Yankee Mystique and Aura Long Past Gone

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(Photo credit: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

For a cheap stupid human trick, Yankees mental skills coach Chad Bohling decided to motivate the players by showing highlights of the 2004 Red Sox coming back to beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series in the morning prior to Game 4 ALCS. He showed it in light of the Yankees being down 3-0 in the ALCS to the Houston Astros.

The idea was to get the Yankees to believe that if the Red Sox can do it, so can they.

Here are so many problems with this ploy: Why remind them of the failures of the players that played for that franchise? Why motivate grown men in a man’s league knowing what’s a stake? What about the Yankees that remind anyone of the 2004 Red Sox?

Too much information can often be paralysis by analysis.

The Yankees were better off keeping it simple just by winning one game. Even then, it may not have worked anyway.

It didn’t as we found out after the Yankees took a 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. The Astros swept the Yankees in the ALCS. This is the 13th straight year the Yankees have not won a championship and made a return to the World Series, fourth straight time the Astros beat the Yankees in the playoffs since 2015 and fifth straight ALCS loss, the longest streak of LCS series losses.

The Astros outclassed, outworked and outplayed the Yankees in all four games. They played like the hungry team out there. There’s nothing a motivational video could do to help the Yankees. It was over after the Astros took a 5-0 Game 3 victory over the Yankees. One can make a case that it was over in Game 2 when the Astros took a 3-2 victory after Yankees manager Aaron Boone whined about the roof being opened at Minute Maid Park, denying Aaron Judge’s home run that would have tied the game, and Luis Severino whined about the exit velocity that aided Alex Bregman’s three-run home run in the third inning.

It wasn’t even surprising the Yankees were swept. They looked shot in an elimination game. There was not much energy from the stands to the dugout. The players gave everything they got in Game 3 with nothing to show for it. It sure seemed like a coronation for the Astros when the game started.

Even when the Yankees took a 3-0 lead, it sure seemed it was a matter of time until the Astros would respond. Everyone knew it. It’s the way the Yankees’ nemesis played all season. They responded by scoring four runs in the third inning to take a 4-3 lead, including Jeremy Pena’s three-run home run that tied the game at 3.

Not even Harrison Bader’s sixth-inning home run giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead would rally them. The Astros retook the lead by scoring two runs in the seventh inning as a result of Gleyber Torres’ failure to turn a tailor-made double play that would have ended the inning after Martin Maldonado struck out to start the inning.

The Astros would not blow another lead after giving the Yankees a mulligan. After Bader’s home run, the Astros retired 10 Yankees to end the game.

It said something about the Yankees that they would implode twice after leading twice. That’s why it was amusing that they would use the 2004 Red Sox as a rallying cry. This team does not have the heart and grit of that 2004 Red Sox team. They sure don’t have the championship goods that the Astros have.

The Astros were just the better team. There was a reason they were favored to win the series. They can pitch, field and get a much-needed two-out hit. Oh, and they can also get a much-needed home run. They own the Yankees the way the Yankees own the Minnesota Twins for a long time. This ALCS told you what you needed to know, Yankees fans.

This Astros team seems determined to win a championship. They have yet to lose in the postseason. They played in the World Series last year despite falling short of a championship, and they played like they were on a mission to finish the job all season long as the Mets experienced in the home-and-home series this season. They will get their chance against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

The Astros provided a reminder of what the Yankees used to be from their dynasty days. A team that knows how to win and takes the soul out of an opposing team and its fanbase. A team that played defense. A team that could get a much-needed out in the postseason. A team that can get a big hit. Most importantly, that team had an answer to everything.

The Yankees have not been a team that teams feared for a long time now. Only the local media and Yankees fans have this imagination the Yankees have that mystique and aura. The Yankees have been 46-64 against other playoff teams since 2002. Their only playoff success comes against the Minnesota Twins on a count of 16-2 since 2002. This is actually more of an indictment of the Twins than how good the Yankees are.

The Astros don’t fear the Yankees since they are a great team. We need to get rid of this idea of mystique and aura helping the Yankees. It died in 2001 when Luis Gonzalez’s single off Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, scoring Jay Bell for the game-winning run in Game 7 of the World Series that denied the Yankees of winning their fourth World Series championship.

The Yankees can say all they want they believed they can beat the Astros, but actions speak louder than words. They did not play like it in the regular season. They did not play like it in the ALCS.

They certainly did not play like it in an elimination game despite leading twice.

That’s the way it goes when they haven’t had that championship DNA in a long time.

This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6

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