Perspectives: It's A Mirage
by Paul Semendinger
June 26, 2023
My 55th birthday is right around the corner, and yet I'm still playing baseball, as a pitcher, in two highly competitive amateur leagues.
Last week, on June 18, I came out of the bullpen and pitched poorly. We lost. I then had to live with that for a week. I finally pitched again yesterday. I was the starter. We went up against the first-place team.
I threw six innings allowing only one run. We won 11-5. (Yes, we play nine innings.)
I love playing baseball and getting out on that mound and giving my best against the best that the other team has. There really is nothing like it.
Ah, baseball. It's the best.
But, enough about me... let's get to the Yankees (and less positive topics)...
Tomorrow's Tuesday Discussion centers on how our writers feel Aaron Judge's injury will impact the Yankees the rest of this season (assuming he is out for a long period). There are many differing opinions there. It will be a fun topic for our readers to review and take part in.
I've made this point before, but why do we put any credence into the way the Yankees report the injuries to their players? The Yankees never seem to give the correct information, especially when a player first sustains an injury. If we want to give the Yankees the benefit of the doubt, they're often clueless or completely wrong. If we don't want to give them the benefit of the doubt (and, they don't really deserve that consideration), they're flat out dishonest (a lot) with the fans and the media.
After being out for weeks, we only learned on Saturday, and from Judge himself (not the Yankees) that he has torn ligaments in his toe.
Again, I don't believe anything the Yankees say in any of their remarks. They're wrong (or dishonest) far too often to have any credibility. I understand that the Yankees don't have any responsibility to give correct information to the media, the fans, and whomever. And that's fine.
But, on the other hand, I also don't have to put any stock into what they report.
The Yankees are 43-35. They're eight games over .500. Right now (somewhat unbelievably), they are a playoff team.
This fact will prevent the Yankees from being sellers at the trade deadline.
What also might prevent the Yankees from being sellers is the fact that their record should get demonstratively better heading into the All-Star Break.
The Yankees might be able to create a mirage that makes them look like a better team than they are.
Except for the Orioles, the Yankees upcoming opponents are mostly ham and eggers (as the old boxing term goes). The Yankees will playing the following teams:
Oakland A's (20-60) for three games
St. Louis Cardinals (32-45) for three games
Baltimore Orioles (47-29) for four games
Chicago Cubs (37-39) for three games.
The Yankees should be able to go (I would think) 9-4 over that stretch. With that, the Yankees would go into the All-Star Break with a record of 52-39. That would look darn impressive.
I also believe it would be a mirage.
For a leader in any industry, including being a team owner, general manager, or field manager, the most difficult thing is often looking at what the reality actually is. The reality is that the Yankees don't have a very good team. They are not a team primed to win in October. I know the old adage that anything can happen in the playoffs, but the likelihood that anything will happen for this club is, I think remote.
It just might be time for the Yankees to face the reality that they don't have a baseball club primed to win in the playoffs.
It just might be better for them to face that reality now rather than after another lackluster October.
The following Yankees will be free agents after this season:
It is likely that none of those players will be Yankees in 2024. As such, the Yankees should seek to trade them sooner than later to maximize their value and to build for next year.
The Yankees should understand the reality of this club (they are not a legitimate World Series contender) and maximize the value of the players that won't be part of the team next year. But, while they do this, the Yankees should be building a strong team for 2024-25 because the years when Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole will be at the top of their games are precious (and could be few). The window is closing. The Yankees need to build for 2024 rather than holding out hope that 2023 could bring some sort of miracle.
Adding to this challenge is the fact that except for possibly Oswald Peraza, the Yankees do not have any legitimate help on the farm that is likely to contribute next year. As such, the Yankees need to make smart moves that allow them to regroup, refresh, and come back in a stronger position for next year.
Also of note, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Higashioka, and Domingo German will be free agents after the 2024 season. Of them, I only see Anthony Rizzo as an impact player worthy of keeping for the hopeful pennant run next year..
Sometimes it is difficult to face the truth. The truth is that this is not a great club. This club resembles the teams we have seen these last many years. Good, not great and flawed to the point where they cannot win in the post season. Knowing this, the Yankees should not play out 2023 hoping that the seemingly inevitable doesn't happen, but instead they should plan ahead to make them a powerhouse next year - to maximize the years when Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole will be their most valuable and impactful.
I'm not sure if the Yankees have the ability to face that truth.
I also don't want to hear the unfair and dishonest trope that the Yankees fans won't put up with a rebuild, even if its for half of a year.
First, the fans have no choice. But, secondly, we did accept that approach for the years of 2013 through 2016 when we were assured a great new plan was in place. The Yankees fans supported the rebuild and the long-term vision. It just didn't work out in the end.
Also, I believe the fans would be energized by some smart trades that are designed to change the dynamic of this club sooner rather than later. And, if the Yankees are playing longshot hopes anyway, maybe the trades they make this year could actually make them compete in the immediacy. (No matter, though. I'd rather see the Yankees battling with the players of tomorrow rather than the retreads of yesterday who have only brought years of disappointment.)
As the owner, Hal Steinbrenner has a big decision to make in the next few weeks. If he understands that this Yankees team is too flawed to make a legitimate run at a World Championship in 2023, and he commits to a plan like I have outlined above, he's going to have to have a general manager in place who can make smart deals to regroup and reinforce the team for 2024.
Unfortunately, I'm not certain that Brian Cashman is that person any longer.
More than most, I have been a believer in Brian Cashman. I think his body of work has been very good. Or... it had been. The last few years have not been stellar ones for Cashman. He took control of the last rebuild and it didn't bring the Yankees to the World Series. Since then, his decisions have gotten worse.
It's not wrong to acknowledge that a person could be past his prime.
If someone said in 1935 that Babe Ruth was no longer a great ballplayer, that wouldn't have meant that Ruth hadn't been great. Of course he was.
The same could be true for Brian Cashman. There comes a time when every leader loses his effectiveness. What worked so well decades ago, might not work so well today.
The other critical question the Yankees have to ask is whether or not Aron Boone is the right person to manage the team - especially what could be a radically different team, in 2024.
One of Brian Cashman's worst moves, in my opinion, was hiring Aaron Boone in the first place. Almost to a person, his flaws as a manager are apparent. I'll never understand why the Yankees awarded the job to someone with no leadership experience.
If the Yankees are going to make a run that seizes on Judge's and Cole's remaining prime years, the Yankees need a manager who can get the most out of the team immediately.
I don't know who that person is. But the Yankees need to figure that out. I'm not convinced that Aaron Boone is that person.
Years ago that person might have been Buck Showalter. His Mets, though, seem to be a mess. It seems likely that Buck's best days are his his past as well.
I usually end these posts with "Let's Go Yankees," and I, of course, want them to win, but I am afraid that a hot streak heading into the All-Star break will lead the Yankees to continue to not truly recognize the inherent flaws with this team. A bunch of wins will make them believe the mirage.
It's always most difficult for the person with the problem to see in in themselves. The same is true of organizations.
I wonder if the Yankees have the ability to assess the flaws that seem so apparent and make the tough but necessary decisions, to rebuild, regroup, and have a better team as soon as next year.