‘Truthful’ Luke Voit is finally in perfect Yankees playoff spotSeptember 30, 2020
CLEVELAND — “Luke Voit, Observer” sounds as dissonant as “Jon Bon Jovi, Actuary.” It represents a poor utilization of resources.
Alas, Voit merely observed the Yankees’ 2019 postseason run from the dugout due to a pesky core-muscle injury.
Whatever you think of the Yankees’ chances to prevail this postseason, and your doubts are highly understandable given how they played during the COVID-reduced regular season, they likely get better with Voit healthy enough to go. Certainly, the Yankees become more entertaining with Voit in their lineup no matter how it goes down.
“I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I’m gonna sit here and be truthful about what’s going on,” Voit said Tuesday, before the Yankees and Indians launched this American League wild-card series at Progressive Field. “Sometimes it sucks. You’ve just got to say what it is. Hopefully the good times roll during this postseason and there’s not a lot of that.”
While Voit has largely spoken his mind since becoming a Yankee in an unheralded July 2018 trade, your words carry more weight when you lead the major leagues in home runs, as the 29-year-old did by going deep 22 times (an accomplishment that generated a congratulatory text message from ex-Yankee Nick Swisher, among others). Voit called out the streaky 2020 Yankees, not excusing himself, multiple times during their valleys.
He can gain even more gravitas, as well as alleviate the vibe of disappointment from this group, by resembling the guy he was on the field for the past two-plus months. Which is who he couldn’t be a year ago.
Full disclosure, I forgot that Voit made the Yankees’ AL Division Series roster last year against the Twins, only to not get in a game, as Aaron Boone went with DJ LeMahieu at first base and Gleyber Torres at second base (and Didi Gregorius at shortstop); Voit reminded me on Tuesday. Then the Yankees left him off their AL Championship Series roster, and Voit underwent surgery to repair his injury on Oct. 24, five days after Jose Altuve took Aroldis Chapman deep to end the Yankees’ season.
Back in ’18, Voit experienced his first playoffs, albeit a brief run, as he hit a not-awful, not-great .235/.381/.353 in the Yankees’ wild-card victory over the A’s and their ALDS loss to the Red Sox. Asked what he learned from his initial experience, Voit said, “It’s intense. You’ve got to be locked in every pitch.”
That appears doable given how Voit has grown with the Yankees. “There’s no question that he has a strong voice,” Aaron Boone said. “His candor, he tells it like it is — kind of shoot from the hip — is something we love about him. He’s had a presence since he got here.
“He came in here, was himself pretty much right away. It’s something we certainly encourage here. I feel like there’s more of a veteran presence about him now. His routine to be able to get ready for games. He’s definitely a strong personality in our room and obviously a key figure to our success.”
That routine includes getting the necessary treatment on his mysterious left foot ailment through which he has played — Boone said he didn’t consider starting Voit at designated hitter Tuesday, which would have enabled slick glove Tyler Wade to play second and DJ LeMahieu to slide over to first, although the manager didn’t rule it out moving forward — and using the high-velocity machine to better prepare for the opposing pitchers. The last time Voit faced Cleveland’s Game 1 starter Shane Bieber, on June 9, 2019 here, he ripped a two-run double.
“It’s all about the bat path for me,” Voit said, “making sure I’m attacking the ball directly.”
Directly is how Voit does his best work, be it hitting, speaking or practicing. Observing, the Yankees know and appreciate more than ever, just isn’t his speed.
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