Many folks around the game will tell you the Yankees’ problem is that they abandoned their scouting roots and swung too far into the analytics arena. To which general manager Brian Cashman always reasonably responds that they always seek to strike a balance between new school and old.
It’s hard for me to say from here how much credence to give the rough outside critiques, but this much I know: There’s far too much balance in the Yankees’ won-loss record.
That they will take a 60-62 record into the second game Saturday against their archrival Red Sox after an 8-3 series-opening defeat Friday is disturbing by any standard. Also very un-Yankee-like.
Cashman’s overall résumé, which previously included only winning records in a generation of seasons — and even better, 21 playoff appearances — is undeniably stellar, with or without the Steinbrenner dollars.
Remarkably this year, they are still given a 2.4 percent chance to make the playoffs on the internet. That must be another computer error.
Though he has failed to deliver the big prize since 2009, Cashman has consistently put together a product Yankees fans can be proud of. Not so this year. This team is not only mediocre, but also painfully boring.
It’s uncertain why fans continue to pack Yankee Stadium. On nights when Gerrit Cole isn’t pitching and Aaron Judge is walking a lot or isn’t playing, there isn’t much to see. Yet somehow, the Yankees rank second in attendance behind the Dodgers, who win every night. The Yankees are averaging 41,516 fans, which is more than most years this decade despite being dull — slow, too little contact, too dependent on the long ball. (From where I sit, it’s also too loud at The Stadium. It’s as if they’re trying to replace quality with decibels.)
While fans have been way too harsh on Cashman, fairly, he’s in a slump. Some believe there’s a shelf life to these 24/7 jobs, and one rival says, “The Yankees should blow it up.”
Of course we must emphasize that’s just one opinion and we don’t recommend firings here. More importantly, with three years to go on his contract and Hal Steinbrenner’s track record of consistent calm, we have to think Cashman isn’t going anywhere.
He has made some nice moves around the edges, for catcher Jose Trevino, and especially for relievers. But, just as with the big games, the big transactions recently have ranged from disappointments to disasters. I’ll rank them here by regret:
1. Yankees acquire Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino for five young players and prospects. Neither man has pitched this season. Montas may return just in time for his free agency, but the Yankees basically got next to nothing. Montas’ shoulder trouble is what hurts here. The Yankees’ medical evaluations are seeming suspect at best, which is becoming a trend with their recent moves. They’ve acquired more than their share of injury cases.
The bigger issue here is they should have gotten Luis Castillo, one of the game’s best pitchers, who signed a long team-friendly deal after the Mariners capitalized. The Reds originally requested both Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, and while that wasn’t going to work, it was a missed opportunity.
2. Yankees acquire Joey Gallo for four prospects. Gallo just didn’t get New York, and he couldn’t play here. Worse, utilityman Ezequiel Duran (one of the prospects) looks like just the sort of athlete the Yankees could use.
3. Yankees acquire Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. The Yankees were so anxious to be rid of Sanchez, perhaps they didn’t gauge how anxious the Twins were to be rid of Donaldson, a big contract for the mid-market team they came to regret. Allegedly, some Twins people “threw a party” seeing Donaldson go, though we assume that’s only figurative. Anyway, Donaldson has been no sort of problem here, except he has been frequently hurt, seems to have forgotten how to hit and makes $25 million. Kiner-Falefa is a terrific utilityman, but didn’t turn out to be the shortstop the Yankees envisioned.
4. Yankees sign Carlos Rodon for $162 million, six years. Rodon seems like a great guy, but he has been a terrible pitcher the few times he has made it to the mound. He has a 7.33 ERA and has missed time with elbow and back issues. If he doesn’t reclaim his past form, this may move up to No. 1 on the list.
5. Yankees extend Luis Severino for $40 million over four years. The move looked wise at the time. But in Severino’s own words he’s “the worst pitcher in the game” this year. (That’s an exaggeration, but not by much, at least statistically.)
6. Yankees extend Aaron Hicks for $70 million over seven years. This never made sense. You just don’t give seven-year deals to average players. Hicks eventually regressed to below average, and the Yankees eventually released him.
Combine those missteps with a sudden inability to make players better and that spells mediocrity. Gleyber Torres and Sanchez were once All-Star level players, and Severino looked like one of the game’s better arms. Deivi Garcia, recently put on waivers, was once hailed as the Yankees’ best prospect and near untouchable in trades.
That’s just as well. Who’s to say the Yankees would have traded him for anyone useful — or even healthy?
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