Yankees’ spiral worse than ‘rough patch’ after latest disaster defeat

This isn’t just a “rough patch,” as manager Aaron Boone occasionally calls it. No, this isn’t just a tough stretch.

This is a Yankees team that looks like it’s in trouble. If this team wants to get where it aims to go, it better start playing like a champion.

More to the point, it needs to wake up.

This is a squad full of solid, seasoned veterans and isn’t playing like it. The 5-3, 10-inning defeat to the hated rival Red Sox on Friday before a sellout crowd at the Stadium is a new low point in a gathering storm of them.

Yankees third baseman Oswaldo Cabrera reacts as he walks back to the dugout after grounding out for the final out of the 10th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The two-out, two-strike, ninth-inning home run to Red Sox contact man Masataka Yoshida wasn’t even the lowlight. Neither was the two-run home run by Ceddanne Rafaela in the 10th.

In falling to 4-14 over their last 18 games, the Yankees made what likely goes down as the boneheaded play of the year — a double blunder you’re more likely to see in a high school game. And what’s worse, it followed a memorable miscue the day before (more on that below).

With runners on first and third and the force play off after Red Sox first baseman Romy Gonzalez touched first for the second out after fielding Ben Rice’s grounder, Anthony Volpe inexplicably slowed up just before reaching home to watch D.J. LeMahieu run into the final out of the inning. Young Volpe ran like he didn’t understand the rule, but the ultra-experienced LeMahieu certainly should know to get himself into a rundown.

Alex Verdugo popped out in the 10th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

If Boone doesn’t want to take the drastic step of removing starting players while the team is shorthanded and struggling, it may be time he acknowledged that this isn’t just a “rough patch,” as he likes to say, and that spinning things to the positive may not always be the way to go.

I get it. Positivity for the players in the press has been a winning strategy for Boone.

If this doesn’t work out for Boone, he could make it in politics. Or better yet, diplomacy.

Red Sox center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela (43) attempts to tag New York Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) at second base during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Boone continues be counted on to find the kindest way possible to describe every mistake and misplay. While it’s worked well for him — he’s in his seventh year managing the Yankees, the longest tenure in that chair without a championship — sometimes he’s too easy on his troops, which was also the case only the day before.

That’s where we may need to step in. A counterbalance is compelled. Reality needs to resurface. Unwashed honesty can be healthy. (Some more of that below.)

Boone raised the ire of some fans when he mostly gave a pass to Gold Glove backup center fielder Trent Grisham after Grisham’s obvious nonchalance cost the Yankees a base Sunday. (While fielding a single, the normally outstanding outfielder looked like me picking up the Post when it’s delivered at 6 a.m.) And even the day after, Boone continued to suggest the play didn’t look good because Grisham’s so talented and plays with such ease.

While that’s undeniable, it was also a shockingly bad play that deserved to be called out as such.

“I try not to be so emotional because we lost some games or won some games,” Boone explained before Friday’s game. “I have the conversations I think are necessary.”

Give Boone this. On the biggest score, Boone did talk to Grisham, and he apparently told it to him straight. Anyway, Grisham got the message, which is what counts.

“I should have made the play,” Grisham told me, flat out.

Boone handled that one internally. But after yet another unfathomable play, it may be time to try something different.

Aaron Boone has downplayed the recent slide. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Managing a team comes down to a series of calculations, and Boone obviously decided long ago to keep things positive while talking to the press about his players. Expressing happy thoughts isn’t hard for Boone as he’s a naturally a very kind person (except to umpires), and sees the bright side in any situation.

Now for some reality. They’re playing at a .222 clip since starting the slide in Boston three weeks ago, and they seem worse. In their last 11 defeats prior to Friday, they hadn’t led. Not for an inning or a moment. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that’s at least 99 innings without a lead. That feels about right for how things are going.

Boone, meantime, on Friday used the phrase “rough patch” to chronicle the last few weeks, which have been nothing short of abysmal (not a word he’d use). While I like Boone very much (and I’m not just being diplomatic), it’s time someone selected words to fit the situation.

Clay Holmes allows the tying run during the ninth inning. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Boone also noted how “unfortunate” it is that their starters’ mistakes are being hit for homers. But that’s what major leaguers do with mistakes, they hit them.

The rotation, once easily the best in baseball, is performing poorly lately. Carlos Rodon, Luis Gil and Marcus Stroman regressed since terrific starts.

Let’s face it, very little is going right beyond 1) Judge, who remains on a Babe Ruth like pace, 2) Juan Soto, who isn’t that far off that pace, and 3) Gerrit Cole being back.

Yankees bench during the tenth inning when the New York Yankees played the Red Sox Friday, July 5, 2024. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Boone talks like this is just a minor blip. But it sure doesn’t feel that way.

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