Perspectives: They’re All To Blame…
by Paul Semendinger
June 14, 2021
Howard Jones once sang, “No one is to blame…”
I think with the 2021 Yankees, that there’s enough blame to go around. All of the decision makers are to blame for this team that has gone 33-32 for the season and just 5-13 since May 25.
On this off day (weren’t the Yankees just off on Friday?), let’s look at a (partial) list of the areas to assess blame for the 2021 Yankees, a team that is now just one game over .500. Remember when the Yankees were supposed to be competing for a World Championship.
Right now, that dream seems years (and years) away.
What went wrong?
The Yankees had a young championship core and they fired (technically, did not rehire) the manager (Joe Girardi) who brought them super close to fulfilling that reality. You know the saying “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream?” Well, the Yankees changed horses. The manger who had brought along the young talent was let go. The new manager (Aaron Boone) has not had much (if any) success bringing out the best in any of the young players he has managed.
Rather than giving the team to an expert, they gave the job to an unknown. The Yankees had high hopes that the new manager would usher in a winning era. It hasn’t worked out. (The optimist still in me wants to say, “Yet.”)
The Yankees went from a team that was strong fundamentally to a team that is the exact opposite. The Yankees play poor defense, they run the bases terribly, and they show no spark in the majority of their games. These are attributes that fall directly under areas that managers control.
A coaching staff was built with people with strong resumes, but no real experience as big league coaches. It’s tough to win when the manager and the coaches are all learning together.
A philosophy was developed that focused on the long ball, launch angels, exit velocity, and three true outcome baseball. This has resulted in an offense that is one dimensional and can seemingly be easily shut down by good pitchers. Because the Yankees’ approach is mostly “all or nothing,” when they hit home runs, they are usually of the solo variety.
The lineup was constructed without any recognition of balance. The Yankees, for years, neglected to bring any quality left-handed bats to the team. (Many were available.) It has always been a core fact that the great Yankees teams have had strong left-handed hitting.
|t seems that the GM, Brian Cashman, wanted to be a partner in the on-field decision making. Analytics were to rule the day. Analytics can be great, but it seems that the numbers became the most important thing rather than any feel or sense of the game. Strong managers have often run circles around the Yankees’ brain trust.
There was a time when the players the Yankees would bring in were players who had won before, who were “winners.” The philosophy was to bring in players who had experience on championship teams. There is an art to being successful in addition to being good. Somewhere that philosophy went away. Which current Yankees have ever been in a World Series?
Outside of a few big name starting pitchers who commanded absolute top dollar, the Yankees have not been able to find or develop any quality starting pitchers who have helped this team. (The starting pitchers, this century, who have consistently succeeded were few and far between and can be named pretty easily – Mike Mussina, C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Gerrit Cole.) This has been a problem throughout Brian Cashman’s tenure.
The Yankees became so focused on the luxury tax that they passed on a host of great talent who could have helped the team. There was a time when every single great free agent was linked to the Yankees. Over the last few years, the Yankees have made it clear that they haven’t been interested in most of the big name players – players who have gone elsewhere and won. This has also been true with difference makers available through trades. The Yankees haven’t been interested or able to get them.
The great young future stars haven’t become great – many haven’t even been very good.
Without great starting pitching, the Yankees have tried to win through a strong bullpen. The bullpen gets taxed, there are too many pitching changes, and the strategy hasn’t worked effectively.
For years, too many of the stars have been often injured.
The Yankees minor league seems to be without any high level talent who can come in and plug the holes. (Depth was a vital aspect of every former successful Yankees team.)
At the same time, the Yankees have “prospect hugged” at the trade deadline, and during the winter trade periods, not willing to part with young talent for proven veterans. I just wonder which young talent the Yankees kept who are now performing at a high level.
The manager never seems to put out a consistent lineup. Players don’t know from day to day where they’re playing or where they’re batting in the lineup. Players who perform well seem to be immediately rested. Mixed messages are sent (for example, “Aaron Judge needs to be rested often – load management is important,” followed by “Aaron Judge can handle centerfield”). Baseball players need consistency.
The team lacks emotion. The high energy players who added so much to the team have all gone away. The Yankees’ look is one of complacency.
Poor fiscal decisions have led to poor roster development which, combined with a team that is not fundamentally sound, leads to a club that has boatloads of talent and is just a game over .500.
I have written this before, but many fans and writers, and many writers here at SSTN have seen this coming for a long time. It is a shame when the fans see things more clearly than the people running the ship.
It will be very interesting, and very telling, how this franchise moves forward over the next few days, weeks, months, and years.
We will see, very clearly, very soon, what matters most to the Yankees decision makers of today.