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It is times like these when we always go back to the wisdom and sanity of Joe Torre. Torre, of course, had grown up a Giants fan in Brooklyn in the days when the only thing that united Giants and Dodgers fans was when bad news arrived about the Yankees. He had also cut his managerial teeth on some woefully out-manned teams in Queens, in Atlanta and in St. Louis.
And then he had gotten to manage the Yankees.
And so he understood that nobody was ever going to throw a pity party for them.
“People love us, hate us, despise us, devote themselves to us,” Torre said in 2001, after he already had four Commissioner’s Trophies in his collection. “But one thing nobody is ever going to feel is sorry for us. No matter how bad things get for us. And that’s 100 percent fair.”
Joe Girardi learned those lessons, both as a player and as a manager. During one especially tough stretch of the 2008 season, his first year on the job, when nothing much had gone right for the Yankees for the better part of a month he’d admitted: “I’d like to think people don’t root for our guys to get hurt. But I absolutely understand that it doesn’t break their hearts when stuff happens to us.”
It is one of the necessary layers of managing the Yankees. Aaron Boone got a taste of that two years ago, when Yankees began dropping like flies in April, didn’t stop until late summer, and yet the Yankees still won 103 games and the AL East.
“If it says ‘NY’ on your cap, you are expected to play a certain way,” Boone said during one especially difficult early-season stretch in Anaheim. “And credit the guys who step in and say, ‘I want that challenge.’ ”
The Yankees are there again. From the All-Star break on, alone, they have lost 15 players either to the IL or the COVID list, and the hits keep coming. Monday they put shortstop Gleyber Torres — who’d finally begun to swing a hot bat — on the injured list with a sprained thumb, and though Boone described that as “better news than we’d feared” it still will keep Torres out for up to three weeks.
Boone also revealed a few minutes later that Gio Urshela — whose rise to prominence as a Yankee coincided with all those injuries to front-liners in 2019 — was back in New York and not preparing to rejoin the Yankees lineup in Kansas City on Wednesday as originally hoped after suffering a small setback with his balky hamstring.
And so it goes.
And on it goes.
“We’ve got a lot of really good players focused on winning, understanding the critical place we are in our season,” Boone said, giving further voice to the next-man-up mantra that must be a part of every Yankees manager’s playbook. “There’s no other expectations here except to keep winning games. We have lot of players capable of playing at a very high level.”
There are also a number of players like that presently wearing civvies, too — Gerrit Cole, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, Urshela, Torres, Anthony Rizzo, Jordan Montgomery.
And yet the Yankees rolled into Kansas City to face the fourth-place Royals 11 games over .500, outright winners of eight of their last nine series, rising from 41-41 on the Fourth of July to 61-50 entering the ninth of August. They do this in spite of the daily increases in degree-of-difficulty brought about by all the absences.
Nobody feels sorry for the Yankees, ever, and so the Yankees are never afforded any extra credit, either. And while they entered this series still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in — trailing the Rays by 6 ½ in the East, still behind the A’s and Red Sox and neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays for the two wild-card slots — there remains a sense that that part of the equation is a matter of time.
Even with all the extra work.
Even with all the new faces, learning on the fly not only how to play like Yankees, but win like Yankees, too.
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