Sunday, October 11, 2015
SURPRISE AT CASHMAN'S SURPRISE
In the past Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has shown a brazen self-confidence when it comes to his ability to judge a player’s talent. Just this past off-season he spent $11 million on pitcher Chris Capuano and second baseman Stephen Drew, and declared each to be a starter at their respective positions without so much as a Spring Training game being played.
He was certain that he’d be able to breathe life into each simply by foregoing Manager Joe Girardi’s role in determining who’d take the field on a regular basis in the Bronx, and just write them into the regular season lineup cards for 2015 - this in spite of Drew batting just .150 over 42 games, and Capuano yielding 7 HR (with a 4.25 ERA) in just 12 games in 2014. He’s the “great savior of careers” in MLB, just ask him.
With such great insight and knowledge as to every one of his players’ talents, I was shocked to read a YES Network “Exit Interview” where the Great One expressed surprise (he called it a “head scratcher”) at the sudden downturn his team made offensively in the second half of 2015. Surely he had done all that his “recipe for success” called for. The lineup’s drop-off after the peak of summer had to be just a blip on the radar screen – a fluke – a glitch.
Only, if our all-knowing GM had done his homework, he’d have realized it was to be expected.
(In Photo: THE Mario Mendoza)
Excluding “Mr. Mendoza” Stephen Drew, the Yankees lineup primarily consisted of veterans Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira (until he was hurt), and Alex Rodriguez.
Of those 30-somethings, only one – Chase Headley – has had a recent history of improving after the All-Star break. In fact, the others on average see their productivity at the plate drop by over 22 points. Below is a table of the aforementioned players and their three-year batting averages – pre, and post All-Star break.
Click on it. As you can see, the sudden lack of production in the second half of this season’s campaign was far from a fluke. It was a known “feature” for the group of veterans Mr. Cashman has selected.
Often a manager can get around trends like this by shaking things up – moving people around in the order. Only, that’s not a characteristic of Joe Girardi. Even when things are at their worst, he stays with his order – damn the results.
So, even though Brett Gardner put on his “Stephen Drew” shoes as the season wore down, the outfielder batted first or second in the lineup for all but NINE at-bats in 2015. Ellsbury hit .220 after the break (.318 before it) but did our manager make any changes? No, damn the torpedoes and full-speed ahead! He put Ellsbury at the top of the order for all but SIX of his at-bats. Consistency is a great thing in baseball, but only when it’s a good consistency.
I could go on with each of our veterans in the same manner, but this article isn’t about the Yankees unimaginative manager with the lack of “feel” and sense of momentum. That’s for another article on another day. Instead it’s about the General Manager who supposedly understood the team he put together.
How can Cashman possibly be surprised at the decline in 2015 when the majority of his veterans have historically trended downward? Gardner in particular has done it his entire career.
Cashman certainly has shown that he has the power to call the shots when it comes to who plays and who doesn’t, so why didn’t he inject some life via “Baby Bombers” like Bird, Heathcott and Refsnyder earlier in the season, rather than waiting for injury or illness to force the issue? After all, he knows the club’s talent better than anyone, right?
Yes, the Yankees won three to five games more this season than they were expected (depending on who you ask), but ultimately the second half showed exactly what all the prognosticators had said it would – that this team was old and would wear down.
We didn’t need big deals to be made at the break - we had answers to our problems in-house. Unfortunately, neither our manager nor GM could see that in time to save us from the inevitable.
Perhaps next season our management will be a little wiser now that they’ve watched a promising season follow down a familiar path. Maybe, just maybe, Brian Cashman will change his business model and not have to scratch his head so much.
--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
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