Don’t blame Buck Showalter and Aaron Boone for lost seasons

The last time we had no October baseball in New York was 10 seasons ago, in 2014. In 2016, the last time the Yankees didn’t make it to the postseason but the Mets did, we got exactly one October game, even if it was a pretty dramatic Wild Card game between the Mets and the Giants, Noah Syndergaard going toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner that night until Jeurys Familia coughed up the Mets season in the 9th.

Now we move up on another dark baseball October, really dark, because of belly flops involving two teams whose combined payroll is over $600 million. All that money, spent on two fourth-place teams. It’s enough wasted money by Steve Cohen and Hal Steinbrenner to make them feel almost as tortured owning local sports teams as the noted Las Vegas entrepreneur, James L. Dolan.

Has there been bad luck for both of our teams? There has, starting even before the regular season began when Edwin Diaz, coming off as great a season as any New York closer ever had, tore up his knee in the World Baseball Classic. Then on the first Saturday night in June, big Aaron Judge injured his big toe running into an outfield wall at Dodger Stadium, and was gone for nearly two months.

The Yankees were 10 games over .500 when Judge got hurt. Somehow they hung in there, and were still six games over .500, 54-48, when Judge returned to the lineup in Baltimore at the end of July. Through Thursday night, they were 23-28 since.

Starting pitchers, big starting pitchers, ended up getting hurt for both teams. Domingo German, the imperfect young man who had pitched a perfect game for the Yankees, ended up in rehab. Anthony Rizzo, one of the good guys, got concussed, a situation that somehow hid in plain sight with the Yankees for a couple of months. Max (We Hardly Knew Ye) Scherzer and Kate Upton’s husband, Mr. Verlander, left town at the trade deadline. So did the immortal Tommy Pham. Pham is a guy now playing for his 8th team in 10 years, but that hasn’t stopped him from acting like the conscience of the 2023 Mets.

What really happened on both sides of the place I started calling Baseball New York a long time ago? A lot. And hardly any of it was good.

But you know who shouldn’t get blamed? The managers.

Buck Showalter is a year removed from leading the Mets to 101 wins and winning manager of the year.

If you really think you can lay all of what we have witnessed over the past six months on Buck Showalter and Aaron Boone, as thrilling as it is for some people to run with the crowd on that, you’ve simply been streaming the wrong movie.

Start with Buck. He was coming off one of the best managing jobs you’ll ever see with the 2022 Mets, somehow taking his team to 101 victories, the same number the Braves won last season. He did that in a season when he ended up getting a total of 34 starts from Scherzer and Wing-and-a-Prayer DeGrom. Even with all that, Mets fans still have a right to wonder how last October would have gone for their team if Scherzer had managed to win the two games he was hired, at very big money, to win:

His last regular-season start against the Braves.

His Wild Card series start against the Padres.

Scherzer most certainly did not. Had nothing in either game. So the Mets didn’t win the NL East. They ended up losing the Wild Card series to the Padres. This year Buck loses Diaz and does not have nearly enough bullpen behind him. Scherzer got hurt, and suspended for sticky fingers. Verlander started the season hurt. Ninety million tied up in two guys whose combined age is nearly 80. Neither one was a Met after Aug. 1 because Cohen and Billy Eppler, his general manager, waved the white flag at that point.

Now we read and hear that David Stearns, Cohen’s heart’s desire for a while to be head of baseball ops at Citi Field, might want to bring in his own guy to manage the Mets, maybe even his guy Craig Counsell with the Brewers, suddenly discussed as if he’s Joe Torre. You tell me where Stearns is going to find a better one than Buck Showalter, who after last season was named Manager of the Year for the fourth time, in a fourth different decade.

People love to whisper the narrative, just off-stage, that Buck is too old. Is Brian Snitker, who might win another World Series with the Braves after his 68th birthday, too old? Is 74-year old Dusty Baker, who won last year with the Astros, too old? Everybody sees the work Bruce Bochy has done with the Rangers this season. Bochy, who will turn 69 next spring, is a year older than Buck. Is Bruce Bochy too old? You know what all the boy-wonder executives like Stearns should do with great baseball men like these? They should try learning from them.

Manager Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees makes a pitching change during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 16, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Aaron Boone was dealt a bad hand from the start with this Yankees team.

And Aaron Boone? Does any fair-minded person look at the construction of this Yankee team — and that means even before Steinbrenner had to pay more than $30 million to make Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson go away — and think this is somehow all his doing? The Yankees were hurt by injuries, absolutely, same as the Mets were. But they also came into the season with no left fielder and no viable third baseman and Rizzo being the only left-handed bat with any pop in it. In Yankee Stadium. With a right field wall so close batters feel as if they can touch it with the end of their bat.

The Yankees came into the season with one player, the surpassing No. 99, that anybody really wanted to watch play baseball on a daily basis. They weren’t fast enough, young enough, athletic enough. If Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner try to talk themselves into believing that this season was some kind of outlier, they’re just kidding themselves. The Yankees nearly lost to the Guardians in the playoffs last season, got swept by Astros, and then made one significant addition: Carlos Rodon, who coming into the weekend had made 12 starts and had a 5.90 earned run average because of injuries.

You know who Rodon might turn out to be, if he isn’t a lot better and a lot healthier next season? Another starting pitcher who turns out to have been a lot better somewhere else. If Steinbrenner really does try to blame this on Boone it is simply because he would be willing to blame anybody except his general manager for the current state of the Yankees. I love people pointing fingers at the Yankees analytics department as if all those people hired themselves.

Plenty of bad luck to go around. Plenty of disappointments, on both teams. Plenty of blame to go around. Fixing these two teams is going to be hard. Putting this on Buck and Aaron Boone is way too easy.


One of the more interesting aspects of last week’s Jets-Cowboys game was that Nathaniel Hackett, the Jets new offensive coordinator, seemed to be the only person watching that game who didn’t seem to identify the fact that Micah Parsons was running around the field like the second coming of LT.

My pal Stanton always likes to be a glass-half-full guy, so he points out that when it comes to pro football, at least New York isn’t Chicago.

So, to paraphrase Bill Murray in “Caddyshack,” we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Do Mets fans ever look at the Wild Card race in the National League and find themselves wondering what might have happened if the Mets didn’t sell when they did.

If you’re keeping score at home, the Red Sox are about to hire their fourth general manager since Theo Epstein.

And two of them — Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski — won World Series at a place, Fenway, where executives don’t have the same kind of tenure as justices of the Supreme Court.

By the way?

After trading away Mookie Betts, one of the best all-around players in Boston baseball history, maybe the most boneheaded thing that Red Sox have done lately is letting Kyle Schwarber just walk out the door after he tried to help slug them back to the Series in 2021.

If it sounds like I’m stuck on what Schwarber is doing for the Phillies, I am.

Even with the under-.200 batting average Schwarber carried into this weekend series with the Mets, The Schwarb is one of the most valuable players in the sport.

With an historic stat line that will eventually include 200 strikeouts, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, and more walks through Thursday night (123) than hits (109), all of that going quite nicely with 45 home runs that might still end up being 50.

Every time James Dolan does an interview he reminds you why he shouldn’t do interviews.

The Giants have now given up 40 to the Cowboys, 28 to the Cardinals and 30 to the 49ers.

If they can’t play better defense than this going forward, they are going to finish last in the NFC East.

I’m so used to seeing Deion on television, I kept expecting him to do a walk-on during an old “West Wing” I was watching the other night.


Who thought the real headliner in those Aflac duck  commercials was going to end up being Deion and not Nick Saban?

How’s that idiotic 10-year contract that Michigan State gave Mel Tucker after he won a few games looking now?

If the Zach Wilson thing does go south, do we just give Joe Douglas a pass on that?

Jets fans in the media really aren’t familiar with the whole concept of suffering in silence, are they?

All these stories about Travis Kelce trying to get a date with Taylor Swift are already older than Rupert Murdoch.

* * *

Mike Lupica’s new thriller, “12 Months to Live,” co-authored with James Patterson, is on sale Monday.

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