Perspectives: The Yankees and Young Talent
by Paul Semendinger
September 4, 2022
It's been a very frustrating season for Yankees fans. Much of what many of us have been concerned about, for years, is all coming true. The decision making from the front office has been poor. The manager isn't up for the job. The players lack heart and motivation and drive. And the Yankees seem to have no idea how to deal with young talent. On and on.
Today I want to focus on this idea of young talent. There is a long history of the Yankees not doing a great job with their prospects. Year-after-year it's the same - and it has been this way for a long, long, long time.
The Yankees have been playing terrible baseball. The fact that they were playing poorly was clear weeks ago. It is frustrating when we can see things, obvious things, that the Yankees seem blind to.
The Yankees stick with their veteran players far too long. They seem to always think that they'll turn it around, even when it is clear that they won't.
The other day, the Yankees called up, probably weeks later than they should have, Oswald Peraza. This could have been a big moment. There was some enthusiasm, but when Peraza arrived, he was immediately told to sit on the bench. "We have IKF, " the Yankees said, "He's a veteran. He's really good. He's going to help us win." (Never mind that the Yankees haven't been winning.) The Yankees' immediate message to Peraza - "Welcome to the big leagues.. Now, watch out for splinters."
Then, down 9-0, with two outs in the ninth inning, Aaron Boone sent up Oswald Peraza for his first big league at bat. That was horrible. A supposed future star deserves something more than that. It's humiliating to get your first chance in a game that the team already gave up on. Remember, Peraza got his at bat only after the Yankees had brought in Marwin Gonzalez to pitch in the inning before. "We will let you bat," the Yankees said (in actions if not words), "but only after we have given up all hope." I'm sorry. A supposed future star deserves better than that. Peraza then struck out on three pitches.
Except for Aaron Judge (and that was 2017, now a long time ago), I would love for readers to list the great young position players who have gone through the Yankees' system and performed well for the Yankees for an extended period dating back to the last championship core.
We have to be honest here, the Yankees just do not do well with their young talent. Something negative happens along the way.
Each year we hear things from the Yankees like, "Yeah, we know that the last crop of kids we were so excited about didn't work out, but this year it's different. THIS collection of great young players are all difference-makers. This year, this time, we did it correctly. Trust us, we know what we're doing."
One has to wonder if the Yankees actually do know how to develop and promote young talent. It doesn't seem so.
Yes, it was just one game. Yes, it was just one at bat. But sending up Oswald Peraza in a throw-away moment in a thrown-away game just speaks volumes to me about the way the Yankees value and treat their young players. There is a genuine lack of respect. The young players see this. They see how other teams put their faith in young kids and also how those kids perform. Players observe. They talk. Other teams, even first place teams, bring up young kids and celebrate them and encourage them. The Yankees bring up young kids only reluctantly and then they don't seem to ever fully invest in them.
Simple question - If you were a hotshot prospect, would the Yankees be the organization you'd like to play for? If the answer is no, that's a problem.
There can be reasonable debate about Estevan Florial and his ability to be a big league player. But, what can't be debated is the fact that the Yankees never gave him an extended look. He never got a chance. My concern is that he never got a chance primarily so that players like Aaron Hicks and Marwin Gonzalez, two players way past their primes, could continue to get playing time. The other player who continued to get playing time at the expense of Florial was Gleyber Torres who has absolutely worn out his welcome in the Bronx. He is hitting under .200 since the All-Star break. He has been an absolute disaster.
Gleyber Torres. Remember him? He was supposed to be a star. Is hasn't happened.
Remember when the Yankees made all those trades at the deadline in 2016 and brought in all that talent? "This time we did it right," they said. "We have the best of the best." (They also seemed to say, "Please believe us this time.") Which of those players became stars for the Yankees? Ben Heller? Justus Sheffield? Clint Frazier?Gleyber Torres? Billy McKinney?
Remember when the Yankees were so smart and they went "all-in" on the international free-agent talent pool all those years ago? We were told that they had finally done it... they figured it out. The talent they just acquired was unstoppable. They were the best. "Just wait a few years," we were told, "the talent is amazing." Are any of those players, all these years later, with the Yankees? Where did they go? What happened? Who can even name any of those future stars?
At some point, a smart organization has to be reflective and ask, "What are we doing wrong?"
At the time of the Jordan Montgomery trade, proponents of the trade claimed that, "Montgomery was just a spare part. He won't be starting in the playoffs." I have written about this (a lot) - and have since the moment of the trade. Making the assumption that Montgomery wouldn't pitch in October in July was just bad decision making. It made no sense. It shows the flaw of the Yankees' overall approach. Smart teams don't act in this manner.
The fact that Montgomery is now 5-0, 1.47 for the Cardinals speaks volumes. One, it says the Yankees, obviously, didn't know what they had in Montgomery. He's a better pitcher than they realized. (And this is a guy who came up through their system. How did they not know this kind of talent was there? ) Also, imagine if a pitcher the Yankees acquired had done this. If that happened, we'd be reading about how brilliant Brian Cashman is. "He found another diamond in the rough." Next, it shows that players, often times once they leave the Yankees, perform better. Montgomery isn't the first pitcher to do this. When people give the Yankees credit for turning players around, they also seem to ignore guys like Nathan Eovaldi and Sonny Gray and others who leave the Yankees a seemingly get better.
I made the point at the time, Montgomery was pitching well enough when he was traded to have about eight wins or more in 2022. If he had been 8-3, the Yankees would have never traded him. I saw the evidence very clearly - this was a guy pitching really well. The Yankees traded him for a guy who couldn't play.
The Yankees traded, in Jordan Montgomery, the most successful starting pitcher they developed as a franchise since Andy Pettitte. Think of that. "You're our greatest success story... now get out of here. We don't need you." Decisions like this resonate with the players.
So many have wanted to argue that Harrison Bader is so good that the Yankees made a great deal to get him. As I have also said from the start, the Cardinals are a smart organization. A very smart organization. Maybe they knew things the Yankees didn't. Regardless of how well Bader does, the Yankees have now lost out on a bunch of quality starts that Montgomery could have provided. That's a net loss no matter how well Bader does.
Now, let's look big picture - Wasn't one of the reasons for bringing in Aaron Boone was that he was supposedly going to be better with young players than Joe Girardi was? (How the Yankees knew this at the time, when Boone had no coaching or managerial experience never made any sense, but...). In short, the young kids were supposed to thrive under Boone's approach. Gary Sanchez, for one, was going to blossom.
Please list the young players who have thrived under Aaron Boone's leadership. (If you need more space, please use the back of the paper.)
Players can thrive (or not) based upon the way the manager and the organization treats, values, and promotes them. The young players see all of this. The record here, when one looks at it all, isn't great. It's just not. At all.
Any yet, we're supposed to buy in, year-after-year, that the next great prospects are difference makers. Until they are also not... and the Yankees are selling us again on the next group. But maybe the kids aren't performing because there's something the Yankees are doing wrong with the way they develop, encourage, promote, and support their young talented players.
The Yankees seem to give the young players a chance, if one can even call it that, only when they have run completely out of other options. I believe that there is no way Oswald Peraza would have started last night if IKF had had a few hits on Friday night. Peraza got the start because the Yankees were backed up against the wall. They had no other option. They couldn't put it off any longer. I can guarantee that Peraza will get fewer opportunities to succeed than the veterans - even as the veterans play terrible baseball. That's the way the Yankees operate. It's how they have operated for a long time. And it does not work.
The Yankees have gone 9-20 since Jordan Montgomery was traded. I said this at the time... when teams trade away players, players that seemed to be part of the fabric of the team, it can crush a team's morale. It seems that might be the case here. These are human beings who invest in each other over long periods. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the only Yankees who were on the team longer than Montgomery were Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino, and Aroldis Chapman. Montgomery was supposed to be part of the next championship core. And he was traded - not for a superstar even, but for a guy who was and had been injured. Stuff like that matters in a locker room and in an organization. That just might have been the thing that took the heart out of this Yankees club. They traded a core player and one who had been performing well. Why? And then they said, "Well, he's not part of the solution." Don't you think that resonates with the other players? Of course it does. 100%. Absolutely. "We traded that bum. He wasn't even good enough to pitch in October."
This poor decision making resonates, deeply across the team and franchise in many ways. How many managers and general managers have kept their jobs after periods such as like the Yankees have experienced? And it's not just this year. The Yankees have not been to a World Series since 2009. That was the only World Series they've been in since 2001. This is not a record of success. Not for the Yankees. No way. In Yankees history, no managers have been given this long to get the Yankees to the World Series. I showed the other day that this is one of the least successful periods (eclipsed only by the 1903-26 Yankees) in the history of the franchise (judging by World Series wins) and yet the franchise seems content with this approach.
"This year it's different." We hear that a lot.
The only difference is that each year seems to get a little worse than the year previous. This seems to be a franchise heading in the wrong direction.
Finally, please explain to me, because I just don't see it, why, all things being equal, Aaron Judge would wish to spend the last years of his career with this franchise. The contract he signs will be his last and best chance to play for a World Series winner. This will be Judge's first and only chance to look across baseball and sign with a franchise that he believes is committed to and ready to win. If winning is one of Aaron Judge's goals, does he really believe the 2023 Yankees (and beyond) are one of the teams that are best aligned for that? Why would he want to come back? Would you?