Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Yankees: Losing Optimism...


Aaron Judge (Photo Credit: Jessie Alcheh/AP)

Failure is the common theme of the 2023 New York Yankees…

I will say that I went into the MLB Trade Deadline thinking the Yankees would do nothing, so I guess from that standpoint, they met my expectations. Sure, they picked up a couple of relievers, but the bullpen was a minor need compared to the bigger problems with the current roster construction.   

I must admit that it would have been more appealing if the Yankees had sent a certain general manager to Texas instead of the green stuff for this trade:

Texas Rangers traded RHP Spencer Howard to New York Yankees for Cash

Meanwhile, the AL East Rivals, all of them, improved in the days leading up to the deadline and are better teams than they were last week.  The notable trades were:

Baltimore Orioles acquired veteran right-hander Jack Flaherty from the St Louis Cardinals; the Tampa Bay Rays acquired right-hander Aaron Civale from the Cleveland Guardians; the Toronto Blue Jays acquired right-handed flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks and shortstop Paul DeJong from the St Louis Cardinals in separate deals; and the Boston Red Sox acquired third baseman Luis Urias from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Meanwhile, the big acquisitions for the Yankees were relievers Keynan Middleton from the Chicago White Sox and Spencer Howard from the Texas Rangers. To get Middleton, the Yankees gave up High-A reliever Juan Carela.  I so wish the cost of Spencer Howard was Brian “Cash” Cashman. 

Middleton is the only one of the two newcomers who provide immediate help for the bullpen. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the third round of the 2013 Draft, Middleton has pitched in the Majors for the Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Arizona Diamondbacks. He signed with the White Sox as a free agent in January 2023. This season, the 29-year-old Middleton has appeared in 39 games for the White Sox. He is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings, and two saves. He has given up seven home runs and has walked sixteen batters.  He represents a better option than the recently demoted Ron Marinaccio, but I cannot really find any reason to believe the Yankees are better today than they were yesterday.

Keynan Middleton (Photo Credit: Eileen T Meslar/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Spencer Howard is a project. He was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. The 27-year-old righty has only appeared in three Major League games for the Rangers this season. He is 0-0 with a 10.80 ERA (four runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings). The Rangers had acquired Howard, along with two other minor leaguers, in a 2021 trade deadline deal with the Phillies that most notably sent starting pitcher Kyle Gibson to the City of Brotherly Love. Maybe the Yankees think they can unlock the promise that Howard once held. 

Spencer Howard (Photo Credit: Elias Valverde II/Staff Photographer, Dallas Morning News)

So, Middleton is essentially the only acquisition obtained to help the Yankees achieve the last Wild Card slot despite the shortcomings in left field, the loss of a true third baseman, and horrific starting pitching by Luis Severino and Domingo German (excluding his nine innings of perfection). 

To be real, it feels like the Yankees have punted the season. If the goal was to toss in the white towel, the Yankees should have been more aggressive in trading the players on the roster with expiring contracts. The corporate-speak is the expectation the current players can and will perform better, but they have proven throughout most of the season that the Yankees are what they are…the last-place club in the AL East. 

I am disappointed in the Yankees. The front office is not transparent and to an outside observer, there does not appear to be a clear and distinct plan for future success. As they say, you cannot keep doing the same things expecting different results. At this point, I am ready for the kids. Time to bring up RHP Randy Vásquez, infielder Oswald Peraza, utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera, and outfielder Everson Pereira. Heck, may as well promote catcher Austin Wells, now 24, despite his limited Triple-A experience. If the Yankees are going to lose, they need to at least make it exciting for us. 2017 was a fun season despite the season-ending playoff loss to the Cheaters. I think I miss the fun of the 2017 season more today than ever before. I am not pining for the return of Manager Joe Girardi despite the dissatisfaction with current Manager Aaron Boone. It is more about the fun the players had on the field.  We felt it as fans. 

2017 Yankees

I do not know the future of the organization. The Baltimore Orioles will likely win the American League East and have the talented youth infusion to keep the team among the league’s best for the next five years. The Rays are the Rays and will continue to maximize the performance of their players through superior use of analytics (a much better understanding of how to equate the statistics into on-the-field performance), and the Blue Jays will eventually figure it out. The Blue Jays have the money to explode if everything comes together for them. Boston is Boston. They find a way to win every few years. The Yankees appear to be a dysfunctional organization. Why? They have the financial strength to hire baseball’s brightest minds, yet Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner rewards the guys he likes.  There is no accountability for performance. The only way for the organization to change is for Hal Steinbrenner to change. He is 53, makes a good living courtesy of the Yankees, and is not motivated to win championships.  That may be unfair. I am sure he wants to win championships because it brings more money into the organization, but he lacks the passion and the zeal for success like his father did. His father was certainly not perfect (I doubt the 1990s Dynasty Years would have occurred if George Steinbrenner had not been suspended earlier in the decade to allow Gene “Stick” Michael to build the championship teams), but Hal has been a reluctant Yankee all his life. As a young man, he was seemingly uninterested in an active role with the Yankees. George was attempting to build his succession plan through his sons-in-law, first Joe Molloy and then Steve Swindal, until divorces thwarted those plans. Hank seemed more interested in the family’s horses. After Hank’s failure as the face of the franchise forced Hal to take the more active lead role, I felt the strong-willed Hank remained a good counterbalance to Hal’s conservative nature. As co-Managing General Partners, Hank was the only one who could potentially overrule Hal with the support of his sisters. Hank’s untimely death removed a strong voice in the owner’s room.  I am sure the two Steinbrenner sisters, Jennifer, and Jessica, have voiced their opinions in closed-door meetings, but they have never publicly shown the strength of those opinions and I am not sure how much they challenge their younger brother.   

The Steinbrenner Family: Jennifer, Jessica, George's wife Joan (deceased), Hal, and Hank (deceased)

I am not sure what the future holds for Hal Steinbrenner’s Yankees. Eventually, he will turn over the team to younger family members unless the Steinbrenner Family makes the unlikely decision to sell the team.  The potential future Steinbrenner owners include Stephen Swindal, Jr, Robert Molloy, Hank’s two children, George Michael Steinbrenner IV and Julia Steinbrenner, and Hal’s daughter, Katherine Steinbrenner. I would be lying if I said I was not partial to George M. Steinbrenner IV for name value alone.  With his interest in Indy Car Racing, I am sure the Boss’s namesake shares his grandfather’s passion for competitiveness. 

George Michael Steinbrenner IV

Until the younger Steinbrenner children are ready to ascend to the throne, Hal needs to figure this out. He must find a plan to rebuild the team and restore the faith and confidence in the fanbase. Brian Cashman may be a nice guy, a smart man, but it is time for a change. Hiring the brightest minds in the industry should start with the general manager’s chair. The only disadvantage with Cashman joining another organization is that he knows how to play Hal Steinbrenner.  Otherwise, I do not think any fan would really care where Cashman draws his next paycheck.  If Cashman goes, the coaching staff and the analytics department need to follow.  Find the best people, the smartest and most innovative minds, for the jobs to lead the most storied franchise in baseball history.  The time for change is upon us.  Try something new, get different, i.e., better, results.

Hal, give us a reason to cheer again.

As always, Go Yankees! 

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