If the respect and controversy began with the Yankees putting forth their best effort on Friday, during this million-mile journey to the trade deadline, so be it. Regardless of the fact that their 5–4 victory in The Bronx came against a Royals team that was playing at a 46–116 full-season pace, it would have been on the verge of relegation if MLB allowed it.
The team hit – hit! — against a pitcher with a limited big league resume. The team made several spectacular plays in the field, culminating in Anthony Volpe’s throw to Drew Waters in the hole to third base, on whom DJ LeMahieu tagged out on a fielder’s choice to end the game. The team did not encounter any force majeure incidents on the basepaths.
Against all odds, that team was the Yankees, who performed amateurishly on the mound, at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths during their 2-9 slump from a playoff berth, and seemed to lack the requirements for course correction.
This is what trading time frames are made for. It’s coming in August. 1 followed by another eight games, two more against Kansas City, two against the Mets in the Bronx portion of the Consolation Series – sorry, Subway Series – followed by three in Baltimore and one against the Rays.
Even if things get worse before they get better for the Yankees (51-47), general manager Brian Cashman won’t wave the white flag of surrender. In truth, the Yankees would need to finish with the sixth-best record in the AL to seal their ticket to the Autumn Cotillion. Remember the good old days, when Joe Torre managed for George Steinbrenner and anything other than winning a division title was considered backdoor entry?
Neither Cashman, nor Hal Steinbrenner, nor current field manager Aaron Boone. Time has changed.
However, the Yankees should be pointing to Aug. 1 as an opportunity to reset, which will almost universally have a positive impact on both the long term and immediate future of this aging team filled with underperforming veterans.
Cashman should approach this as if it were 2016, when the Yankees changed their dynamic around the deadline by trading veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltrán, retiring Alex Rodriguez in mid-August, and turning to a younger, more attractive, more exciting and better team.
The deletions were in line with the additions of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Tyler Austin. Luis Severino was called up from Triple-A. Chad Green was given more responsibility than the pen. The trajectory was changed. The Yankees, 59–56 when A-Rod pitched his final game, went 16–9 shortly after and advanced to one game of the Wild Card before they were eliminated from the race in September.
Now, it’s true that teams were fighting for Chapman and Beltran, each with their contracts expiring. Teams were fighting for Miller, who had two years to live up to his deal. Cashman had it on hand and appeared as though he used it, even if the packages he received in return didn’t match his immediate five-star reviews.
Several moves from GM reshaped the Yankees. It is needed now in more challenging situations.
Citing three of the club’s most significant underachievers, no team is willing to trade for vanishing veteran batters LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo or Giancarlo Stanton after Judge left the June 4 lineup due to a toe injury suffered at the bullpen gate at Dodger Stadium the day before.
No one is opening the door to trade for Michael King or Clay Holmes, who have been touted as relievers, making the bullpen one of the Yankees’ strengths.
Plus, there’s no Judge to recall and no Sanchez to promote. Are we talking about needing to deal veterans to free up space so that 25-year-old Estevan Florial, who was previously designated for assignment, can get a major league at-bat after being left off the 40-man roster? Not likely, no.
But the dynamics need to change. Judge will likely have a timeline for his return after he faces Johnny Loisiga on Sunday in his first look at live pitching since injury. Only that will have a positive effect. But more is needed. The Yankees are stale. Need to change look.
More than 46,000 packed the stands on Friday, certainly not everyone headed to The Bronx because of the promise of receiving a Nestor Cortes bobblehead. There were no shockers from the Carlos Rodan kiss-face episode in Anaheim on Wednesday. Thirteen years without a pennant still doesn’t equal 15 years of lousy football.
Skies above were clear on Friday, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth sailing ahead. The Yankees need a reset, just as they did in 2016. It is up to the General Manager to complete it.