Recently my colleague Mike O’Hara wrote an article titled “WHY?” (you can see it here). In it, he questions the wisdom of naming players to certain roles prior to any competition happening in Spring Training. In particular, Mike writes about GM Brian Cashman naming recently acquired flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman the closer for 2016. Later, figurehead Manager Joe Girardi would confirm his supreme leader’s proclamation.
Mike’s point, in the perfectly explained piece, is that the Yankees already had the American League closer of the Year Andrew Miller, and closer-in-waiting Dellin Betances on the roster. Why not let the three more-than-capable stoppers compete for the ninth inning role during Spring Training, and let those hired to coach and manage the day-to-day performance of the team decide which they’d rather place their confidence in? It’s a perfectly valid question, and one that I ask annually.
Unfortunately, the Yankees have a General Manager who has made it a habit of determining who will be starting in the Bronx come Opening Day. One only need to look at the past two off-seasons to realize that perhaps our GM needs an intervention. Just last winter, December 16th to be exact, Cashman stated “He’s coming in as one of our starters” in reference to the signing of aging pitcher Chris Capuano.
Without so much as a word from Girardi, a new (old) member of the squad was named to the rotation. How did that work out? It didn’t. The 36-year-old who had an ERA under 4 just three times in his career, the last one coming in 2012, lasted just three starts before being removed from the rotation. Apparently the baseball people on the ground convinced his highness that a guy who couldn’t make it out of the sixth inning and held a 6.39 ERA wasn’t going to be the answer for the five-hole in the rotation. Capuano would go on to finish the season with a 7.97 ERA (he made one more appearance as a starter where he gave up five earned runs in 2/3 of an inning), and hopefully out of the Bronx in a pinstripe uniform forever more.
If the Capuano decree wasn’t enough, then there’s my favorite (no, not really) topic: Stephen Drew. A little over a month after the starting pitcher’s (trying not to throw up writing that) signing and starting role announcement, the Yankees GM re-signed lifeless infielder Stephen Drew to a $5 million contract – in spite of fact that Drew hit just .150 over 31 starts for the team in 2014.
On Jan 29th, just a few weeks after saying that Baby Bombers Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder would be competing – or sharing – for the starting second base job (something Girardi confirmed), Cashman again exercised his self-validation technique and bestowed the starting role upon Drew (the figurehead manager wouldn’t confirm it until March – even after Drew was thoroughly outplayed during Spring Training). The result I have written about on numerous occasions: 131 games, .201 average. If not for an injury that shortened his season, we might have witnessed the shortstop-turned-Cashman-second baseman finish with an average under .200 for the second consecutive year. As it was, his anemic numbers officially qualified him as the worst hitting second baseman in Yankees history. Like Capuano, it’s a good bet that Drew will no longer be our burden to bear, as the Nationals decided to take on the ballast this winter; ensuring us of having a productive bottom of the order.
Don’t for a second think that Cashman will stop his filling out of the lineup card during winter press conferences. Just today – January 19th – he announced that Starlin Castro, recently brought on board to play second base, could also see some games at third. His quote:
“We might do some non-roster invites, but we also think (Starlin) Castro can swing over (to third base) and plug a hole there.”Yeah, it’s a position he HAS NEVER PLAYED. But, what the hell, he’s the GM and he can do whatever he damn well pleases – even if it: A. immediately alienates returning third baseman Chase Headley, and B. once again circumvents the coaching staff’s decision-making.
I’m not sure what types of decisions that Brian Cashman thinks a GM is supposed to be making, but I’m pretty sure his coaching staff would rather he left the on-field calls to them.
In the meantime, all I, and others like Mike O’Hara can do is just keep asking “Why?”
--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
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