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Mudville: June 23, 2024 11:24 am PDT

And it all Fell Down

The game of Jenga, for those not familiar, is a game where strips of wood are stacked in three block grids, one on top of the previous, until all of the blocks create a tower.  Players then use a steady hand and a rudimentary understanding of structural engineering to remove individual blocks one by one keeping the structure intact but making it more and more perilous with each passing turn.

Eventually someone pulls the piece that causes the structure to collapse. That person loses the game and likely has to pick up all of the pieces. The 2022 Yankees are turning into the Jengees and it feels like we are all just waiting to see who will pull the final piece to make it all collapse.  Now, you usually play this game with more than yourself and because I’m at a loss for words I’ve brought in our EIC to share his misery over this as well.

Since this is a family site, I have decided to keep most of my thoughts to myself, as it would more likely than not result in a NSFW rating. Know that I am here with you all in spirit hoping and praying we don’t witness a collapse of epic proportions, some of which our good Mr. Nelson will lay out for you henceforth. – Ed.

In September of 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies had 6 ½ game lead with 12 to go.  I’m sure the city was abuzz with plans for a parade to end all parades. A funny thing happened in those last 12, however.  They lost 10 in a row, lost the pennant, made the great Gene Mauch a public enemy and coined the phrase “The Phold”.

In 1969 a black cat strolls into the Cubs dugout at Shea Stadium and rolls the final wrecking ball into a season that saw the Cubbies with a 9 ½ game lead on August 14 and turned into a season that saw them lose 14 of their last 20, lose the division by eight games, and gave the baseball world the Miracle Mets.

My personal favorite saw the 1978 Red Sox jump out to a 62–28 start into July and build a nine-game lead in the division and a 14 game lead over the then 4th place Yankees. By September 7 the lead had been cut to 4 over the Bombers who subsequently went into to Boston and outscored the Sox 42-9 over a four-game series to pull even and “The Boston Massacre” took place.  The rest of season goes back and forth.  Both teams end with identical records forcing a 1 game playoff to decide the division and light hitting, but reliable, Bucky Dent homers over the Green Monster to jump start the Yankees, gets himself a new, but catchy, middle name and crushes the souls of Red Sox fans everywhere.

The 2022 New York Yankees came out of the gates flaming hot.  Comparison were being made to 1998 Yankees team that won 114 games.  They entered August with a 69-34 record and a 12-game lead in the division.  Though they didn’t play their best baseball of the season in July, parade plans were still on for some but for others, the signs that the building was beginning to need more than Mr. Fix-It to make some repairs were obvious. Well, in typical current Yankees fashion, instead of dipping into the Trade Schools and using their young apprentices they keep those kids in the back seat to continue to watch and learn and they go out and get some new craftsman.

Now you would think that when you know you have a building that is suffering from structural damage and in need of repair, and you have literally more money than those repairs should cost, you would go out and hire the best of the best available tradesman.  Did they do that?  Nope.  They went out and hired everyone else’s plan B.

August comes and goes and they set an ominous record for most losses in the month in franchise history.  They see the lead shrink to 6 and start September in no better shape.  I know the supply chain thing is a real deal but the walls are collapsing and they talk and play like it’s nothing a little paint won’t fix.

Now if we follow Twitter, or what I like to call “The World’s Largest Virtual Panic Button”, it’s over. Shut it down, burn it down, fire everybody, sell the team, and blow it all up. As of the morning of September 4th the lead is still 4 games and the lead for the final Wild Card is 7. The final Wild Card? I can’t believe I just typed that, yet that’s where we are.

To add more insult to the injury we fans are dealing with, the job foreman, Aaron Boone, has no idea what tool to use to fix this. Oh, he gives us the typical “we’re about to turn the corner” bullshit that he’s been saying his entire tenure – but now he’s added the old table slap and the classic “not meeting standards” line while still saying he has the right crew and tools to get the job done.

Granted, managers get all of the blame and none of the credit and they are relied on less and less by organizations to manage the game and more so to manage the players. I think it’s crap myself and just looking at the best teams in the game right now you see Managers who feel now job is too small and if it’s not done right then why bother doing it all.  That breeds teams that take on the personality of the manager. We all knew Aaron Boone was a laid back and likable person when he got the job. We weren’t getting Billy Martin spitting and kicking dirt at umps and fighting his players or Joe Girardi who had zero issue holding players fully accountable or even a cerebral baseball lifer like Buck Showalter. As a result it should come as no real surprise that when times get tough this team curls up in the corner like a baby bunny hoping it doesn’t get eaten.

Manager Aaron Boone #17 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the third inning at RingCentral Coliseum on August 28, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

So what next?  They turn to the experts. No, not master carpenters or licensed structural engineers but the nerds whose building experience comes from Minecraft. What do they say?  Take the Major League leader in Homers and RBI, Aaron Judge, and bat him lead off. That’s right, give him more at bats. On its surface it’s not the worst idea. I mean the dude is tearing up the league. When you dig deeper you see that the bottom third of the lineup has underperformed so who is he going to drive in? The basement is full of water and you give your best guy a rinse cup like your dentist uses.

Who knows what the outcome will be? In “The Phold” Gene Mauch decided to pitch the combination of Jim Bunning and Chris Short in seven of the final 10 games – all losses – and many of those starts were on two days’ rest. The pressure to get out of a tailspin makes teams do strange things. There’s no spreadsheet or video game that can spot out the answer but what never fails is playing good, solid baseball.

I sure hope this year’s 2022 Yankees don’t join the list of epic collapses. Maybe they should call Bob the Builder and his buddy Manny. Or perhaps they should bring in Tool Time Tim and his sidekick Al. I know. How about they look each other in the eye, grab their tool bags and get back to work.

That’s all I can take for today. In the meantime, I’ll be using my head as a hammer and banging it against the wall like the rest of you. Maybe it will knock the joy back into Mudville.

Mike Nelson is a Director of Sales by day but at night is a boomer baseball ranter who assumes the persona of Joe Blow from Mudville. His biggest baseball claim to fame was hitting for a double cycle in a sandlot game. Dick Allen was mean to him when he was 12 years old

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