The Yankees should retool for 2024 – from top to bottom
Here we are again, lamenting the premature death of a New York Yankees season. The annual postmortem has been brought forward this year, from the precipice of winter to the dog days of summer, but the same sad requiem plays ad nauseum. At 50-47, this team is finished. Nine games out in the AL East, this core has fizzled. Three-and-a-half games adrift of a wildcard, this regime has failed. And if those in charge have any shred of decency intact, they should act as benevolent custodians in the coming days and weeks, laying the groundwork for a long-overdue overhaul.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner considers general manager Brian Cashman the ideal employee – a robotic functionary who toes the party line and protects the family secrets. Well, it is time for Cashman to enact that exemplary professionalism by aiding the transition to a new Yankees brains trust. Sure, Cashman has done some very good things for the Yankees, and he has led this organisation with quiet dignity for 25 years. Nevertheless, he has spent $2.7 billion since the Yankees last won the World Series, and his modus operandi is hopelessly stale.
Ever the dutiful bureaucrat, Cashman should guide the Yankees through this trade deadline as a pride-salvaging caretaker, orchestrating deals that enhance the team’s long-term outlook before he gracefully steps aside. There should be an edict for Cashman to flip veterans on expiring contracts – Luis Severino, Harrison Bader, Frankie Montas – for prospects. The Yankees should also explore deals for DJ LeMahieu, Domingo Germán, Wandy Peralta and Clarke Schmidt before the deadline. If anyone wants to take Giancarlo Stanton or Josh Donaldson – please, help yourself. Perhaps Clay Holmes is even made available, because what use is an elite closer on a .500 team?
Post-deadline, the Yankees should find a new leader of baseball operations – Brian Sabean makes sense as a neat internal option – and give them a few months under the hood before a busy offseason. To that end, put Aaron Boone out of his misery and let Luis Rojas take over as interim manager, then find a winning replacement in the winter. Tell Aaron Judge to have surgery and get ready for 2024. Play Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera and Anthony Volpe every day to see what they become. Call up Estevan Florial and Austin Wells – they cannot be worse than Jake Bauers and Jose Trevino.
None of this will happen, of course. None of this will even be considered. I have been writing about the Yankees for over 10 years, and the narrative has not changed for most of them. We have gone through intransigence, insanity, déjà vu and Groundhog Day, only for Cashman and Boone to receive long-term contract extensions – contrary to all logic. Nothing will change until on-field performance hurts the financial bottom line. Nothing will change until people stop buying tickets and YES Network subscriptions. Nothing will change until Hal feels the pinch.
Though winning is woven into the DNA of every Yankees fan, even diehard rooters are ready for this team to implode if wholesale changes happen as a consequence. You see, right now, this is about much more than wins and losses. This is about an impervious organisation that refuses to change despite reams of evidence screaming for change. This is about a complacent culture of ingrained mediocrity. This is about monolithic elitism and wilful ignorance. The Yankees operate a watertight bloc, and those in cahoots are immune to external criticism. The executive branch is invincible, so we are all just shouting into the abyss.
Baseball fans need hope, and there is none in the Bronx right now. Apathy will never be accepted in the bleacher creature lexicon, because the Yankees matter too much. But in the ownership suite and front office? Please – they eat apathy for breakfast.
The way Cashman and friends plead innocence, as if they have no control over baseball’s karmic crapshoot, is insulting. And yet, we all know it is coming. We all know the Yankees will blame injuries, ignoring the fact they built an injury-prone team devoid of depth. We all know they will blame the vagaries of baseball unpredictability, despite the rival Astros eyeing a fifth pennant in seven years. We all know they will blame anyone but themselves, because there is no accountability with this team, whose wink-wink, nudge-nudge deceit is beyond egregious.
The Yankees have not endured a losing season since 1992. They usually find a way to right the ship, save face, pack the Stadium for a couple playoff games and have Legends Suite members renew their season tickets. That is the modern Yankee doctrine – anathema to the win-at-all-costs exceptionalism of yore – and they may pull it off again in the coming months. Yet ultimately, a 2023 postseason berth would paper over the pinstriped cracks. The Yankees will never win another World Series under this anachronistic regime, and the time is nigh to tear it apart.