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The Yankees Needed To Overhaul Their Entire Organization. They Did Nothing.

Jim McIsaac. Getty Images.

This blog is dedicated to the man pictured above, Hal Steinbrenner. I know you almost certainly won't read this, but in the off chance that you do, this is my pitch for you to please overhaul your entire organization and return the Yankees to glory. 

(Blogger's Note: I wrote this entire thing yesterday before it was announced that the Yankees were bringing back Aaron Boone. It's an inexcusable decision for reasons I listed below. I have updated some of the blog to account for this news). 

This is my annual Yankees season eulogy blog. It took me longer to write this one because I needed the emotions and anger from this whirlwind season to settle down. But I have gathered all my thoughts and I am still angry, especially watching the Red Sox and Astros square off in the ALCS. Two rivals that have consistently bested the Yankees for years now. The Astros have been to the ALCS in five straight seasons, reaching the World Series twice and winning once. The Red Sox have won four World Series in the past 18 seasons. The Yankees, meanwhile, have won one single World Series in 21 seasons and have been to the World Series just once in the last 18 years. That is below average. There are 15 teams in the American League. So on average, you should go once every 15 years if we're looking at it strictly statistically. If you're the most winning, historic franchise in sports, you should go more than that. But the Yankees have been just once in 18 years. It's fucking pathetic and things need to change. 

This is the blog I wrote after their ALDS loss to the Rays last year. 

Let me update that first paragraph now that another year has passed.

For an eleventh twelfth consecutive season, the New York Yankees will not be World Series champions. For an eleventh twelfth consecutive season, the Yankees won't even be AL Champions. For an organization that prides itself on championships, they have now fallen short of that goal for 11 12 straight years. The Steinbrenner mantra has always been that anything short of winning the World Series is a failure. So despite all their wins and playoff appearances, there's only one way to describe the past eleven twelve seasons: a failure.

Everything I said in that blog was proven to be even more true after this last season. While the Yankees did win 92 games and reached the playoffs (for one game), it was still the most infuriating season I've ever had as a Yankee fan. And I don't want to hear how spoiled Yankee fans are blah blah blah. We're not the fucking Pittsburgh Pirates. Yankee fans expect and demand excellence every season and there's nothing wrong with that. The GEORGE Steinbrenner mentality was that every season which didn't end with a World Series was a failure. And that's how fans should think too. Sure, I have technically been alive for 5 World Series championships, but I only truly remember the one in 2009. Yes, they've been to the playoffs almost every year of my life, but every playoff loss is just heartbreak after heartbreak when the expectations are always to win a championship. So I'd argue that Yankee fans around my age might actually have it worse than any other baseball fans (I am only half serious I think). 

The overall point I'm trying to get to here is that the Yankees need to make serious changes. They are no longer the big, bad Evil Empire that dominates baseball and wins the World Series every other year. Because of their past success and consistent playoff appearances, they have become arrogant. Led by Brian Cashman, they consistently think they're smarter than every team in baseball. They don't realize how internally flawed they are from top to bottom. The front office and baseball operations. The coaching staff. The roster. Everything. Major changes need to be made. But because they're just good enough to not bottom out, they haven't had that kick in the ass to actually change things. 

It starts with Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office. This roster is flawed. Home run dependent. Strike out too much. Too right-handed. Their roster is filled with hitters that are too similar to each other. It's probably the least balanced lineup the Yankees have had in 30 years. While they did try to address it at the deadline with lefties Rizzo and Gallo, it's inexcusable they went into the season thinking that lineup would work. (And Joey Gallo is the last thing this team needed, but we'll get to that more later). 

Their ability to evaluate talent is pathetic. Sure, they've had their hits on random "Next Men Up" guys through the past few years (Voit and Urshela stick out), but most of them were flashes in the pan that burned out quickly. Even Voit and Urshela might not have a future with the team. For all the talk of the "Baby Bombers" coming up, look at them now. Judge is a superstar and the only one that has truly panned out. Luis Severino has thrown 18 innings in the last 3 years. Gary Sanchez has fallen off a cliff after 2017. Greg Bird? Lol. I'm not ready to give up on Gleyber Torres but he is a giant question mark that clearly doesn't have a future at shortstop. They fucked up Miguel Andujar. I like Clint Frazier but he's been injury prone and unable to be a consistent mainstay in the lineup. 

And look at the number of former Yankees thriving around the league. Nathan Eovaldi is a playoff stud for the Red Sox. Now, I was fine letting him go at the time because you couldn't have expected him bouncing back from Tommy John like this. But it still speaks to the fact that they couldn't develop him into this kind of pitcher he's become when he was healthy. On the same team, Garrett Whitlock has become a lockdown reliever that the Yankees chose not to protect. The Yankees also PAID Adam Ottavino to be a (mostly) serviceable reliever for that same team this season. Thairo Estrada put up a solid .813 OPS with the Giants this season after the Yankees let him go. Donovan Solano was a nice piece for them as well. Sonny Gray went to Cincinnati and became an All-Star. James Kaprelian (traded for Gray) showed promise in Oakland this season. Giovanny Gallegos has become a very solid reliever in St. Louis. Lance Lynn became a Cy Young contender. Mark Melancon has been a good reliever for over a decade now. Ji-Man Choi became a playoff hero on the Rays. J.P. Feyereisen posted a sub-3.00 ERA this year. They traded Luis Cessa at the deadline strictly to save money. He was a good reliever and is now still a good reliever in Cincinnati. I suppose we can give them credit for seeing something in these guys and having them in the first place. But it's also a massive failure for the organization that they couldn't properly develop them while they were on the team. And it's not like the Yankees roster is flooded with All-Stars where they couldn't keep these guys. And I know I didn't just list Babe Ruth and Cy Young, but there are definitely players listed above who would've helped the Yankees this season. 

Alright onto analytics. All year long, I have yelled at the clouds that the Yankees need to go back to the Stone Age and stop being so obsessed with analytics. That is somewhat facetious, but let me explain my take rationally. Analytics, at its core, is just information. There is nothing wrong with having more information about players. In fact, it is good. The Rays, Astros, Dodgers, and even the Red Sox now are all analytical teams. The problem isn't that the Yankees use analytics. It's how they use analytics. The Astros are known as being perhaps the most analytical team in baseball. Well apparently, they have analytics that tell them not to strike out. They had the lowest K% in baseball this season. In fact, since their run started in 2017, they have the lowest K% in baseball across those five seasons. There are a lot of fans out there who say, "Analytics work! Look at the Astros!" and also say "Analytics say strikeouts don't matter!" Those people are hypocritical morons. Those people also say average doesn't matter. The Astros lead baseball in batting average since 2017. STRIKEOUTS ARE BAD. GETTING HITS IS GOOD. (For the record, the Dodgers also had the 9th lowest strikeout rate in baseball this year, and the 10th lowest since 2017. The Cubs, Marlins, Tigers had the highest K% in baseball this season. But remember, strikeouts don't matter). 

Another example of analytics working when you know how to use them is the opener strategy. The Dodgers used it perfectly in NLDS Game 5 when they opened with Knebel and Graterol and then had Urias come in for four innings. That plan worked because they had the personnel to execute it. The Yankees tried to copy this strategy last season and outsmart everyone with fucking Deivi Garcia and JA Happ. Needless to say, it did not work out. They also like pulling starters early, but that just led to the bullpen tiring out, getting hurt, and sucking. The Yankees try to force themselves into copying all these other teams, but it doesn't work for them with the current group of players they have. There's no one size fits all strategy to win baseball games. The Royals won with contact. Team have won with home runs. Teams have won with elite starting pitching. Teams have won with elite bullpens. The Yankees have to stop being so obsessed with the Rays and these other analytic-heavy teams and trying to copycat their every move. They're the Yankees and they have to start acting like it for once. 

Speaking of, I never want to hear the word luxury tax again. I know the Yankees spend a lot on players (Stanton and Cole just recently) so I won't say they are "cheap." But the Yankees can't let it stop them from being a better team. They did that this year when they traded Luis Cessa at the deadline for no reason other than saving money. They might have won at least one more game with him on the team the final two months and then the Wild Card Game would've been in the Bronx and who knows what would've happened? And I do agree with Hal that the Yankees shouldn't have to spend $250 million every year to be a contender. That's true. BUT THEN BLAME BRIAN CASHMAN FOR THAT. He consistently has over a $200 million payroll and still can't build a World Series team. 

But the problem is Hal looks at Cashman like family and will never fire him. Look I know Cashman has had success and it's impressive how often the Yankees make the playoffs yada yada yada. But he himself has built only one World Series roster and that was the 2009 spending spree (which is fine, the Yankees should spend and he spent it wisely). And I'm sure if he got fired, another team would scoop him up and he may have success there. That's fine too. But sometimes you need a new voice in the room. Cashman and his baseball ops cronies have run this team for like 25 years now. That is simply too long of a tenure. You need new voices and new ideas to come in and shake things up. The Red Sox get a new GM like every other year and they pretty much all win a fucking World Series. It's time for a change. 

One good change would be completely redoing the analytics department and firing Michael Fishman. We don't have to get the scouts from Moneyball in there talking about how ugly a player's girlfriend is. But we need to hire some minds who actually have had success with analytics and know how to use them. The entire baseball operations department needs fresh faces and fresh ideas. 

And speaking of changes, Aaron Boone has HAD to go. The fact that he's coming back is insane. Makes me irrationally angry. I know he's not THE problem. But it has to start somewhere. You can blame the fact that the front office doesn't let him actually manage, but he still deserve blame for the wrong decisions he did make in-game this season that cost the Yankees multiple wins. And he couldn't inspire anyone to screw in a lightbulb. His bullshit, cliche, rah-rah answers after every painful loss make me want to vomit. Get someone who will stop babying players and actually motivate them. That doesn't have to be Buck Showalter or Bruce Bochy. It doesn't have to be a grumpy, old man. But look at Alex Cora. Clearly a manager can make a difference. That guy just gets more out of his players time and time again. Aaron Boone does not. He might not be the biggest problem. But he's not helping at all. He took over a team that went to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017 and they've only gone backwards, not reaching that mark in his tenure. Keeping him means the Yankees aren't serious about changing and it's a slap in the face to Yankee fans everywhere. The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole after 2019 ready to finally a World Series and they've nothing but disappoint for two seasons. In the shortened 2020 season, they were only 33-27 and got bounced in the ALDS. This year was a disappointing disaster that ended with sneaking into the Wild Card game and getting their ass beat. And the only changes they're making are firing some assistant coaches??????? What a fucking joke. I guess Aaron Boone just let his guys take the fall. Some leader. Coward. 

But perhaps most important of all, the roster needs to undergo significant changes. Here are some ideas. 

-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu should be the only surefire locks to return next season from the offensive side. Judge proved he can be healthy and clutch this season. He deserves a long term extension. Stanton was healthy a little less but is still a bonafide superstar who has had big hit after big hit as a Yankee. And DJ didn't have a good year which was a huge problem, but he's under contract for five more years and isn't going anywhere. I have faith he'll bounce back. 

-Joey Gallo has to be off this baseball team. Nice guy. Italian. Bought a Barstool shirt. I want to like him. But he is the embodiment of everything that's wrong with this Yankees offense. He is a true three outcome player. Home run, strikeout, or walk in 59% of his plate appearances last season. Put the ball in play and things happen! And I don't want to hear about his god damn on base percentage. He hit .160 with the Yankees last year. He's a lifetime .206 hitter. That's bad no matter how you slice it. And his career OBP is only .333 anyway so let's not act like he's Barry Bonds. He's a great defender and a lefty bat. Those are pluses. But the Yankees are not winning shit with him in the middle of their order. Get him out and get someone else in. Michael Brantley is exactly what this team needs but the Yankees kept passing on him in free agency and he's under contact in Houston next year so that can't happen. But I want someone like him. 

-I would throw the farm system at Ketel Marte. He can play the outfield and is everything the Yankees need. Slashed .318/.377/.532 last season. Has power. Speed. Switch hitter. Doesn't strike out much. He'd balance this lineup perfectly. 

-Go get Corey Seager. A lefty who has plenty of postseason experience. A winner even though that sounds very cliche. Lifetime .297 hitter who walks and has power. Would have even more power at Yankee Stadium although I don't want him getting home run happy. Only 27 years old. Gleyber Torres is clearly not the answer at shortstop. Urshela isn't either. Prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza might be, but you can't rely too much on the Yankees developing prospects. And they can always switch to second or third base or maybe even the outfield. Cross that bridge if we get to it. Seager will be expensive but he'll balance the Yankees lineup perfectly. If Hal refuses to spend money to improve this team, then we stop buying tickets and stop buying going to games. That simple. This isn't useless spending. It's necessary spending. (I don't want Trevor Story. Another righty bat who strikes out too much. Carlos Correa I think would be a tough sell after all the hate between the Yankees and Astros. I'd rather a lefty. Seager or bust). 

-Get Gary Sanchez off this team. He is not a good baseball player. I don't want to hear about how good of an offensive catcher he is blah blah blah. You don't win a World Series with him as your starting catcher. You just don't. I've watched him play enough baseball over the past six years to realize that and everyone else should too. He gets hot for like three weeks a year and pads all his stats. Other than that, he sucks. He is hitting .201 over the last four years. Batting average matters and that's a horrible fucking batting average. And it's not like he has an elite OBP. He hits his meaningless home runs here and there but he's a defensive liability who has not gotten better. Look at the missed Mets tag and missed Indians pop up this season. He is not a winning baseball player. Austin Wells will be ready in a couple seasons. Until then, get a stopgap like Tucker Barnhart who also can't really hit but he at least is elite defensively. Gary Sanchez no longer has a bat that makes up for him being a defensive liability. Maybe he'll go be great elsewhere, but it ain't happening here. 

-I don't want to give up on Gleyber Torres just yet. He has shown too much promise at just 24 years old. He's clearly not a fit at shortstop, but I'd like him to have a full season at second next year and see what happens. His trade value is very low right now anyway so there's no point in trading him. Him at second. Seager at short. Move DJ to first. I like both Rizzo and Voit but I think they both have to go. Let Voit go somewhere he can play every day. And Rizzo will be too expensive. 

Opening Day Lineup next season

CF Ketel Marte (S)

1B DJ LeMahieu (R)

RF Aaron Judge (R)

SS Corey Seager (L)

DH Giancarlo Stanton (R)

LF Mystery person Brian Cashman should go find. His job not mine. Hits for average. Gets on base. Doesn't strike out much. Hopefully a lefty or switch hitter. Doesn't have to be a superstar but someone similar to how Boston got Kiké Hernandez.

2B Gleyber Torres

C Tucker Barhnart (L)

3B Gio Urshela (R)

That is a very good team you will not hear me complain about (until the season starts). It's also a very attainable team. They have the prospects to get Marte. They have the money to sign Seager.

Gardner can come back if it's STRICTLY as a bench player. No more than 40 starts next year. Aaron Hicks can get the fuck off my team. Injury prone. Not very good. A Brian Cashman ego project that he just HAS to make work to prove he's a genius. Higashioka can be the backup catcher. Tyler Wade is a solid utility guy. I like Velazquez, but I don't know what his future is. I also am the biggest Greg Allen fan on the planet and would like him as a backup outfielder. They can probably add another bench piece too for cheap.

-They also obviously need help with pitching. Cole and Montgomery are your only locks in the rotation next season. Taillon probably is too but he's a little less reliable. He showed flashes though this year. Severino would be nice but you can't rely on him at this point although he did show promise late this season. Kluber is a free agent. I love Nestor Cortes but we still don't know exactly what he is. He's fine as a four or five but not a three. There are also guys like Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Domingo German, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, and others who could be in the mix. But they need another reliable starter. Max Scherzer ain't happening and the rest of the free agent list isn't great. But again, this is Brian Cashman's job, not mine. (I am conceding he'll be the GM next season even though he shouldn't be). Free agent or trade, I don't know. But I just want another reliable arm. Cole, Mystery Pitcher, Montgomery, Taillon, Severino, Nestor, and that stable of guys listed above would make me feel good. You need way more than 5 starting pitchers heading into a season nowadays anyway. 

-The bullpen also needs MAJOR work. I'll never trust Aroldis Chapman and don't like him as the full time closer but he's still under contract and still shows flashes of brilliance so he can stay. Johnny Loaisaga is a stud and should be at the backend of their bullpen for years to come. I was wrong about Clay Holmes and I'll admit that. A good trade by Cashman. Doesn't make up for all his mistakes, but I give him credit for this. He'll be around next year too. Wandy Peralta can come back too. And I like Lucas Luetge. But they need 2 new faces. I want Chad Green gone. I don't care what his ERA is. He sucks. He gives up big home run after big home run and I'll never trust him. Corey Knebel is a potential free agent target. The guys I listed above, especially King, could work in the bullpen. And there's always random trade targets. 

So there you have it. I just did all the Yankees off-season work for them. That's a much improved, World Series caliber team. And I think it's very realistic too. I'm not just saying to sign every top free agent and trade for Mike Trout. They have the money to get Seager. They have the prospects to get Marte. They have the resources to make other improvements on the roster. Gallo and Sanchez are additions by subtraction, for example. 

I sort of got side tracked playing GM there, but this is for everyone who says "Well what moves would YOU make exactly?" Those are the moves. But my overall point of this blog is still that the Yankees need to make significant changes to the way they operate. Hal Steinbrenner can't be afraid to spend and blow past the luxury tax. Look at the Dodgers. They won the World Series last year, and they weren't content. They signed Trevor Bauer and then traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the deadline. They go balls to the wall every season to be the best team they possibly can and put out a World Series contender. I remember when the Yankees used to operate that way. 

Brian Cashman, if he must stay, needs to stop being so arrogant and thinking he knows baseball better than anyone. You don't. Fire your analytics and baseball ops people and surround yourself with new people with new ideas who can actually evaluate talent. Aaron Boone is coming back so let the man actually manage. Stop force feeding every decision down this throat. See what he can do with free rein to make his own decisions. And maybe stop giving such cliche, bullshit answers after every loss. 

And the players do have to be better. A lot of guys underperformed this year. DJ, Gleyber, Gio come to mind. You have to hope they regress to the mean and have better seasons next year. But you also need to build a deep, balanced enough lineup where you can survive a few guys underperforming because that will always happen. 

This felt good to vent all my frustrations. Look, I don't like being a negative fan. It's not fun. I miss being a kid when my Yankee fandom was pure and naive. But after years of disappointment, you have to be realistic. You can be critical about your team and still be a fan. This is New York. I'm not a believer in blindly supporting every move your team makes at every turn. You're allowed to have opinions and disagree with them and still be a fan. All Yankee fans should be upset with what's happened to this team over the last 20 years and want changes. 

Things need to change. But they won't.