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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: November 30, 2022 2:45 pm PDT
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BY KEVIN KERNAN

Picking up the playoff pieces while wondering how Tommy Pham’s Fantasy Football Team is doing this season.

Aaron Boone and the Yankee Nerds were the culprits behind the Yankees 4-2 loss to the Astros Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Game 1 of the ALCS.

From here on in I will just refer to them as the Y-Nerds, they have not earned their Yankee pinstripes and do not deserve to be called Yankee Nerds.

With some of the ridiculous decisions made by Boone and the Y-Nerds I thought I was watching the Yankees take on the Astros in West Palm Beach in a game in March.

Let’s get Matt Carpenter some at-bats and start him at DH even though his timing is not close to being in regular season mode, much less ALCS mode. As a result, Carpenter, coming back from a foot fracture, struck out four times.

Let’s keep rolling out Josh Donaldson. He’s not done, he’s just in a rut. As a result, three at-bats, three Ks, bad Ks every one, too.

Editors note: Can we PLEASE get rid of Josh Donaldson?! He Sucks- yes your editor is a Yankees fan but that’s a story for another day- .

It was almost as if the Yankees said, forget it, this is a mismatch, Jameson Taillon versus Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, let’s just throw a bunch of things against the wall and see if anything sticks for Game 2.

Let’s not go with the “A’’ relievers, let’s cobble together a game. Our guys are tired, it’s only the ALCS, no big deal if we lose the first game, it’s a seven-game series. After the Yankees got a bases-loaded double play ball from Clarke Schmidt to escape the fifth Boone and the Boyz hung with Schmidt in the sixth and he promptly surrendered home runs to Yuli Gurriel to put the Astros up, 2-1 and a one-out home run to Chas McCormick for a 3-1 Houston lead.

Continuing the theme of getting rusty Yankees some work, hey, it’s only Game 1 of the ALCS, relax, there’s plenty of time, let’s bring in starter Frankie Montas, who has been out with shoulder issues, he needs the work, let him have some relief time on the mound. Boom! Young shortstop Jeremy Pena homers and Pena continues to grow in confidence, unlike the Yankee shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was recently benched but had to get back in the lineup because Aaron Hicks, one of the worst signings ever, hurt his knee.

Also, let’s not use Domingo German, we know what he can do, get people out. The Y-Nerds need to see how the others do as they build up the Not Ready for Prime Time Bullpen.

I’m sure I am leaving something out, like not guarding the third base line for one of Pena’s doubles or sticking Giancarlo Stanton in left when he should be the DH but the amount of tactical errors gave the Astros and Dusty Baker a huge advantage in the series and now a 1-0 lead in the series. Things can change, the Astros still have to win three more games to send the Yankees home again but the question has to be asked, and not just in this series, but in a number of postseason series because the Nerds are running amok in MLB now, thanks to Rob Manfred and Morgan Sword and the leadership in the game that continues to get rid of proven baseball people for science experiment front office geeks, who don’t understand the art and the adrenaline of competition.

What are we doing?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Guardians in game five of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Yankees are doing the same old thing, finding themselves on the wrong end of the score against the Astros.

Some pure baseball matters need to be addressed, too. The Yankees struck out 17 times. The Astros struck out twice. Despite only two strikeouts the Astros managed to out-homer the Yankees, who live and die by the home run, 3-2. Both teams were 0-for-4 with RISP, an evergreen problem for baseball.

The Yankees managed to get beat despite the fact Jose Altuve did nothing and is mired in an 0-for-20 nightmare slump while slugger Yordan Alvarez went 0-2. At least the Yankees intentionally walked Alvarez one time, unlike Scott Servais and the Mariners, but that is a low bar to out-maneuver.

Boone and the Y-Nerds can’t get out of their own way. They can’t just try to win a game, they must show how smart they are with against the grain baseball decisions. If not for a Ron Swoboda-like diving catch by Aaron Judge in right field in the first inning, this would have been an early blowout.

It was almost as if the Yankees said, forget it, this is a mismatch, Jameson Taillon versus Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, let’s just throw a bunch of things against the wall and see if anything sticks for Game 2. Our squad is tired from beating those gutsy Guardians in five games on Tuesday so let’s give the “A’’ relievers a break and hope for the best.

The Astros swept the Mariners in three games including that preposterous 18-inning game where both teams swung from their heels on every pitch before Pena hit the home run that gave the Astros a 1-0 win and now they are 1-0 against the Yankees.

They can beat the Yankees at their own game. Unlike the Guardians, who simply can’t hit, the Astros have punch, 13 of their 17 runs in the postseason have come via home runs.

Yo, Boone and Y-Nerds: Clarke Schmidt is not Michael King. Let him be Clarke Schmidt.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees waits in the on deck circle during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game one of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Over in the NLCS, it’s all tied at 1-1 between the Phillies and the Padres and if the Yankees win Thursday night, that will be the case in the ALCS, but the Yankees need to treat this as a postseason do or die affair and not a spring training get our work in affair. Donaldson is cooked. His at-bats were not competitive and the third baseman has to change for Game 2 for the Yankees.

The Brewers front office also should be asking: What are we doing?

The reliever they got rid of that upset the entire apple cart in Milwaukee and helped cause the Brewers not to make the watered down playoffs, Josh Hader, struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to pick up his fourth save of the postseason for the Padres. The Padres showed toughness, getting behind early, in part because Juan Soto lost the ball in the San Diego sun, but came back with another five-run rally, erasing a 4-0 Phillies lead. In two of the last three games the Padres have had five-run innings. That will get it done in the postseason.

Hader, the reliever the Brewers just had to dump, has now struck out each of the last eight hitters he has faced. Six times Hader has hit 100 this postseason after zero 100 mph pitches in the regular season. Adrenaline is a magical addition in the postseason, but Nerds think all games are the same.

Did the Guardians Josh Naylor know the score when he hit his Rock the Baby Home Run versus Gerrit Cole and the Yankees in Game 4? Did he know his team was still losing, 3-2 at Progressive Field? Did he not realize that would add fuel to the Yankees fire, especially since the ridiculous act went on and on and on. One Rock the Baby is enough but Rocking the Baby all the way around the bases when your team is losing made the Guardians a bit seasick and fired up the Yankees, prompting the question: What are we doing?

Just for the record: from the moment Naylor made himself out to be a baseball clown, Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball would be proud, the Guardians were outscored 6-1 the final 14 innings of the ALDS, losing Naylor’s Rock the Baby Game, 4-2 and the deciding fifth game, 5-1, a game they were never in as Giancarlo Stanton rocked the Guardians with a three-run home run in the first inning off Aaron Civale and in the second Aaron Judge blasted a solo shot off Sam Hentges.

“I guess Naylor never heard of the expression ‘Let sleeping dogs lie,’ ’’ one longtime evaluator told BallNine. This evaluator was a pitcher so Naylor’s ‘’let the kids have fun’’ trip around the bases really bothered him. Naylor did not get a hit the rest of the series and went 0-for-4 in the fifth and deciding game, finishing with a .194 batting average.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Josh Naylor #22 of the Cleveland Guardians sits in the dugout prior to playing the New York Yankees in game five of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Guardian pitchers held the Yankees to a .182 average in the series, but the Yankees hit nine home runs to the Guardians three. For a team and organization that prides itself on being so smart, the Guardians made some really dumb mistakes and allowed Stanton and Judge to do what they love to do at Yankee Stadium, lift balls on the outer half of the plate into the right field seats.

In Game 1 the Astros attacked Stanton and Judge much differently. Judge went 0-for-4 and is batting .167 for the postseason. Stanton got two hits but the Astros kept him in the ballpark.

The Yankees also screwed around late in the year batting Judge leadoff to get him as many at-bats for his home run chase and he wound up with 62. But they might have spent some of that time finding a leadoff hitter to replace the injured DJ LeMahieu. Judge still would have gotten his at-bats batting second. Their leadoff hitter in the postseason is Gleyber Torres, who is hitting .130, which again prompts the question: What are we doing?

One longtime scout noting the amount of poor preparation he has seen in this postseason, told me: “Nowadays, before games, the Nerds have the players sitting on their ass in the clubhouse looking at iPads.’’

He has a point.

The Guardians and Tito Francona also made a Dodgers-like playoff pitching decision, opting not to allow their ace Shane Bieber to touch the baseball in Game 5. Hey there is always next year. This was a classic case of Just Happy to Be Here, instead of a “Let’s do what we have to do to shock the world and the Yankees.’’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Manager Terry Francona #77 of the Cleveland Guardians walks to the mound during the seventh inning against the New York Yankees in game five of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Going with Aaron Civale as the Game 5 starter took all the pressure off the Yankees. Civale versus Nestor Cortes, Jr. was one of the great postseason mismatches of all time. Civale put up a 4.92 ERA during the season. Civale managed to get one whole out in the game while giving up three runs. Bieber would have been pitching on three days rest and that became the convenient excuse for the Guardians, who were just happy to get a participation trophy.

All the talk was Bieber had shoulder issues in 2021.

Yeah, but Bieber pitched 200 innings this season, rocking a 3.17 ERA. He could not give the Guardians a few more innings to at least set a tone in a win or go home game on the road, instead the Guardians turned to Civale who had zero command and presence and was dreadful.

What are we doing here?

Enjoy the off-season Guardians. The Indians/Guardians have not won a World Series since 1948. With this mindset, they will never will another one.

Sure, you can change your name, but you can’t change the fact it has been 74 years since Cleveland has won a World Series.

No team makes more baffling postseason pitching decisions than the mighty Dodgers and once again they are outside looking in because of Dave Roberts and the LA Nerds decision to take out a starting pitcher, this time  it was Tyler Anderson who threw five shutout innings against the Padres and was leading 3-0. Enough was enough, time to go to the bullpen. In the critical Game 4 comeback loss to the Padres, it wasn’t just that Anderson was pulled after five innings of doing his job, but that meant four innings had to be covered by the bullpen.

What are we doing here?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees waits on the on deck circle during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game one of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 19, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

And in the seventh inning Roberts/LA Nerds went with Tommy Kahnle. What?

The game was soon lost, the Padres staged one of their patented postseason comebacks and the 111-win Dodgers were kaput, much like the 101-win Mets were KO’d by the pesky Padres as well.

The Padres have shown an ability to bounce back, to be resilient and that is what October baseball is all about. In Game 2 Wednesday night Soto came back from that disastrous play, losing the ball in the sun in San Diego, guess there isn’t enough time to work on sun balls in San Diego, but give Soto credit he got a big double in the five-run fifth.

Soto turned it around from: “What are we doing?’’ to “Look what he is doing.’’

Can the Yankees come back from this night of terrible decisions in Game 2 of the ALCS by Boone and the Y-Nerds?

That’s also this bigger question I keep asking: Why Nerds?

Why?

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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