Perspectives: Windows Close Quickly
by Paul Semendinger
April 23, 2021
I have said, often, over the years, as the Yankees have let elite (and young) talent sign elsewhere, and while the Yankees have stood pat at the trading deadlines the last many years, and while they have failed to address the team’s apparent weaknesses in other ways, that windows close quickly in sports.
Windows close quickly.
In the years almost immediately after the 2009 World Championship, the Yankees started tightening their belts on spending. It reached a low point from about 2014 to 2016 as the Yankees, in structure, at least, looked like a second division club. (In those years, manager Joe Girardi had the team well out perform its talent. See list below.) As the years without a pennant started to become more and more numerous, fans were told to just wait, that the good days were coming soon. The fans were told that great new talent was arriving. The fans were told that this talent would usher in the next great Yankees dynasty. We were also told (if not explicitly, but it was very clear) that once the luxury tax was “reset” than the Yankees again would be big players in the free agent market. (I recall a term, “Fully Operational Death Star.”) The next great era was coming.
It didn’t come.
That great window may have closed. The way the Yankees have started this year, it seems as if that window might have been slammed shut. It was open for a time, but the core that was once young and full of promise is no longer young. And much of the promise has left. Important pieces, generational talents, that could have been added that would have helped the team were allowed to sign elsewhere – often times without the Yankees even making an effort to try to sign them. (This is now the new “Yankee way.”)
The Yankees also fired their successful manager and hired a manager that had no experience in that role, along with a coaching staff that pretty much also had no experience. When people questioned this strategy, the narrative in response was, “We know what we’re doing.” All fans could do was hope the Yankees were right.
Here’s a simple yes or no quiz. The following position players were Yankees in 2018 for Aaron Boone’s first year as manager. These players are still with the franchise today. Look at each name and then decide if the player is a better player today than he was in 2018:
Are any of those players considered better today than they were just four seasons ago? No. None of them are. The entire team has regressed. The window which was supposed to be open for so long has closed. (UPDATE – Higgy and Voit are. Good point by ProfRobert in the comments.)
The fact that every single position player has seen their career stall is, without a doubt, clearly, and unequivocally, a reflection on the manager and his coaches. If that isn’t the case, if a manager and his staff are not responsible for the development of the players and their performance on the field, especially over many years, then what are a manager and his coaches responsible for?
This idea that the Yankees are going to snap out of their funk is the great hope we all hold. It’s what we do as fans. But, in many ways, that hope defies logic. After the Yankees began last year (the 2020 season) at 16-6, they went 17-21 the rest of the way. Combine that with this year and the Yankees have gone 23-32 over their last 55 games.
That is not a small sample size – that’s a sample size that speaks, loudly, to a team that is in trouble.
The Yankees have been unable, at all, to adapt to any pitcher or pitching style. Game after game after game all they do is swing from their heels. The Yankees will have the world’s highest exit velocities and the league’s worst team. I think this focus on exit velocity is part of the problem. It looks good. It sounds good. It seems like it should work. It doesn’t. Not for these players. Not at all.
Windows close quickly.
The only thing those players have done, the ones who were supposed to be the core of the next dynasty, is get older, more frail, and less productive. This reflects, very poorly, on the organization – from the top down.
These were supposed to be the glory years. They have not been.
Knowing the makeup of the team, and the fact that there are few great up-and-coming players in the system, the ownership’s unwillingness to spend to address the team’s needs, the general manager’s inability to address the team’s needs, and the manager’s inability to get the team to even play good, solid, fundamental baseball, is there any reason, at all, to be inspired about the 2021 season or any season on the near horizon? Doesn’t it look, more and more, like the next Yankees dynasty is one that will only come with the next generation of players – players we have never heard of yet. Which current Yankees look like they’ll be the core of that next great era?
The chance for greatness was there.
Windows close quickly.
Joe Girardi Wins and Expected Wins By Season 2013 – 2016
2013: Expected Wins = 79 Actual Wins = 85
2014: Expected Wins = 77 Actual Wins = 84
2015: Expected Wins = 88 Actual Wins = 87
2016: Expected Wins = 79 Actual Wins = 84