Saturday, November 11, 2023

Yankees: Hiding in Plain Sight...


Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Matt York/AP)

Steinbrenner and Cashman hold forgettable pressers…

My expectations for the year-ending press conference by Yankees ownership and leadership representatives were apparently too lofty. I thought the Yankees would open the doors of Yankee Stadium for a formal, professional post-season press conference under the scrutiny of New York and national baseball media. Standing on the front lines in the Bronx and answering the hard-hitting questions about what went wrong in 2023. Leadership taking accountability for the vast mistakes that were made in constructing the 2023 Major League Roster. Instead, Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner tucked behind his Zoom camera and General Manager Brian Cashman gave a profanity-laced huddle with a few media representatives in faraway Arizona while attending this week’s annual GM Meetings.

Hal Steinbrenner (Photo Credit: SNY)

Neither man was willing to stand in the fire to answer the questions that needed to be addressed. Neither man gave a clear vision of what the organization can do to get better. As usual, the organization’s disregard for its fan base was evident. I should correct that, the organization loves the fans’ money, they just do not really care about the individuals holding the wallets or bank accounts that formerly housed said currency so long as the money stream is alive. I am certain the corporate sponsors get far more love from the organization than any of its individual fans. 

I am disappointed. I am sure I am not alone. 

To fail so miserably while holding baseball’s best pitcher, soon to be AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole, and 2022 AL Most Valuable Player, Aaron Judge, is so pathetic.

This did not need to be a losing season and I do not buy that it was just one of those years. Cashman’s bad decisions (I will lump all the organization’s decisions on Cashman because he is the team’s lead representative) turned what could have been a promising year into a Red Sox-like disaster. The team’s play in September, after the team finally gave up on Josh Donaldson and other scrap-heap players to bring up the kids, brought winning back for the team. A day late and a dollar short, but it was a step in the right direction. We may never know what motivated Cashman to stand with his flawed cards, waiting until it was too late to make the necessary changes. I guess when he writes his memoir after his Yankees career is over, maybe we will get a peak into the inner-workings of the organization over the last quarter-century and Cashman’s thought process throughout his tenure. 

One of Hal’s best attributes is that unlike his father, he is loyal and supportive of his employees. Hal’s worst attribute is that he is loyal and supportive of his employees when he should not be. These can be mutually exclusive because not all employees are worthy of the support. Sports is results-oriented, and when the results fall below expectations, there are times when new voices, new visions are needed. Watching the Yankees in recent years shows that something needs to change. When most of the decisions are poor, it is time to relook at the decision-making process and the people making the decisions.  There is no room for ifs and buts. I feel bad that Aaron Judge suffered a toe injury that derailed what could have been an exceptionally strong follow-up year to his MVP campaign, but the deficient fence at Dodger Stadium is not the reason the Yankees failed in 2023. 

The Yankees have much work to do if they plan to restore the faith and confidence of the fan base. Sure, we are spoiled. The Yankees have a long history of tradition and success, and they have revenues that dwarf most franchises.  The team can be limited by payroll when trying to avoid luxury tax thresholds and penalties, but resources can be redirected to other areas to help the team. There is no reason the Yankees cannot have the best analytic group in baseball, yet they have been lapped by a few organizations. It is mind-blowing to think how successful the Tampa Bay Rays and their analytic group could be if they had the Yankees’ vast resources. No question that their group of nerds is “smarter” than Michael Fishman and his cast of cohorts. 

Over the last few years, I have wanted Hal Steinbrenner to “excite the fan base”. He can do it in so many ways. It is not just a huge superstar free agent signing or a trade for a generational talent. He can do the things that show he is as passionate about winning as his father was. He will never be as demonstrative or as quick-tempered as the Boss, but in his own way, he can deliver a message that is equally effective. I want Hal to take full accountability for the team’s failures and do the things necessary to ensure the Yankees can successfully compete while their window is open. Put the team in the best possible position to win.  Give the fan base a product that they can rally around. I will never go down the ‘I wish Joe Girardi was manager’ road but 2017 was the last time I can think of when we loved the players on the team individually and together as an entire group. The Yankees can have fun winning again if they make the right moves, the right decisions, and commit to settling for nothing less than the best they can possibly do.  These are easy words to say, but not so easy to put into practice. 

I want to feel good about the Yankees again. I miss that feeling. I am happy that Cole and Judge are Yankees, but it is tough to go much deeper than that. This is not a diss on Anthony Volpe. I think he did a fine job as a rookie shortstop, and I expect him to continue his growth and improvement. The main point is recapturing the confidence in the team collectively, and knowing that if one man goes down, a capable replacement is waiting. The Yankees may not have won it all in 2017 but we loved the team to the end. It can happen again (except maybe win the last game of the post-season next time). It is cliché, but the team cannot continue to do what they have always done, expecting different results. 

Can Hal and Brian change? They must if the Yankees want to succeed. Other organizations are getting better, smarter, and more adaptive to our changing times. It is weird that the Yankees need to play catch-up but that is where we are at.  How Hal Steinbrenner navigates the waters in the coming seasons will define his legacy as Yankees owner. Hal does not strike me as an owner who will hold team control until he expires. In my uninformed opinion, it seems like he has another good ten years before he decides to cede control to younger Steinbrenner blood.  I could be wrong, but I have always questioned Hal’s passion for the Yankees since he did not display it when he was younger. He always seemed like he would rather be doing something else. I am sure his legacy is important to him and hopefully he makes the hard decisions…the right decisions…that need to be made in the coming days, weeks, and months.

The Yankees Universe is waiting.

Gleyber Torres is a Yankee

Until he is not. I am not a proponent of trading Gleyber but it does seem to be the flavor of the month. I get that he is entering his final year of control and will be a free agent after the 2024 season. The Yankees have a glut of infield talent in the organization, and they can trade Gleyber to help fill other areas of need. With that said, why trade the team’s second-best hitter? Gleyber has his faults, but he is a good player. There is no such thing as a perfect player although some are more perfect than others. I would prefer to keep Gleyber, and potentially trade Oswald Peraza. Peraza is talented and perhaps he will be a great shortstop or second baseman one day. But we know that Gleyber is a good Major League second baseman now. Why rock the boat? I would stay with the proven commodity. There is the argument that Peraza is cheaper and under more years of control, allowing the Yankees to spend higher elsewhere on the roster. I get the financial aspect, but if all decisions are made in a vacuum for the cheapest options, the product will suffer. 

Trading Gleyber would put pressure on the Yankees to make a trade to bring elite talent to other spots on the roster to compensate for the loss of Gleyber’s production.  If you told me that we can get Juan Soto, but we must move Gleyber first, I would totally get it.  But as a move by itself, trading Gleyber does not seem to be the best solution.  Other moves will change the light but as it stands today, yet, right now, I want to see Gleyber remain in Pinstripes.

The latest Gleyber trade rumors involve the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Alex Verdugo. I want no part of Verdugo. I do not care that he fits the Yankees roster. I am not a fan of the player, and helping the Red Sox improve to fill a need is counter-productive in my opinion. I did not like Josh Donaldson when he was a Yankee, and I would feel the same way about Verdugo. Maybe Verdugo is one of those guys you love when he is on your team, but all things considered, I would rather not find out. The Yankees can find other guys who can fit the Yankees roster equally or better than Verdugo. 

Carlos Mendoza to the Mets

With no disrespect to former Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, I was surprised when the New York Mets announced him as their new manager. Like many people, I had expected new Mets President of Baseball Operations to sign his former Brewers manager Craig Counsell as Buck Showalter’s replacement. Even with the surprise announcement that Counsell had decided to join the Chicago Cubs, I thought the Mets would go bigger than a coach off Aaron Boone’s staff. 

Nevertheless, I am happy for Mendoza, and I am glad he was able to secure one of the few available MLB managerial gigs after interviewing with multiple teams. I thought the San Diego Padres would have been a better fit for him, but now he gets the backing of the wealthiest MLB owner for his first stop as a Major League skipper. I wish him well, but never when the Mets play the Yankees.

For the Cubs to hire Counsell while still employing David Ross as manager was an awful way to treat Ross after he had done a respectable job for the Cubbies. Then again, the Cubs have a history of hiring new managers before ousting the current ones. Former Cubs manager Rick Renteria was actively holding the job when the Cubs hired Joe Maddon a few years ago.

If Ross does not get another managerial job, I would like to see him as Mendy’s replacement on the Yankees bench next to Boone. The Yankees have a chance to hire someone who can help make Aaron Boone better. I am tired of Boone hiring his buddies. He needs someone who will push him to be better, to make stronger choices, and to get better consistency with lineups. I want a bench coach who is not afraid of second-guessing Boone’s choices and offering potentially more successful options even if Boone is the final decision maker. I am not Ross or bust, but someone like him would be invaluable. The Yankees are not going to fire Boone so the next best option is to get a bench coach like Ross or Willie Randolph who can help Boone become a better manager.

New Hitting Coach?

No word on a new hitting coach yet, but there were rumors that the Yankees had offered the job to James Rowson, currently an assistant hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers. Rowson has history with the Yankees, serving six years as the minor league hitting coordinator. He served as MLB hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins following his departure from the Yankees organization. 

Nothing against Rowson, but it seems like an uninspired choice if true. I guess I was (am) expecting more as the replacement for interim hitting coach Sean Casey who elected not to return for family reasons. If Rowson is hired, I will support him. Maybe he can do the job that former hitting coach Dillon Lawson could not. It just seems like the Yankees can get a better option. 

Like bench coach, the Yankees need to make a strong choice for their new hitting coach. These are critical coaching positions that need much improvement over recent seasons.  Coaches who can place the players in the best possible position to win. 

Hiring Rowson because Aaron Judge likes him is not a reason for his hire. Hiring him because he is the best hitting instructor available is. If that is the Yankees’ determination, so be it. The Yankees cannot go into 2024 hitting like the Oakland A’s again. Improvement is expected, improvement is demanded. Yankees, please do not blow this opportunity to get a GREAT hitting coach, whomever that may be.

As always, Go Yankees!