By Lenn Robbins
The Yankees have that rare and precious commodity known as an Off Day on Monday and there really shouldn’t be any debate as to whether or not that is good or bad. These Yankees need to get as far away from baseball as possible.
This is a team that has lost its compass if not its confidence. It can’t find its true North because it doesn’t know what that is anymore. Do the Yankees need to hit better? Of course. Do they need to field better? Unquestionably. Can they benefit from starting pitching? Certainly.
But even if the Yankees had improved in all facets of the game this weekend, they still might have been swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, dropping Sunday’s game, 4-2. By the time Gerrit Cole threw his first pitch, the Yankees were strung tighter than heavy-metal guitar.
“It just seems like we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves — probably too much pressure on ourselves,” DJ LeMahieu said. “Nothing relaxes you more than results. You can say, ‘Don’t worry about the results, worry about how you go about it.’ That’s all good until you face a bunch of adversity and you try even harder to get results.”
It’s as simple and complicated as that. Playing for the Yankees always is a taut proposition as we know. If you think it’s redundant to note this franchise has devoted every season since 2009 to the pursuit of a 28th World Series title, consider what that means day by day, at-bat by at-bat.
The Yankees fell to 5-10 for the first time since 1997. They have the worst record in the American League. There’s pressure in pinstripes during the good times. Now?
Who else in sports faces this pressure? The Cowboys? They are seeking their first Super Bowl win since 1995. But football teams have a built in off day almost every week. Not baseball. Days such as Monday are invaluable.
“You play this game long enough, you’re gonna go through some crap,” Cole said after pitching another gem.
He went six and one-third innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out 10 and not issuing a walk. The one time the Yankees got a dominating pitching performance they mustered just three hits (for the second time in the series) and committed another error.
“You have to strap your boots on and wade through the mud a little bit,” Cole said. “If we stay in that mindset and we leave the field every day exhausted, good things are on the horizon, but I don’t have the magic wand. I don’t know when it’s going to turn.”
There is no place to hide. But there is an Off Day. A precious Off Day. It’s not a magic wand but whatever each player needs to do to climb out of the mud, Monday is the day to do it.