Hey, it could be worse, Yankees fans. At least your team was not the worst in the American League East in March.
That would be the Red Sox, who stumbled out of the batter’s box 1-3, a half-game behind the Yankees, their division co-favorites back when people were making preseason predictions a few days ago.
So it goes, as baseball people advise us — and have repeatedly, for more than a century now, and usually correctly — not to get too worked up over a small sample size in a large season.
Still . . . these games do count, as the Yankees learned last year when the Red Sox beat them out in part because of a better record against the lowly O’s. The Yankees’ 9-9 start included three losses in four games against Baltimore.
Enter Aaron Boone, who is just the personality to navigate this sort of mini-crisis, given his laid-back demeanor and generations-old baseball pedigree.
Before Sunday’s severely rain-delayed, pace of play-challenged, bone-chilling, sparsely attended, sloppily played, too-many-men-left-on-base, poor-pitching mess of a 7-5 loss to the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, the manager was asked about something Aaron Judge said after Saturday’s loss.
“We still have that mindset that our backs are against the wall every single game,” Judge said.
Hmm. Yes and no, said Boone, whose response was a master class in Level-Headed Baseball Managing 101.
“One of the things we talk about a lot is you want to be [where] you can’t tell what’s going on with us,” he said. “I want us to have the ability to emotionally handle, withstand anything, turn the page each and every day. But there’s an expectation that there’s urgency every single day and there’s an expectation in our room.
“That doesn’t mean overreacting or underreacting to anything that goes on in the course of the day, because it is a grind and a haul of a season and you have to have emotional stability day to day and not get on a roller-coaster ride, but come with the mindset every day that we’re going to come here to beat you down.”
So to review: Every game matters, but so does perspective.
“Whether you win 90 games, 100 games, 110 games, it’s never going to be perfect,” Boone said. “As long as our mindset is, in my view, in the right place, then I feel good about what we do, where we’re at and what we’ll go out and expect to do today.”
That was at 10 a.m. It is safe to assume nothing that happened in the ensuing 10-plus hours was what he expected.
It began with a drizzle delay of 3 hours, 17 minutes. Then play began, and Renato Nuñez hit a three-run home run off J.A. Happ in the top of the first inning.
Many other things went wrong for the Yankees. Luke Voit struck out looking with the bases loaded in the third, at which point a frustrated fan screamed, “This is a Triple-A team!” (He meant the Orioles, not the Yankees.)
Voit later grounded out with the bases loaded. The Yankees stranded 14 runners overall.
The highlight was a walk. Brett Gardner worked one out in the fourth by fouling off numerous balls with two outs and the bases loaded. That forced in a run and set up Judge’s two-run single.
After the 3:17 delay, the game itself lasted 3:48. That’s a total of 7:05 if you are scoring at home. Long day, long season.
When it was over, Boone lauded the “traffic” on the bases. “Over time, when you create traffic, we’re going to get our share of hits,” he said.
Probably. But now they’re 1-2. One hundred and fifty-nine to go.
“The bottom line is we think we’re going to be a really good team,” Boone said. “You’re going to have series where you don’t put your best foot forward, and I’m confident that we’re really close to doing that, and we plan on that starting tomorrow night.”