Monday, September 20, 2021

Dear Mr. Cashman, Your Yankees are a fourth place disgrace, and it didn't have to be this way.

Dear Sir, 

Sorry for the delay in responding to your March 21st email. Your generous offer of upcoming 2021 Yankee season tickets is certainly tempting. Still, I think I'll hold off. 

Frankly, I don't know where to start. Back in March, I was drinking the Kool-Aid, heavily. I believed the Yankees would take the AL East. Almost everyone did. Tampa had traded away its star pitcher, Boston was rebuilding, and Toronto was full of nepotism. The Yankees faced a clear path to the division, 2021 was our talent curve peak, and we were all Ted Lasso.  

Of course, we had wriggling, tiny concerns: A Yankee lineup with no lefty slugger? That seemed weird. (Last winter, we wanted to re-sign Sir Didi.) Then there were the strikeouts, the DP grounders, the injuries, and - well - the disappointments. Who foresaw Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahiue contributing so little? Honestly, I didn't. 

But this is your team, sir. Your team.

And in late July, you made one of the worst decisions of your career. You chose to drain the Yankee farm system for a dubious shot at the one-game wild card. You mortgaged the Yankees' future for a two-week run, which crumbled into nothing. 

That decision will haunt the Yankees for years. And here's the craziest part - had you had gone the other way - unloading high-priced players, instead of trading for more of them - we'd be right where we are today: Fourth. 

No. I take it back. We might be higher in the standings.  

In late July, we wanted the Yankees to jettison our own veterans, at least the ones that were tradeable. Our most likely chips were: 

Gary Sanchez.
Aroldis Chapman.
Zack Britton.
Gio Urshela.

Of course, Chapman would have had to sign off on a trade. (But he did it once before.) Some suggested we trade Aaron Judge; the consensus was that this would be too painful. Due to his contract, Giancarlo Stanton can never be traded - same with Gerrit Cole and DJ LeMahieu. (Also, trading the latter two would be bad form.) The Yankees at the deadline shopped Luke Voit; they found no takers. 

Imagine if the Yankees had dealt all four. We would be... right here. Sanchez still makes mental mistakes; he'll never change. Chapman fell apart and is still looking for his fastball. Britton is gone - Tommy John - perhaps for good. Urshela has been hampered by injuries for months. Instead of Joey Gallo, they would have played Stanton in LF. Frankly, Socrates Brito would have been hard-pressed to do worse than Gallo, who - on top of everything else - is now injured. 

Had you not blown up the farm system for years to come, the Yankees would be - well - right where they are now... in fourth.

I suppose - sigh - we still have a chance. Six games against Toronto and Boston. But  to see the Yankees winning anything this year requires serious hallucinatory drugs. We must imagine our bullpen holding leads, our hitters avoiding DPs, our lineup not fanning 12 times per game. Nope. Can't do it. These team has no future, and a lot of people knew it, and you should have. 

It's on you, sir. 

Come November, it will be time for someone else to run the Yankees.


Unknown said...

Send Boone packing too. The giant End of an Error (pun intended). Rewind to 2017 on the Matrix and keep Girardi

Ironbow said...

Winter is coming ...

Dantes said...

Judge and Cole are keepers. The unmovable contract that is Stanton stays. Everyone else is as expendable as a bad guy in an old Schwarzenegger flick, including the front office, coaches and who ever came up with Deivi’s new delivery and Frazier’s twinkle toes stance

JM said...

We can't trade Cashman and Hal, and until they're gone, so are our chances.

MIK said...

Hal IS NOT George.
Cashman IS NOT Gene Michael.

Until these two go NOTHING will change.

I wish it wasn't so.

But it is.

Ironbow said...

Too right, MIK!

ZacharyA said...

This team needs to be dissected and analyzed for posterity.

Can any of you remember a previous team with championship aspirations where EVERY SINGLE position player got worse at the same time? And it wasn't due to age.

I'm honestly more fascinated than angry. I want someone to do a deep dive investigation on this team. How did an entire position player core start rotting at the same moment?

Let's go player by player:

Gary Sanchez (Age 28)
Gary hit .299/.376/.657 in his debut season, finishing second in the Rooke of the Year race. In 2017, he hit .278/.345/.531 and made the All Star team. And now? Gary has hit .191 over the last two years, he no longer has 30-HR power, and defensively he's unplayable.

Luke Voit (Age 30)
Luke came over to the Yankees and was the best hitter on the planet down the stretch in 2018. He had a decent 2019 and finished 9th in MVP voting in 2020. And now? OPS under .800 and so sloppy defensively the Yankees had to trade for another first baseman.

Gleyber Torres (Age 24)
Gleyber debuted with back-to-back All Star seasons, blasting 38 HR in his sophomore year and being crowned one of the best young players in the game. And now? Gleyber carries a pedestrian .325 OBP and pitiful .349 SLG and is so bad defensively the Yankees had to pull him off shortstop at age 24.

Gio Urshela (Age 29)
A true Brian Cashman miracle, Urshela burst onto the scene with a .314/.355/.534 batting line in 2019 and a very strong .298/.368/.490 in 2020. And now? Gio has a .297 OBP and his SLG has dropped by more than 100 points since his first season with the club. Here's another thing. FanGraphs has a fancy baserunning statistic called BsR, which "turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average." I'm not going to get too into this statistic here but Gio Urshela ranks dead last among all AL players in BsR. He hasn't simply been a bad baserunner, he's been the league's worst. (Remember BsR, because we will revisit it shortly.)

DJ LeMahieu (Age 32)
One of the best signings of the Cashman era, DJ LeMahieu finished in the Top-5 MVP voting in 2019 and 2020, hitting .336/.386/.536 in 850+ PA. He won back-to-back Silver Slugger awards. And now? His SLG has fallen more than 150 points and he no longer drives in runs (did you remember that LeMahieu had 100 RBI in 2019?). The man who was a 2020 MVP finalist is now a below-average offensive player (99 OPS+).

ZacharyA said...

Miguel Andújar (Age 26)
Andujar hit .297/.328/.527 in his debut, gathering 27 home runs and 47 doubles. He was a mess defensively, but was still a 3-WAR player because of his bat. Now? Over the past three years, Andujar has hit .228/.257/.331 (.588 OPS), can't stay healthy, and doesn't have a defensive position.

Clint Frazier (Age 26)
Nothing but a part-time player at best from 2017 to 2019, Frazier hit a mediocre .254/.308/.463 in around 400 PA. But in 2020, he got a chance to play full time and he soared. Frazier hit .267/.394/.511 and incredibly was a Gold Glove finalist. And now? Frazier hit .186/.317/.317 this season, forgot how to catch the ball again, and may have suffered career-ending concussion symptoms.

Aaron Hicks (Age 31)
From 2017 to 2018, Hicks hit .255/.368/.470 (.838 OPS) in 950 PA. He showed power and patience, stole a few bases, and played strong defense. Yes, there were injury concerns, but Hicks was almost a five-tool player if you squinted. And now? Hicks hit .194/.294/.333 this season before suffering a season-ending injury for the second time in three years.

Giancarlo Stanton (Age 31)
In his final season with the Marlins, Stanton hit .281/.376/.631, blasted 59 HR, and won the MVP Award. From 2014-2017, Stanton hit .271/.366/.573 (.939 OPS). That's what the Yankees were hoping for when they acquired him. And now? Stanton is hitting .270/.355/.498 (.853 OPS), which is good but not $325M good. Additionally, the 31-year-old is too fragile to play the field more than once or twice a week. (Stanton was a Gold Glove finalist the season before coming to New York.) And remember that baserunning stat I mentioned before? BsR. Well, Urshella has the lowest BsR in the American League and Stanton is directly behind him as the second worst runner in the league.

Aaron Judge (Age 29)
Judge burst onto the season with his historic rookie season, hitting .284/.422/.627 with 52 HR, 114 RBI, 128 R, and quality defense. And now? In his first fully healthy season since 2017, Judge has hit .284/.369/.531, which is excellent but clearly a stepback from his initial season. He's only driven in 85 RBI and scored 78 runs, which is more on his teammates than him. But still weird to see. Defensively is where things have really taken a hit, as Judge has gone from Gold Glove finalist (2017, 2019) to completely average in the field.

I won't type up a paragraph on Brett Gardner since he's 38 and decline is expected.

I've never seen anything like this before. A team of talented players in their primes all declining at the same time: offensively, defensively, and on the basepaths. I'll repeat that Aaron Judge is having a good season. Without him, this team is sub-.500. But even he can't escape the plague of talent drain that has hit this position player group.

(Had to post in two comments because of the character-count limit.)

HoraceClarke67 said...

Amen, Zachary! Thanks for doing the deep dive for us. It's great to see the information condensed like this in one place, and fascinating to hear about yet another fundamental—baserunning—in which this team is incompetent. (And I thought it was just Phil Nevin!)

But yeah, many of us have been pondering this for years: how could so many terrific young players go so far south, so quickly?

See my discussion with Kevin about this in the previous post. He has some terrific insights and questions.

But sadly, that's all we have: lots of informed speculation. Our hard-drinking—sorry, hard-working—NYC sports press corps has not done any sort of look into this. Too bad—because as the song goes, something's gotta give (Usually, another tendon.).

Anonymous said...

@ZacharyA, Thanks for this write up; that was a lot of work.

I'm shocked myself at DJ LeMahieu's awful season. I think he had a "tricep issue" earlier in the season. Maybe he's had injury problems that have affected his swing. Or it is just the big contract hangover. He had two terrific seasons and then basically fell off a cliff.

Cashman himself will probably use this kind of argument to excuse his own terrible job of putting together this roster. It would go something like this: who could have foreseen all of these guys having terrible seasons at the same time? It's been a crazy year. Covid. Injuries to Andujar, Frazier.

I agree that this team should be thoroughly analyzed for posterity. It should be a landmark case study for future GMs. A study in futility and stupidity. A colossal inability to beat teams within its own division.

The road back to a championship caliber team is definitely one without Cashman and Boone. But we know that isn't happening for a very long time yet. Many years or decades from now (if we're still alive), and when these buffoons are finally gone, we'll be talking about these dreadful years, the Cashman era. Which was characterized by poor roster construction, a plague of injuries, player apathy, poor in-game management, terrible player development, poor trades, and ill-advised onerous free agent contracts.

The Hammer of God

Carl J. Weitz said...

What might be informed speculation to some is obvious to others. It's the coaching staff that must conform to Cashman and the out of touch analytics department. Like a flashing and brilliant neon sign. Conform or be gone.

The hitters and pitchers have their own unique skills and abilities. That's what brought them to the Bigs. But when young players and rookies make it to the Yankees roster they are pressured to alter what made them a success. "yeah, you had a good year but to get to the next level, you must conform to what our analytics department says will get you to the highest level. Forget hitting what the pitcher gives you... pull the ball more and alter your approach and swing to maximize launch angle." The same with the pitchers. "Throw many more 4-seam fastballs as this will increase your spin rate and that's all we care about. Forget about the curve an add more sliders and cut fastballs".

This goes for successful veteran players as well. How many pitchers have we seen over the past decade that had excellent careers before donning the pinstripes only to regress significantly with the Yankees-and then, once again, reverting back to a high level of achievement once they're traded away?

These problems will continue forever until the current management regime is removed and until ownership either becomes enlightened or takes a real interest in accomplishment over the financial bottom line. But don't hold your breath waiting. It won't be good for your health.

TheWinWarblist said...

C'mon ZachA, where's the starting pitching and bullpen!?

TheWinWarblist said...

Of course, I tease, I tease!

ranger_lp said...

Gr8 post Zach...sort of sums it up...

ZacharyA said...

WinWarblist, as pessimistic as I am about this team there were too many positives on the pitching side this year to lump them in, in my opinion.

Cole, yesterday notwithstanding, has had the best Yankees pitching season since.... 2011 CC Sabathia? Nestor Cortes has wildly outperformed expectations. Kluber threw our first no hitter since 1999. Jonathan Loaisiga was one of the best relievers in the game. Guys like Clay Holmes, Luis Gil, Stephen Ridings, Lucas Luetge, etc have had their moments.

And sure Heaney and Kriske and Nelson have been bad, but we never had any expectations for them....

TheWinWarblist said...

Not true ZachA! We always expected Heaney and Kriske and Nelson to suck very very badly!

Anonymous said...

It is high, it is far, IT IS OVAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rufus T. Firefly said...

I nominate ZachA for a postca$hman front office position.

I nominate HAL/bonehead/brainless for supermax. What they've done to the Yankees is criminal.