After watching the Blue Jays and Yankees play four games this week, no objective observer could come to any conclusion other than this one: Toronto is better.
Naturally, that’s easy to say after the Blue Jays completed a four-game sweep Thursday night with a 6-4 victory, Toronto's eighth straight victory and the Yankees' sixth straight loss.
But as one longtime National League talent evaluator said Friday: "I would have said they [the Blue Jays] were better even if they split. They’re the team you come out of that series [if you’re an opposing team] saying, ‘I don’t want to see them in October.’
"But you would have said that about the Yankees two or three weeks ago."
The Yankees spent the second part of the summer as one of baseball’s best teams. After losing the first game of a July 4 doubleheader against the Mets to fall to 41-41, they won 35 of their next 46 games, a stretch capped by a 13-game winning streak.
But hard times followed, with the Yankees (78-62) dropping 10 of their next 12 to find themselves in quite a predicament as they played the Mets on Friday night at Citi Field.
They're in a wild-card dogfight with the Red Sox (80-62) and Blue Jays (77-62) — and the Mariners and Athletics came into the day 76-64, just two games behind the Yankees.
The AL East title is all but a done deal as Tampa Bay entered Friday 10 games ahead of the Yankees and nine clear of Boston).
"When we're winning those 13 games, things were just kind of rolling our way," Aaron Judge said after going 3-for-4 Thursday. "Getting hits to fall in, making the right plays, getting that big timely hit when we needed it. Right now, things aren’t going our way. Those timely hits aren’t falling in. The big hit when we need it with a guy on base just isn’t happening right now."
That without question is correct, though there may be more to it than that.
The Yankees, in desperation mode in early July with injuries mounting, employed a markedly different style of play, utilizing the speed brought to the table by players such as Tyler Wade, Greg Allen and Andrew Velazquez, to name a few.
As the Yankees have gotten healthier, "they seem to be back to swinging from their heels, trying to hit every ball 500 feet," said one longtime AL scout, who has covered the Yankees for years.
But it isn’t all that, either.
With Jonathan Loaisiga — their best and most consistent reliever this season — on the injured list, Zack Britton out for the season and Aroldis Chapman struggling, the bullpen is a complete mess. The Yankees’ defense, hot and cold all season (though more cold than not), is back in one of the latter stretches.
Still, a straw poll of six rival scouts revealed all six expressing the belief that the Yankees, who would appear to have a relatively benign schedule the rest of the way, will make the playoffs.
Boone, as per his nature, is just as optimistic.
"The reality is, we've played really good baseball to get ourselves back into it for a couple months and just had a terrible week right now," he said Friday. "And I am confident that we'll come out of it and that still even our best baseball's ahead. That's our focus and I'm confident that'll happen."