Aaron Judge could not put the season in perspective.
“You’ll have to give me some time to get a better answer for that, it’s tough to say 15 minutes after our last game,’’ he said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s season-ending 4-3 loss to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALDS. “But it’s a grind, up and down through the whole way. Guys battling injuries, batting slumps, battling this and that. It’s just another baseball season but we know we came up short of our goals.’’
When asked if the Red Sox were just the better team, Judge responded, “It’s a mix of things, they got a great team over there, they won 108 games, one of the most potent offense in the games . . . What a year they had, congrats to them.’’
The Yankees belted a major league-record 267 home runs. But there was an underlying statistic alongside that achievement. During the regular season, they were 90-41 in games they hit at least one homer, but just 10-21 in games they did not. Manager Aaron Boone bristled during the season at the suggestion that he had a home run or nothing offense, but the facts bore that out.
The Yankees hit two homers while beating the A’s in the AL Wild Card game and three — one by Judge and two by Gary Sanchez — in their only triumph against the Red Sox in the Division Series. There are no World Series rings for most teams that led the league in home runs: The 2010 Blue Jays and Orioles, the 2005 Rangers and the 1997 Mariners.
As far as tinkering with the offense going forward, Boone said, “Well, we want to continue to get better, so we are chasing the perfect offense.’’
The Yankees are not built to manufacture runs by employing the hit and run, stealing bases or any version of small ball. No Jeterian singles of the championship years under Joe Torre.
Judge hit 27 homers in 112 regular-season games. He was out of the lineup from July 27 to Sept. 18 after a chip fracture in his right wrist. Asked to evaluate this season, Judge said, “It was a tough one, our ultimate goal is to bring back a championship and win a ring and we fell short on that. When I came back from the wrist injury that my main goal get my at-bats and get ready for the postseason and we just came up short.’’
Giancarlo Stanton, a polarizing figure in the inconsistent offense, isn’t into statistical breakdowns. “Either way it’s a loss and we’re in the same boat,’’ he said. He struck out in the ninth inning of a two-run rally that brought the Yankees within one run of the Red Sox. “We had opportunities with runners in scoring position,’’ he said. “But I’m not going to pick apart the series.’’
Stanton led the Yankees with 38 homers, but also had 211 strikeouts. It was his first trip to the postseason. “I don’t want to experience the postseason,’’ he said, “I want to win it all.’’
Gardner hopes to return
Brett Gardner, who played on the 2009 championship team, hopes to come back in 2019. The Yankees hold a club option of $12.5 million or a $2 million buyout. “I’d love to come back here,’’ he said. “I’ve never played anywhere else. We ’ll see what that looks like. I know that we’ve obviously got a lot of young guys and a lot of guys already on the roster so, you know, like I said I’ve been here a long time and my agent and I have a great relationship with [GM Brian Cashman] and the rest of the front office. I’m sure when the time’s right we’ll sit down and talk about that.’’