yankees certainly had their chances to avoid it coming down to an error. They banged out 13 hits but were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, a discussion for another day.
The play Torres botched was about as routine as it gets. Anthony Santander’s hopper actually moved Torres toward first. He fielded it cleanly and even took an extra second to set and throw. The low throw skipped a few feet in front of Jay Bruce and bounded behind him. Pedro Severino scored from third, 3-2 Orioles.
“He made a really tough throw over there for Jay,” said manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s got to be more on target.”
Boone has succeeded in difficult job in part because publicly he always has his player’s backs. For him to offer that assessment is enough to look for the panic button. If Torres botched this play in an April game, what happens in October, the month the Yankees expect to be playing in, when it’s a World Series and every extra out can be a prelude to a loss?
This was the second error of the young season for Torres, who also misplayed two balls in the opener that were not ruled errors. Torres committed a team-high nine errors last season and the Yankees have known all along he’s better suited at second base. The error last night was especially glaring because it was such a makeable play.
“He has all the capabilities to go out there and do it,” said Boone. “When he makes a high-profile miscue, he’s got to work past that. … He has all the equipment to work through that, through the bumps, and, he has the confidence to know he has the equipment to get through it.”
He might, but he also might have that ghost yips club in his bag. And this series might have a little more spice than the first two the Yanks have played.
A very different and better Devils Rays team won the AL East last season, dominated the Yankees the COVID-shortened 60-game season and eliminated them from the playoffs. The Devils Rays have never been shy about saying they derive a little more pleasure beating the 27-time World Series champions with the big payroll.
Torres is on a one-year, $4 million deal, hardly superstar money. Imagine the Rays’ delight and the Yanks’ misery if a game is lost because of a another Torres miscue and it really gets in his head.