The Yankees have much work to do this off season. Fundamentally speaking, it should begin there.
Bob Klapisch, a veteran baseball writer and one of the best in the business, cited a source in his NJ.com column on Wednesday that Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner is tired of being second best. According to Klapisch’s source, “(Steinbrenner) has had enough of being a runner up.”
A few weeks back, Steinbrenner announced that the organization will undergo an audit after a 2023 season, that was (in Aaron Judge’s own words), a “major failure,” and leaves them on the outside looking in at the post season for the first time since 2016 and the fourth time since their last World Series in 2009.
Beginning next week, a third party company will look into the workings of the organization and analyze why the Yankees have not been able to recapture their glory years.
According to Klapisch, the independent investigation will focus on “trades in the last decade, the shake out of the draft picks, including the international draft, the number of games (and dollars) lost to injuries and the state of minor league player development.”
That is quite an agenda, but does it also take in the basics, like baseball fundamentals. In recent years, the Yankees have been one of the worst fundamental teams in the sport. At times, the base running exploits have been comical while the Yankees have had a penchant for not being able to get a runner in from third with less than two out or moving a runner from second to third with no one out.
Recommendations for personnel changes will not be the responsibility of the company conducting the audit, but will there should be a change in philosophy as to how those decisions are made.
As Klapisch pointed out, the Yankees have made some ill fated deals for players like “Joey Gallo, Josh Donaldson, Frankie Montas,” and you can add Sonny Gray to that list. Acquiring Donaldson to play five infielders for four spots blew up in their face. Donaldson was a below average Major Leaguer in New York and his presence partially affected the other infielders. Players are creatures of habit and don’t need a scheduled day off. A player could get three hits and is swinging a hot bat and then sits because he gets a scheduled day off?
Changing the batting order every game does not help matters either. The better teams post at least a steady 1-4 or 1-5 hitters in the order every game. The Yankees come to the ballpark every day and no one really knows where they are hitting in the order. A different leadoff hitter for each game does not work. The Yankees should’ve had Anthony Volpe lead off for the remainder of the season. Using D.J. LeMahieu at the top doesn’t make sense now because, at this point in his career, he needs to be in an RBI slot.
They have missed on a number of players in recent years. Names like Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade did not live up to their billing and it set the team back.
Decisions on free agent signings have also come into question.
Heading into the season, the Yankees needed to add a left fielder, preferably a left hand hitter. This past off season, the decision was made to not sign Cody Bellinger, a left hand hitting outfielder, who could’ve filled two needs and is still under 30 years old.
Did the Yankees have data that told them that Bellinger was in decline? His previous two seasons were a major letdown from when he won the NL MVP in 2019 but that may have been due to a shoulder injury that he suffered in 2020 that took a long time to heal.
Bellinger was not being overwhelmed with offers but eventually he took a one year deal with the Cubs last December. Why not take a flier on a player who could thrive at Yankee Stadium and was better than any other options on the roster, even in a reduced state.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Yankees are still looking for left hand hitter and a left fielder and were rumored to be trying to trade for Bellinger, who also plays center field and first base. The Cubs had Bellinger on the trade block until he got hot in July and led them into the thick of the NL Wild Card race. Now there’s talk that the Yankees will be interested in signing him this upcoming off season.
According to Klapisch, the investigation will focus on how the “Yankees compare to other clubs.”
Other clubs, who have been successful in recent years, like the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, have been labeled as teams that are analytically driven. What is being overlooked is those teams and some others have learned how to balance the old with the new. In other words, those teams use analytics but they also incorporate some of the old and proven methods like in person scouting.
The Yankees have to hope that what we saw from Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells since they were called up is a portent of things to come. The Yankees desperately need both players to be the real deal. I like what I’ve seen Dominguez in his short time and I really like what I see from Wells as a hitter. He displays a sweet left hand swing with good bat speed. I’m not too concerned that his weakness is throwing out potential base stealers. I’m not saying Wells is Mike Piazza, but the Hall of Fame catcher was not exactly praised for his arm.
Whatever the Yankees have been doing in recent years has not worked. Maybe this investigation will lead to the Yankees incorporating more of a balance when it comes to personnel decisions and building a balanced roster.