SSTN Mailbag: Issues With Management, Ben Ruta, And The Pitching Coach!
Stick a fork in 'em, they're done. I've said it before in this space, but this is the most frustrating Yankee season I've witnessed in my lifetime. They were at least this boring to watch in the post-Cano, pre-Judge years, but they weren't this frustrating. From 2014-2016, at least there was the illusion that we were building towards something special. At that time, I gave the Yankees a lot of credit for choosing not to tank, as every other team in their situation in 2013 had done. No, the Yankees put out a product that still had a chance to win, a rare olive branch for their fans, while still clearly looking to the future.
Still, the foreshadowing of the Yankees' current state was there, in retrospect. It took Brian Cashman until just a few days before the trade deadline in 2016 to convince Hal to sell off meaningless cogs in exchange for prospects; even in the wake of a surprise 2017 run, we still heard about the Yankees' need to exercise fiscal responsibility by getting below the luxury tax; even with changes in training and injury management, the team was always hurt; the team has struggled with fundamentals for close to a decade; and the next generation of Yankee talent struggled to transition from AAA to MLB. All of those threads continue today.
We are going to have an entire offseason to not just diagnose the Yankees' problems, but offer real solutions, and we'll get to it (whether the Yankees listen or not). Right now, I'm just sad that I won't get to watch Yankee playoff baseball. So, what do I want the rest of the season? Get rid of expendable role players, even if they're DFA'd (Billy McKinney, Greg Allen, etc...Jake Bauers can stay, despite his recent cold streak). Play the kids who have earned a shot; I don't believe Estevan Florial will hit at the MLB level, but now that the team is out of it, give him a chance to audition (and possibly build up his value for a trade); let Matt Krook soak up real innings out of the bullpen; give Clayton Beeter a cup of coffee to try his stuff against big league talent; let Everson Pereira roam LF, even if he gets beat up by big league pitching up front. The season doesn't have to be a total loss, but management needs to accept that the playoffs aren't happening in order to extract some minimal value out of this seemingly wasted season.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll vent about Yankee management, respond to Ben Ruta's comments on X (Twitter), and evaluate whether a new pitching coach is needed. Let's get at it:
Mike F. says: Stanton may not have been a good fit, but when was the last great trade Cashman has made?
He’s overrated and the only true success he’s had is when George opened the checkbook in 2009!
They’ve never won a championship without left handed power and that’s been lacking for many years now! Why hasn’t Cashman or Hal realized that? There have been many opportunities to sign someone. Harper was willing to move to first base if Yanks signed him. There are others that were available too.
Boone is also a big part of the problem. When he put Torres at shortstop a few years ago, I knew in May that he couldn’t play the position. He didn’t make a move until August to change him. He constantly makes mistakes in strategy. Just last week Yanks had men on first and second with no one out, Volpe up and he never attempts to move the runner. He does these things far too often.
Thanks for listening!
The joke of it all is that, relative to what the Marlins got out of it, the Stanton trade was a good one for the Yankees from a pure performance perspective. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the last few years of Stanton's deal were always going to be terrible, but I don't think anyone (even the most cynical of baseball observers) expected him to be done as an everyday outfielder before he was 30 years old. Remember, when the Yankees acquired Stanton, he was a near Gold Glove caliber right fielder and at the peak of his powers at the plate. Cashman took the shot most of us would have taken, given that the annual cost wasn't crippling and the cost in prospects was minimal. It was a win-now move for a team that announced its presence with authority. I don't fault Cashman at all for the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton.
I do fault Hal/Cashman for abstaining from any free agents in the 2018/2019 classes, particularly Bryce Harper, but as much as I dislike him, I would have even been okay with Manny Machado. In 2019, I remain convinced that the Yankees were one good hitter short of being able to beat the Astros; Machado or Harper would have gotten the Yankees over the hump. Paul Semendinger and I both wrote multiple articles in those offseasons analyzing and explaining the fit.
Beyond that, I think Cashman got a lot right from a player acquisition perspective until 2021, and his inability to manage critical departments since are certainly grounds for firing. I think Cashman did a good job for a long time, but after years of working for George and Hal, I think it's possible some level of complacency has set in. It's time for a new voice, but as I wrote in this week's Tuesday Discussion, I don't expect a different result unless Hal stops micromanaging, a reality about which I've become convinced.
Don't get me started on Boone; I have never been a fan of his ability to manage the game, regardless of what happens in the clubhouse. I realize that we likely miss 90% of what a manager does on a day-to-day basis, but the 10% of the job we see has been poor and regressing since his first year. I'd also love to know whether Hal is responsible for Boone's continued employment or whether Boone reports to Cashman.
This organization needs to be re-organized from top to bottom.
Alan B. asks: Any comment about what Ben Ruta said on X [(formerly Twitter)] on Wednesday night [about] the Yankee minor league coaching?
EJ Fagan and I will be discussing these comments in greater depth on EJ's Bronx Beat Podcast on Sunday, but I'll give some of my initial thoughts now.
It's impossible to not at least take a good, hard look at some of what Ruta wrote about his time in the Yankees' minor league organization. It is clear that the Yankees bought into the exit velocity and launch angle revolution hard post-2017, and I have no doubt that minor league development was altered to encourage those attributes. I also have heard of the batters vs. pitchers game that was played in training, so I can't say that Ruta is lying about his experiences. I also believe that fundamentals have been lacking in the Yankee system for years now, and it wouldn't shocked me if those changes were made around 2018.
However, I would exercise some caution with taking Ruta's assertions for wrote. While it's clear that fundamentals are lacking in the development program, that doesn't mean that there wasn't validity to some of the Yankees' new training methods in the minor leagues, as there have been successes in development for both prospects down on the farm and re-treads using these methods. For me, the bigger issue has been a lack of coaching and development at the big league level as prospects make the transition.
As Ruta has softened his stance in recent days, I believe his point is valid: there needs to be better balance between analytical concepts and fundamental baseball teaching in the minor leagues. Also, all individuals learn differently, so a one-size-fits-all approach is almost always doomed to fail.
Dave says: Yankees need a new pitching coach. Someone who knows how to diagnose a pitchers flaw and knows how to correct it. So many pitchers have issues, then they get traded, and the coach on their new team figures out their problem and fixes it.
I think quite the opposite; the only coach on the current MLB staff that I think has earned his keep is Matt Blake. I really don't see any Yankee pitchers who have improved since leaving the team since the combination of Sam Briend and Matt Blake have been in charge. In fact, one of the few development successes the Yankees have in recent years is pitching. Pitchers enter the Yankee farm system and gain velocity and stuff within a year or two, and those pitchers are reaching the Majors as useful pieces. Have they developed an ace? No, but the reality is that most teams don't unless they have a high pick or two in the draft (and you could argue that Luis Severino WAS an ace in 2017-2019, but even mentioning his name makes me sad now).
The only real regression I have seen: Luis Severino and Deivi Garcia. Sevy has gotten so banged up that I think his mechanics and feel are way off, so I don't blame the coaches there. Garcia's regression should be blamed on the coaching staff, as they took a guy with good stuff and tried to turn him into a slider slinger, and it backfired spectacularly. However, two guys out of an entire system is a pretty good record.
We can argue about how pitchers are utilized in-game, that's perfectly fair, but I think the team has done a pretty decent job of maximizing pitching talent.