Yankees Preview: Character Assassination

This isn’t really a character assassination.  I like Brian Cashman, but due to his oversight the Bronx Bombers have been reduced to a litany of news items, mostly about a 39 year old former star third baseman and his struggles to prove worthy of the remaining $60 million on the worst contract in baseball history.

Brian Cashman has character, but isn’t much of a “character,” certainly not in the fashion of the Sparky Lyles, Bobby Valentines, or Bob Ueckers.  Or for you true MLB historians, the Lefty Gomezes, Jimmy Piersalls and Joe Pepitones.  But he has been entrusted with the rudder of arguably the greatest sports franchise of all…and has run the once glorious Yankee ship perilously close to a reef.  Unless a tidal wave frees them from their beached position, Yankees will not challenge in September for what could be a lot of years…and the team’s character, if not its persona, will be similarly challenged.

So steel yourselves Yankee fans, it’s looking more and more like the Big Apple is going to be a Mets town for years to come.

Mr. Cashman hasn’t recognized that you can’t consistently build a world series caliber ball club mainly through free agency.  He obviously hasn’t read up on Branch Rickey to realize that a strong minor league system begets major league success (and budget control, a foreign language to the pinstripers).  He paraded the great Jeter around the league for one more  season, sometimes embarrassing the lovable legend, who was clearly done.  And Mr. Cashman still has no replacement unless you believe Gregorius can hit twice as well as he’s shown in his fledgling MLB career.  Or that Brendan Ryan can hit his weight.  Or that Stephen Drew can hit his weight.   Or that someone can hit his weight.  In fact, this is potentially the lightest hitting Yankee infield since the  dark days of Horace Clarke and Jerry Kenney. The Yankees minor league system is overstocked with underachievers featuring only a few major league prospects, maybe only one who has a shot at being a star, maybe only one who is ready.  Or are they sandbagging us?

Mr.  Cashman is a GM of the old school…the one that has been closed for repairs and will be unlikely to reopen anytime soon.  Activity is good, but you have to have substance. He’s an amiable fellow, but he has done virtually nothing to ensure that the Bronx Bombers will be in a pennant chase any time soon.  Then again, they have been in only  three or four real chases in the last decade with Cashman piloting the ship.  He has managed to develop only 2 major league quality position players since the Core Four broke in some 20 years ago…Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner.

This year’s projected team is a sickly bunch, especially when viewed against the division rivals. It used to be that the great Yankees teams were compared and contrasted with the best team in baseball…not merely in their own division.  How the mighty have fallen.


The Outfield:

Brett Gardner:  A favorite of many for his defense and hustle.  Excellent baserunner and stealer.  But he struck out 134 times last year mostly in the leadoff spot and his average in down to .256. Still he’s one of their biggest assets.


Jacoby Ellsbury?  Anyone realize he has hit double figures in homers exactly twice, and one season was 16? That was 2014 BTW.   Looks a lot like his 2011 season with the Bosox was a fluke (.321-32-105, OBP.376).  Still a great baserunner and when healthy, a very good OF. But not exactly George Brett.


Carlos Beltran:  One of the best hitters in MLB when he’s right, but he has significant mileage on him, is a risk in the field and has lost most of his speed.  Has borderline HOF credentials, but can he play everyday in the unlikely even assuming that he is healthy?


Third Base:

Chase Headley: Cashman must think he is a modern day Scott Brosius, and for those of you who don’t recall Brosius, he was a classic example of a ballplayer who outplayed his stats. . Yankees fans don’t have to hold their breath. Nice glove at third, though no Nettles or Brooks (or Brosius).  Doesn’t make  consistent contact or generate enough power to scare you at the plate.  Has hit more than 13 homers exactly once and no longer runs well.  He’s worth $45 million?  Give me a break.


First Base:

Teixeira:  Other than being a nice guy, what can you say for him?  That he is possibly the most stubborn hitter in baseball?Ted Williams could (and did) pull the ball against any shift and hit .380. But that was Ted, the best hitter of his time and just about any time. Pull pull pull.  Well, Teixeira has pulled everything from both sides of the plate and he hit .216 . The shift crushes stubborn hitters who can’t or won’t adjust.  It  kills rallies, and Tex is both perpetrator and victim.  Despite stellar defense, now with somewhat limited mobility, he is one of the worst investments Mr. Cashman has ever made with averages of .216, .151, .251, and .256 his last 4 seasons.  He just doesn’t get on base enough and has exceeded his lifetime OBP only once with the Yankees. And he’s 35 and banged up. Maybe Garret Jones will get the chance to bring his low average power swing up against righties in Yankee Stadium.



Gregorious/Brendan Ryan.  Ryan is a brilliant fielder who at the plate makes Steven Drew look like Henry Aaron or Chipper Jones. His lifetime 0WAR is –1.0.  No one can fix the hole in that swing.   Gregorius? Like Ryan, great in the field but already with his third team at age 24.  It won’t matter that he can’t steal bases because his OBP is .313. Short porch in right must be what Cashman is counting on. Can he improve.  Yes. Let’s see it.



McCann:  The Yankee’s best hope for a bounce back season.  Good professional hitter (199 homers) whose .232 BA was 40 points below lifetime and his OBP was.286.  Yes, .286.  He’s due, but the kid John Ryan Murphy has game which is why Cashman traded Cervelli.  And Gary Sanchez is still only 22. Could catcher be a bright spot in 2015?


Second Base:

From Cano to Nono is two seasons. Drew, Jose Pirela &  Robert Refsnyder.  Drew looked like he never played a game in his life at the plate last year.   Pirela has a .273 minor league career average which could put him below the Mendoza Line in the majors.  He is the leading candidate along with Drew to start at second base.  Huh?  Refsnyder may get a shot because the Yankees have no one for second. His minor league stats indicate he can put his bat on the ball. Can he pick it at second?  Yankee fans, keep your fingers crossed.


Arod:  Who knows? Who knows how many games he can play?  Who knows where he will play when he is healthy enough to play?  Who knows how he will do without chemical additives?  This is one of the all time greats.  He was the best 2-way shortstop ever, no matter what anyone says, and I am not an Arod fan.  But he’s 39, and the years haven’t been kind. The 5-time home run champ just waves at pitches low and outside instead of the ball going bye bye.  Maybe with surgically repaired limbs he’ll reach them?  His range at third has been minimal at best for years and the Yankees traditionally have a logjam at DH.  His speed is hampered by injuries and by a weighty contract and dirty steroidal laundry that will assure boos  at every stadium.  Think Cashman regrets extending his contract when no one else would have him?


The Bullpen: Well it is a little disheartening to go into the season with two guys as potential closers who have a total  of 2 career saves between them.  Cashman didn’t even make an offer to David Robertson, which would have given the team a lock down bullpen.  Andrew Miller, he of the 1 career saves (in 3 career opportunities) and Dellin Betances who had as good a rookie season as anyone has ever seen and deserved to be ROY, should be able to cobble it together, right?  I mean how tough is it to close at Yankee Stadium anyway?  Didn’t Mo do it year after year, so how difficult could it be?  Ask Robertson the guy they didn’t re-sign, in a price move after they had signed Miller…for relatively the same dollars.


The Staff:  Who exactly will be starting?  Scratch Kuroda, their most dependable pitcher.   The only reasonably healthy starter was Brandon McCarthy and Cashman didn’t match the offer, maybe a good thing with his injury record.  Tanaka looks like the real deal if they can keep him on the field for more than half a season.  Nova might be back in mid summer.  Then again maybe not.  Doesn’t everyone come back from Tommy John these days?  Pineda has been healthy enough to win exactly 5 MLB games since 2011 and can’t even keep his hat on straight. Cashman signed Chris Capuano.  Why?  Does this mean that there is no kid in the minors  who could match his losing record and career 4.28 era?  I guess so.  Adam Warren as the swing man shows guts and can get the K.


When they got CC Sabathia they said he was a horse and an innings eater.  What they didn’t say was that those innings added up and took a toll on that left arm with an ERA rising and strikeouts falling each of the last 4 years.  He pitched in 8 games in 2014.  Can he make 30 starts in 2015?  If so, can he win 15?  His stuff isn’t what it used to be.


So Mr. Cashman what gives? It’s great to be a fan and not have to sweat out 162 game season, but a good minor league system, some key signings and that could all change. Maybe he should bring back the Lefty Gomezes, Jimmy Piersalls and Joe Pepitones.  That would add character for sure.  You could do worse.  You could go with the roster you have now.


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