The Yankees need Clay Holmes to be dominant the entire season this time around
Dunedin, Florida. For three months, it looked like the 2022 Yankees would become one of the greatest baseball teams of all time. They were on pace to match or break the major league record of 116 victories, and what’s more, win their first World Series title since 2009.
Instead, they failed to win 100 games before the Astros swept them in the ALCS, and it would take a loaded list of forensic investigators to pin down all the causes. But one player embodied the odd narrative arc of the 2022 Yankees squad as well as anyone else: Clay Holmes. He was Mariano Rivera during the first half of the season, and something much less so during the second half.
Holmes made the All-Star team in his first full season in the Bronx, and before the break he was nothing like the pitcher with a 5.57 ERA that the Pirates traded for. When Yankees manager Aaron Boone told him he was off to Los Angeles for the Midsummer Classic, Holmes replied, “I’m glad I’m a Yankee player.”
like a rivera cutter, The Holmes sinker was a terrifying weapon… until it wasn’t.
The first sign of real trouble came on July 12, after Holmes converted 16 of his 18 save opportunities. He collapsed in the ninth inning as his 3-0 lead over the Reds turned into a 4-3 rout, swelling his ERA by 0.46 to 1.37 man more. In August, Holmes landed on the list for lumbar spasms after making three saves and allowing seven tackles in five games. A bullpen that had already lost Chad Green and Michael King for the season is now in shambles.
Holmes later overcame a shoulder strain to become a reliable playoff option, though he wasn’t reliable enough for Boone to be called upon amidst a Game 3 disaster in the ALDS against Cleveland that put everything on edge. That’s fine, though, because Holmes helped defeat the Guardians in Games 4 and 5 and didn’t give up an earned run in six postseason innings. That’s reason enough to think he’s back – With Edwin Diaz Going Down the Year – Now the most valuable in town.
As a compassionate peer, Holmes felt the impact of the knee injury Diaz suffered during a World Baseball Classic celebration and described it as a “punch in the gut”. Unlike Diaz, Holmes was unable to maintain his form in 2022 over the course of the entire season. If the Yankees want to give themselves the best chance of finally defeating the Astros by securing home field advantage for the inevitable upcoming October game, Holmes will be vital in that endeavor.
When asked if he embraced the idea that he stands among the Yankees’ most important players in a potential championship campaign, Holmes fell behind general talent in bowling.
“For me, it’s not so much about individual things,” he said. “I’ll just make sure I’m ready to do my job when the time comes. I think there’s enough talent in this room that if we all do it at the end of the day we’ll be doing some really good running. … For anyone to accept any insane amount of responsibility, be it Whether it exists or not, it’s probably not the best way to look at it.”
Certainly, there is enough pressure in New York for any unnecessary extras. And although General Manager Brian Cashman called Holmes “a big, strong, really intimidating presence on the mound,” he cited a number of relievers capable of taking the ball on saves, including the likes of Jonathan Luiziga, Wandy Peralta and King. Instead of taking a traditional closing role approach, The Americans will likely go for more commission – with Holmes as the commission’s chairman.
Pitching coach Matt Blake said: “I know Clay is going to get a lot of opportunities, but I think with the way Bonnie has talked about it, there are a lot of guys who could maybe close some games for us, whether it’s Wendy or [Loaisiga] or the king. … If we have a lineup with a large number of right-handed batters in the eighth inning and left-handed batters in the ninth, it doesn’t make sense for Clay to go into the ninth when he can face [George] springers, [Bo] Bichettes and [Vladimir] Guerreros at eight.”
So be it. However, it should be noted that during the seven championship seasons in the George Steinbrenner era, the Yankees had unique strengths in the role of closer. Sparky Lyle won a Cy Young Award in 1977. Goose Gossage led the AL in saves in 1978 and became a Hall of Famer. John Wheatland led the league in saves and was named the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1996. Mariano Rivera became football goat and a unanimous first Hall of Famer while closing out games for the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009 title teams.
Can Holmes join that select group?
“He’s capable of being a controlling reliever,” Boone said before Holmes hit a scoreless nine-pitch inning Saturday in the 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Yankees could certainly use that dominance for six months this season instead of three.