Thursday, October 28, 2021

October 24, 2019: Boone, Cashman on the Yankee season, future...

Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were...

Sherman, set the Wayback to October 24, 2019...

Oct. 24, 2019.

By Bob Klapsich

It has been almost a week since Jose Altuve’s monster home run ended the Yankees’ season, and yet Aaron Boone hasn’t moved on. Images from Game 6 of the American League Championship Series are stuck in a painful loop in the manager’s memory bank: Aroldis Chapman’s hanging slider, Altuve sending it over the left-field wall and the Astros mobbing him at home plate, kicking off a party on Saturday that made it that much tougher for the Yankees to accept the stunning 6-4 loss.

Boone is no stranger to walk-off home runs in October. As a player, he sent the Yankees to the World Series in 2003 after connecting in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the A.L.C.S. against the Red Sox. Of such moments, Boone said, “I’ve been on the other side” before adding, “The other side is better.”

His smile didn’t quite mask the pain.

Whenever a nearby television has replayed Altuve’s blast, Boone said, “I’ve walked away.” And the World Series broadcasts are no easier. Seeing the Astros in the Series, Boone said he could not help but think: A break here or there, and that could have been us.

That was the theme of the Yankees’ season-ending news conference on Thursday, during which Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman offered their post-playoff perspectives. While Boone reflected the emotions of his players — Aaron Judge was close to tears in the clubhouse Saturday night — Cashman was far more clinical, his focus already on the construction of the 2020 roster.

Was this roster championship-caliber?" he said of the 2019 team. "The answer to that is yes, and I'm not going to lose sight of that in my discussions with ownership and my recommendations of where we need to continue to go."

Before taking questions, Cashman read off a list of medical updates: Masahiro Tanaka, Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks would all be having surgery in the next few days. Tanaka is scheduled to have bone chips removed from his right elbow. Voit’s procedure will address his late-summer core muscle injuries. Both he and Tanaka will be ready for spring training, Cashman said.

Hicks’s condition is more serious: He will have Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow and will need eight to 10 months to recover. That leaves open the possibility, if not the likelihood, that Brett Gardner, who is eligible for free agency next month, will return as the Yankees’ center fielder.

Re-signing the 36-year-old Gardner could be one of several ways that Cashman stays the course this winter, despite another frustrating finish. The 2010s are the first decade since the 1910s in which the Yankees have not appeared in a World Series, but the general manager made it clear the team’s personnel plan would be no different from the one in recent years.

“We failed in our final game, but it wasn’t a failed season,” Cashman said of the Yankees’ 103 regular-season victories, adding later: “It’s very important not to get emotional. Most teams would love to be in the position we put ourselves in and the roster we have.”

Cashman long ago adopted the philosophy of his close friend Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, who coined the phrase, “The playoffs are a crapshoot.”

In Cashman’s mind, the Yankees’ regular season was nothing short of magnificent, especially in light of their major league record of 30 players spending time on the injured list.
 But in the postseason, even the best clubs are at the mercy of baseball’s randomness. As Cashman pointed out, the wild-card Nationals are up two games to none in the World Series against the heavily favored Astros, having won both games in Houston’s home park.

“It just shows you how difficult it is to navigate through October,” he said.

With no investment in the outcome of the Series, Cashman said he would get down to business next week, when the Yankees hold their pro scouts meeting. The talent evaluators will convene to discuss who stays and who goes in 2020, as well as which free agents to pursue.

First on the agenda is the future of Chapman, the closer who can opt out of the five-year, $86 million contract he signed before the 2017 season. He has two years and $34 million left on his contract and has offered no clues about whether he wants to return to the Bronx.

Cashman was similarly vague as to whether the Yankees would renegotiate the back end of Chapman’s deal. Despite his failure in Game 6, the left-hander anchored the bullpen with
 37 saves, his highest total since 2013, and posted a 2.21 earned run average, his lowest since 2016.

As for whether there will be a major upgrade to the starting rotation and a pursuit of the Astros ace Gerrit Cole, also a free-agent-to-be, Cashman gave a boilerplate answer: The team owner Hal Steinbrenner will do everything possible to ensure a strong roster in 2020.

But Cashman may have tipped his hand with one comment, saying he believed the Yankees did not fall short of their ultimate goal because of pitching. If Cole expects a blank check, he may have to look elsewhere.


ranger_lp said...

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Duque, and amazing to see these two "assessments" back-to-back.

I particularly love how Cashman keeps repeating "the playoffs are a crapshoot" line from Billy Beane.

No, they are not. Because in an honest crapshoot (is that an oxymoron?), you will win once in a while. Beane never did, and what a surprise!

Following a philosophy of the game that put the lowest possible value on things like fielding and fundamentals, and claimed there was no such thing as "clutch," Beane's teams have foundered again and again on...fielding, fundamentals, and boneheaded chokes during the playoffs...

HoraceClarke66 said...

...And once again, by repeating this inanity, Cooperstown Cashman is letting himself off the hook for anything and everything.

It implies that the Yankees are like the current Dodgers, a team that perennially finishes first in baseball's real test, the long season, then loses close, heartbreaking series to lesser teams.

THAT IS NOT TRUE...for the Yankees.

The Yanks have won exactly one (1), count 'em, 1 division title in the last 9 seasons now. Throw out the "crapshoot playoffs" and the team folds its tent and goes home, every year save for 2019.

The hypocrisy about this is particularly enraging, as every year Coops and HAL do NOT go all-out to finish first, counting on a stretch-drive for a Wild Card spot to keep the fans interested. (And then, of course, for that meaningless "crapshoot" in the postseason, the team raises its prices exponentially.)

No Yankees executive, no Yankees team—at least not since the days of Big Bill Devery and Frank Farrell—has let itself off so easily for its constant failures.

Hazel Motes said...

How do you conjure "clutch" at will in the playoffs, Swami? Look at players' overall lifetime batting stats vs. their stats in "clutch" situations--always essentially the same. But you have your cherished illusions, HC66--far be it from me to puncture them at this late date.