The New York Yankees are in last place, and their fans have had it.
The frustration from supporters boiled over on Friday night during what eventually became an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
One fan threw a baseball onto the field while New York’s Clint Frazier was batting. Then came another. And another. Soon the field was littered with baseballs in an impromptu protest of the Yankees’ poor play. The game was delayed as the balls were gathered and removed from the field.
“You kind of hate seeing that,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the game. “Unfortunately, a handful of people end up doing it, and it looks bad for everyone.”
On one hand, the behavior of some frustrated fans can be somewhat understood. Yes, the Yankees haven’t been to – let alone won – a World Series since 2009. On the other hand, many teams have had longer droughts than that. And the Yankees did win 100-plus games as recently as 2019.
One thing is clear, the Yankees might have a problem on their hands, and a few fans tossing baseballs onto the field isn’t going to solve it.
That became clear on Saturday when the Yankees fell again to the Rays, this time 6-3. Once again they were stifled by a Rays starter, as Tyler Glasnow held them to one run in five innings of work.
The loss dropped the last-place Yankees to 5-9, five games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox. Their .357 winning percentage is only better than two teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks (.333) and Colorado Rockies (.267).
As stunning as the poor start has been, there are still a lot of games left to play. But it might be worth exploring the issues that could be holding the Yankees back.
Surprisingly, the biggest problem so far is the offense. That’s unusual for a franchise that is known for stocking its roster with muscled sluggers, but that’s what’s happening so far this season.
“They’re relying too much on the long ball,” FOX Sports MLB analyst Dontrelle Willis said. “They need to do a better job in that lineup fighting and piecing together, and starting, manufacturing rallies.”
The New York Yankees hold the worst record in the American League and while it’s still very early in the season, the MLB on FOX crew looks at the warning signs in the Bronx.
The Yankees might be attempting to rely on the long ball, but it’s not working out very well, as they are tied for 20th in MLB in home runs (15), and 29th in the league in slugging percentage (.354).
Looking at their lineup, only Aaron Judge is performing like a star. He leads the team’s regulars in home runs (four), slugging percentage (.553) and OPS (.899). Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Jay Bruce and Frazier are all hitting under .200, and Gleyber Torres is at .213.
The lineup as a whole (heading into Saturday’s games) has an OPS+ of just 92 (100 is average). By comparison, the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers have an OPS+ of 140, and the Red Sox are at 119.
Pitching has also been an issue for the Yankees so far in the early going. While it’s true that the team ERA of 3.64 ranks a respectable 10th in MLB, that stat is bolstered by the greatness of ace Gerrit Cole.
Cole, who is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA through three starts, has been shouldering the load. His 29 strikeouts are tied with David Cone for the most ever by a Yankees pitcher through his first three starts of a season.
But Cole hasn’t been getting a lot of help.
“Everybody besides Gerrit Cole, the rotation has been horrible,” Willis said. “They’re 1-6 with a 6.00 ERA in 10 starts. That’s not gonna get it done, especially in that division where they have a lot of lineups that can get it done.”
Some of this could simply be chalked up to the schedule, which has already featured five games against the defending AL champion Rays. The Yankees are 1-4 in those games have lost seven straight series (including playoff matchups) to Tampa Bay.
“They’re in the Yankees’ dome,” says Willis. “This is the first time I’ve seen this since I’ve…