Perspectives: $ or W?
by Paul Semendinger
December 31, 2022
And here we are, the last day of 2022, and, after everything, after an eventful year, we're right back to the same spot where we have been for years.
Yesterday the New York Post ran an article by Jon Heyman, ‘Steve Cohen Tax’ could sway Yankees away from signing a left-fielder that brings us right back to what frustrates me, greatly, as a Yankees fan. What this article says is what I have been saying for years - the Yankees will not go all-in to win. We get told it is otherwise, but in the end, it's the same story again and again and again.
The Yankees, in the end, care more about the financial bottom line than winning.
The Yankees will spend big, to a point, but then they won't do what is necessary to make the team the best team it can be. Baseball's most valuable franchise starts to count pennies and dollars and eventually determines that good enough just is and that they'll find ways to save money rather than putting the best team on the field.
This off-season, we have seen the Yankees pass on a plethora of left field candidates. At the same time, we have all heard the team state that they players they currently have for left field are not good enough for the position. But, here it is, the dawn of 2023, and the talk isn't which player the Yankees are going to bring in, it's how they can address the position without spending any more money.
And that's just not a winning formula. It's not how a team wins a championship.
And it is why the Yankees have not won any championships since 2009.
In the end it comes down to decision making. It comes down to "process." And, for the Yankees, the decision, time and again, is to look more to the bottom line than winning a World Series.
It is rare that I hear the Yankees' decision makers including the owner and the general manager say, "The main thing we want is to win. Period." Instead, we're always told about the costs involved. "We want to win, but..." We hear that a lot.
This off-season, we have heard often that the Yankees are working on a huge deal. (It hasn't happened yet.) We have heard about the fact that the Yankees know that left field is a problem. (It has not been addressed yet.) This has happened before. Years ago, Brian Cashman promised the Yankees would be a "fully operational death star." It didn't happen.
We're told that the Yankees will go BIG. They get our hopes up...
And then they disappoint. Yesterday we read in the Post that they "aren’t opposed to giving Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial a shot." When I read that, I nearly fell out of my chair.
Estevan Florial? For much of last summer, I advocated for Florial to get some playing time to find out if he can play at the Major League level. Many people laughed at me. "Florial?" They said, "What are you crazy?"
And then, here we are, as 2023 approaches, and the Yankees are stating that he just might be the plan. Estevan Florial - the player they have continually refused to play, a guy they have sent up and down for years, a player they play one day and then sit for days after, a player they obviously have no faith in, and now he's being talked up as the possible starting left fielder on a team that's supposed to challenge for a World Series. Really?
None of us know if Estevan Florial can play at the Major League level. So far he hasn't performed. So far, the Yankees have never given him a long extended look. The Yankees have done nothing to boost his confidence. Rather, they've done the opposite.
When the Yankees talk about "process," Florial exemplifies what is wrong with their process. Last year, as the Yankees searched for a centerfielder, the time was right and perfect for them to give Florial a few weeks to showcase his talents. They refused to do that. The message was clear - he isn't good enough. Now, suddenly, because the other players were too expensive in cash and/or prospects, Estevan Florial might be the Yankees' answer for left field. I'm sorry, but that's bad planning. It's terrible planning. It's terrible player management. And it speaks to a very flawed process. Very flawed.
If the Yankees had played Florial last summer, they would better know, now, what he can bring to the table. But they never gave him a consistent shot. As such, he'll head into Spring Training as an unknown. (The same is absolutely true about Oswald Peraza. When they had the opportunity to see him for an extended time, he also sat glued to the bench. He, too, will arrive at Spring Training as a question. And, he's also being projected as a probable starter.)
When the Yankees had the opportunity to promote,. encourage, motivate, and support players who are projected to have starting jobs in 2023 last summer, they refused to play them consistently.
The Yankees like to tell us that their process is sound, but it's not. The way they handle their young talent is not effective or efficient or productive. Or, at least it hasn't been. Failing to provide playing time to the young kids, while they are at the MLB level, does not enhance their abilities or confidence. In fact, it does the opposite. It's a flaw in the system.
The other big flaw, the other one we have seen for years, is the Yankees inability or lack of willingness to go all in. They'll go deep. The Yankees will spend, but then they seem to get frightened, or cost-conscious, or whatever, and they fail to take the final steps necessary to put the best team on the field. Yes, the Yankees re-signed Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. Yes, they brought in Carlos Rodon. Those were huge and essential steps. But there was more they had to do - such as address left field. And it seems as though, at least according to the New York Post, the Yankees just might be getting cold feet as they face a luxury tax (that also acts as a salary cap) to do all that is necessary to build a true championship team.
I know the Yankees won 99 games last year. I know they improved the starting rotation with Carlos Rodon, but, as of this moment, is the 2023 version looking better than the 2022 team? I don't think so. At all.
Remember, the 2022 Yankees were a .500 team in the second half. They did not look good for most of that time. Absent of Aaron Judge, the Yankees had a listless offense for the second half. They looked dreadful for long periods. This is, essentially, the same lineup they're bringing back (as of now) for 2023. It's not inspiring. The players have only gotten older, except for the players in left field and shortstop who both were players the team refused to play last year. (And players don't get better by sitting on the bench.)
In years past, a long time ago, and it was decades, there was the belief that by having stories like the one referenced above, it was the Yankees "talking-up" their players to help them negotiate with other teams. The "Bubba Crosby is our centerfielder" comments highlight that approach. Once upon a time, that might have been true, but when was the last time the Yankees did that? Was that 2006? Unfortunately, when it comes to talking about some major deals, the Yankees are often just talking. They do not always back up their words. But, when it comes to salary caps and luxury taxes, the Yankees seem very true to their words.
They're basically saying to the fans, "It costs too much for us to win."
That is, at least, as the New York Post is reporting the Yankees' plan yesterday. I hope they are wrong. I hope this is just a smokescreen. We will know in a few months.
If Estevan Florial is the starting left fielder on the 2023 Yankees, we will get the message loud and clear.