If Mike Fires is Telling The Truth, How Does This Solve The Yankees Postseason Problem?

If the Astros cheated in 2017 and 2019, how does it solve the Yankees postseason woes?

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
Oct 19, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) celebrates with catcher Gary Sanchez (24) after hitting a 2-run home run in the ninth inning in game six of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you were to poll all members of the New York Yankees fan universe, you’d think that there was some kind of nonfree agent signing holiday. According to a report from Ken Rosenthal in The Atlantic, former Houston Astro pitcher, Mike Fires claimed his former team stole signs electronically, and the bullpen tipped off their batters. There’s a number of things involved in this story that should give all Yankees fans pause. 

First: Mike Fires can be lying.

Mike Fires alleges that a camera was placed in center field. From that camera, a feed would be sent to the Astros dugout. The feed was focused on the away teams catcher, and what signs he was calling. From the dugout, members of the Astros would bang on a trashcan to signal what was being thrown once the signs were deciphered. 

This is what Mike Fires claimed. But according to Carlos Beltran, his teammate in 2017, this didn’t happen.

Mike Fires is also a FORMER member of the Astros. If he parted from the team on bad terms, why would he paint them in a positive light? The team is being accused by every team of cheating, so why not add fuel to the fire with a “first-person account”?

Two: Every Team Steals Signs.

If the Yankees had thought of it first, they’d do the same thing. But, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much in 2017 or 2019, as the Astros had home-field advantage. The Astros are being accused of cheating at home. A whole lot of good it did them this World Series as the Astros are the first team in World Series history to lose every game at home. 

But that’s beside the point. Every team in baseball is trying to gain advantages on their opponent. This is why pitchers and catchers sometimes change up the signs during the game. 

Bringing in a camera takes it to a level that any sane baseball fan would find unethical. Even I think the Astros did something unethical (if they are found to be guilty). But the Yankees would gladly do the same in a heartbeat. As would the other 28 teams in baseball.

Finally: This Doesn’t Fix The Yankees Postseason Woes.

As a team, the Yankees had a team slash line of .262/.339/.447. The teams OPS was .785, struck out 1,386 times, hit 241 home runs, drove in 821 runs, and amassed over 1,400 hits as a team. To put that into perspective, the Yankees struck out 8.5 times per game over a 162 game season, averaged 1.5 homers a game, drove in 5.1 runs per game, got 9 hits a game, and got 3.8 walks per game. They were a top 10 offense in baseball in 2017. And when you look at their statistical breakdowns for last season, they were even better in 2019 than in 2017! (baseball-reference.com)

But then they get to October.

In the 2017 ALDS, the Yankees hit .201/.289/.356. How do you go from .262 in the regular season to hitting .201 after you DEMOLISHED the Twins in the Wild Card game? A meager 35 hits over 5 games. Obviously, they turned a corner against the Twins (probably having something to do with the fact that the Twins can’t beat the Yankees in October) in 2019, but then comes Houston.

In 2017, the Yankees hit .205 compared to the Astros .187. In 2019, the Yankees hit .219 to the Astros .179. We amassed 45 hits in 2017, compared to 44 hits in 2019. How is it we got almost the same number of hits in 7 games we got in 6 games 2 years later?

The most telling sign is the strikeouts. When we had runners in scoring position, WE STRUCK OUT! In 2017, we struck out SEVENTY TIMES! This year? SIXTY FOUR! Yes, the Astros got fewer hits than we did both years, but they got hits with runners in scoring position. We couldn’t because we were striking out. 

Even our pitching sucked. 

Sure, Tanaka did well in 2017, but he regressed in 2019. But outside of him, our biggest arms were nowhere to be seen. Severino had an ERA in 2017 of 4.15, Betances and Dave Robertson had ERA’s of 9.00, Chapman had an ERA over 6. In 2019, it was just as bad. Chapman, Green, Ottavino, Severino, 15 innings pitched out of 54 total innings, a collective ERA well above 4. How truly effective is your closer if he averages an ERA above 6 in the ALCS between this year and 2017?

The Yankees have a postseason problem. The Astros MAYBE being guilty of cheating doesn’t fix the fact that the arms we rely on in the regular season disappear in October, and that our bats go cold the deeper we get into the playoffs. One can only hope that staff changeups can fix these negative trends for a 2020 run.