Changes Begin For The Yankees

Brian Cashman obviously was not at fault for the New York Yankees failure of not making the postseason a second consecutive year. Instead the team announced Friday that their GM has a new three-year contract but the hitting and third base coaches have been dismissed.

Mick Kelleher and hitting coach Kevin Long were dismissed, though in the end it was the failure of an expected and high paid offense that did not produce. Cashman made some mid season adjustments to keep the Yankees competitive in a tight race for the second American League wild card, but they won fewer games, (84) than they did the previous year.

So why did the Yankees grant Cashman another three years, after $438 million of spending went to not seeing baseball being played again in the Bronx this month? Cashman has helped build the Yankees to 14 post season appearances in 16 years.

Simple: Cashman does not take the field. A combination of injuries and expectations of a roster not producing will eventually lead to failure, and the Yankees were once again an example of spending and expectations, but you have to play out the entire 162-game schedule.

As for Long and Kelleher, they became the victims because baseball is a game where changes are made when expectations and hopes do not come to fruition. And as much as there has been a call from fans to dismiss manager Joe Girardi, he did the impossible.

Under the circumstances, and trying to find a solution, Girardi often adjusted the lineup and used reinforcements that Cashman acquired. The results were the same resulting in a fourth place finish and one of the lowest scoring teams in the league.

“Nick Kelleher was not responsible,” Cashman explained to reporters late Thursday afternoon in a media conference call. And perhaps neither was Long responsible, who did his best to help a struggling lineup make adjustments.

On the dismissal of Long, Cashman said: “He tried everything in his power by his own assessment…. I know he publicly stated late in the year that he tried everything. The effort was sufficient, the results weren’t. We had higher hopes for the offense.”
Cashman added that a bone spur injury to Carlos Beltran to his right elbow was a serious blow for the entire team. And it was, as Beltran missed a significant amount of games and had surgery to remove the spur two days after the season concluded.

But Cashman, responding to a question did say, “Changing staff has to come to an expense.” So with the season about two weeks over, and with Cashman settled in again for a 17th year in his chair, the coaching changes are the beginning of what is expected to be an off season of activity.

That includes filling a void at shortstop for the retired and certain first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, and what to do with the return of Alex Rodriguez who becomes active upon completion of the World Series after sitting out a season long suspension from violating a strict baseball anti steroid policy.

The Yankee are expected to have Rodriguez when players report to Tampa Florida in mid February and begin the first of what is hoped to be a productive three remaining years of that lucrative 10-year $275 million contract.

On the return of his 14-time all-star who played a role with the Yankees’ 2009 championship team, Cashman said there will be “contingency plans” in the event he is not up to par. Rodriguez, will turn 40 in July and will be the center of attention with the void of Jeter,and there is concern about his mobility manning third base especially being out a year and having surgery to both of his hips.

Cashman may look at free agent options, go with someone on the roster, or use a player in the Yankees under manned minor league system. Regardless, Rodriguez is expected in the lineup at third or in the designated hitter spot.

“Third base, safe to say we have some contingencies in place with alex,” said Cashman when asked about the health and age of Rodriguez.

There is also the acquisition of Martin Prado, acquired in mid season who can play the position and was the Yankees most potent hitter down the stretch before going on the disabled list with appendicitis.

“I don’t know what to expect because he, (Rodriguez) missed a full year though he brings dedication and competes,” said Cashman. “Any alternatives for contingency purposes remain to be seen..We have to pursue all options… Just need to make sure I have the protection to provide alternatives to pursue third base options.”

Pitching was not the issue of failures. If there was anything about the 2014 Yankees it was how Cashman and Girardi were able to get good performances from a makeship staff that replaced four of five starters that were on the disabled list.

Cashman is hoping CC Sabathia can fully recover from a knee procedure, and that the seven-year investment in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will be healthy to pitch an entire season, not having to be concerned about Tanaka needing Tommy John surgery.

He did hint there is reason to upgrade in the pitching department, whether it be free agency or from within.

The process of re-signing David Robertson who in his opinion, “Graduated with honors” and is a “bonafide closer,” is also an immediate priority. The obvious reference that his 39 saves this past season was not an easy task in filling the shoes of the all-time saves leader.

The GM concluded that this offseason will be no different from the last 16. “In this chair every winter has it’s challenges. I’m responsible for it all, offense, defense.”

And most of all that challenge is for the fan base.

Because no matter what Cashman does, the Yankees not playing baseball in October is unacceptable to the fans, and of course his bosses that gave him another three years.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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