No one disagreed with the captain.
On a damp and miserable afternoon at the Stadium — one in which the mathematically eliminated Yankees played their first meaningless game in seven years — the assessments were blunt, if vague.
Something has to change, Aaron Boone said, echoing the comments Aaron Judge made Sunday — the day he called the season a failure. There are going to be a lot of tough questions to answer this offseason, Anthony Rizzo agreed.
“You can’t just sit here and say what we did this year is good enough to go into next year, right?” Rizzo said. “You have to look yourself in the mirror and say why wasn’t this clubhouse good enough? It’s not like the personalities didn’t mesh. We all got along. There was no divide in here. But over the course of the season, we just didn’t play well enough. There’s stuff behind that. I think as you get into the offseason even more, you’ll be able to dissect what didn’t go well.”
There will be so, so much to dissect.
How did the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball fail so spectacularly? How did a group that boasts Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and plays in such a hitter-friendly ballpark manage to . . . well . . . not hit?
There’s the easy answer — rampant injuries — but neither Rizzo nor Boone took that route. All teams deal with injuries; well-built teams succeed despite them.
“It’s hard to discount [the injuries] or losing Aaron for a couple of months, losing Giancarlo right out of the gate and other players that are guys that are pillars of our team,” Boone said. “But . . .I go back to 2019 when we were decimated with injuries. It doesn’t mean that’s the end all, be all and you can’t figure it out. It’s on us to figure it out when things like that happen.”
And though Boone declined to specify where the Yankees faltered, he did offer some hints.
The team didn’t “fortify” itself, he said — presumably by having other players step up when others faltered, or by having enough depth to keep them afloat when injuries hit key pieces such as Judge, Stanton, Rizzo, Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told The Associated Press earlier this season that they’ll be doing an organization-wide assessment, including looking at their medical and analytics departments.
Boone said he has been offered no assurances that he’ll be retained next year but doesn’t spend time worrying about it.
“It’s out of my hands,” Boone said of his own job security. “I’m completely comfortable with who I am and the things I can control. My job, in my mind, is doing everything to head into the offseason to prepare and put us in a better position to try and compete for a championship. That’s what the goal is, and until they take that away, that’s my focus.”
Rizzo and Boone shared another core sentiment: The Yankees this year were not good at handling adversity, and ultimately, it doomed them.
“I think there’s things we need to change and fix and make sure we’re on the same page with everything,” Boone said. “We’ll be asking those questions and deep-diving in every part of our organization to make sure we’re in a better place and better able to sustain and fortify and absorb the inevitable adversities that 162 is going to [present].”
The result was a season that, despite some interesting window dressing down the stretch, was basically not competitive enough. The Yankees (79-77) came into the day with the sixth-worst OPS in baseball and were eighth in ERA despite having a probable Cy Young Award winner in Gerrit Cole and arguably the best bullpen in the league.
“We were really never in a position this year,” Rizzo said. “We grinded and it’s going to be easy to say 'with injuries,' it’s going to be easy to say things didn’t go our way. If that’s the case — every story of every year you have to face adversity. We didn’t do well with that . . . It’s our fault. We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t rise up to the outside noise.”