Author: Matt Imbrogno Page 1 of 24

The Process

The Process. For the better part of a decade, we’ve heard this term in sports, sometimes earnestly, sometimes as a mockery of that earnestness. Regardless, though, every team in every sport has a Process. From time to time, that Process needs to be altered if not outright changed. As I wrote last week, the Yankees are at a crossroads and their process is in need of alteration at the least and revolution at the most.

Allow me an oversimplification. There are two parts to the Process that have to happen before we see the results on the field: acquisition and application. First you’ve gotta get what you need, then you’ve gotta put that stuff–players, information, whatever–in a good position to succeed. For the most part, the Yankees are pretty good at the former.

Year in and year out, they put a good team out on the field. They’ve had no losing seasons since I was, like, five and have only missed the playoffs four times since 1994. That’s really good! Of course, that’s only led to one championship in the last twenty years and has more recently ended in a good deal of postseason heartbreak. This is all to say they’ve been good, but not good enough. The acquisition part of the process needs a change.

What that change looks like can vary. Maybe it’s getting players with a slightly different hitting profile, getting away from all take-and-rake guys. Maybe it’s going back to the basics and adding steady left-handed power. Maybe–and most importantly, given their commitment to load management–it’s investing in the bench so that Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, and Brett Gardner aren’t your best replacements (Gardner’s oft-resurgent 2021 notwithstanding). Maybe it’s signing or trading for reliable pithcers and not reclamation pieces. Regardless, the roster construction looks a little stale and inflexible at this point and there needs to be a tweak.

Another tweak? Remember who you are. You’re the Yankees. You literally print money. Act like it! Stop blushing at how much money you make and pour some of it back into the team like you did in the early 2000’s. The Yankee payroll is high, but relative to the league and relative to their own revenue, they still spend like it’s that time. To borrow from my own tweets:

I know that spending big sounds obvious and very “if the Boss were alive,” but I trust them (mostly) to spend more judiciously than they did in the past. My point is that big spending–Dodgers aside–is the new market inefficiency and the Yankees are uniquely positioned to exploit it. A bunch of teams are trying to lose. A bunch of teams aren’t trying too hard to win. There’s a bit of a vacuum there and the Yankees can and should fill it. Grabbing reclamation project or scrap heap projects is cute and can prove that you’re really smart and what not, but it only gets you so far, doesn’t it? And that’s if it even works with those players, which is very much not a guarantee.

Stop trying to be the smartest guy in the room. Stop trying to out Rays the Rays. Use your advantage.

On the application side of things, the fact that the Yankees just let their hitting coaches go shows that a change is, indeed, coming. The organization prides itself on its analytics department, which is great. The more information the better. But there’s clearly a disconnect in how that information is being delivered to players or executed by players. While the coaches and analytics department ultimately don’t play the games for the players, it’s disconcerting when Gleyber Torres takes a step back like he did, when Gary Sanchez is merely average instead of great, when DJ LeMahieu turns into a pumpkin, when a multitude of starters whose potential the Yankees were going to unlock–Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, James Paxton–just doesn’t work out.

The Yankees have earned a degree of trust in their Process with literal decades of success. But that trust may be waning among the fanbase and that process may be too stuck in the past. To paraphrase Don Draper, change doesn’t have to be good or bad. It can just be. It might be time for the Process to change.

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Crossroads

For the twentieth anniversary of its landmark series, HBO launched a podcast celebrating Band of Brothers, the World War Two epic following paratroopers from their training to the end of the war in Europe. This past Thursday, the podcast discussed episode five of the series, titled Crossroads. In the beginning of the episode, the company is fighting at a literal crossroads. In the middle of the episode, the series’ defacto protagonist is at a ‘career’ crossroads as he gets promoted from company commander to a more executive position. At the end of the episode, the company is again at a literal crossroads, heading into the frozen, snowy hell that was the Battle of the Bulge. While the Yankees aren’t fighting fascism (though Yogi Berra was!) and Aaron Boone doesn’t hold a candle to Dick Winters, they, too, are at a crossroads. But do they know it?

When Aaron Boone says something like that, it makes you think…does he, do they, really know where the Yankees stand? Whatever this gap is, the Yankees are on the wrong side of it.

A Perfect Ending

Before we get into the post itself, I wanted to take a moment and recognize Ken Singleton, YES broadcaster, who’s retiring after today’s telecast. Ken’s professionalism, passion, and love for the game of baseball have all been a joy and a privilege to hear over my many years of baseball fandom. Without a doubt, he is my favorite play-by-play announcer in the game and his color commentary is also near flawless. He knows baseball inside and out from a life well-lived in the game. He appreciates the players of today. He is knowledgeable without being a know it all. He is informative without being condescending. He is funny and witty without trying too hard. And, let’s be honest, his voice is a perfect voice for baseball. He will be sorely missed in the YES booth and we here at Views wish him well in all his future endeavors and time with his family. Thank you, Kenny, for sharing your love of baseball with us for so many years. We love you.

Sunday Thoughts

Wow. Still flying pretty damn high after that thrilling win last night. Listening to the NESN call is even better than listening to the YES call. What a homer from Giancarlo Stanton! Even a friend who’s not a regular baseball watcher texted me after it to appreciate the dinger. The Yankees are now in good position; now it’s time to sweep and move on to Toronto. Before we see them attempt to do so, here are some assorted thoughts.

The Joys of Sev

It’s only been four innings, but after a layoff of more than 700 days, how fantastic is it to see Luis Severino out there again? First, it’s just great that he’s healthy enough to throw…and throw hard. Seeing him in the upper-90’s inspires a lot of confidence in his health and reaffirms a lot of confidence in his talent. Whatever comes the rest of the year, I hope he can ride into 2022 and regain his Cy Young contender form back in the rotation. For now, though…

The Playoff Bullpen?

While the bullpen has been the weak link for the 2021 Yankees at times, I think we can see it rounding into shape. Clay Holmes, Severino, and Mike King can handle the RHP duties, with the latter two able to go multiple innings, which is valuable in the playoffs when starters have shorter leashes. Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge can handle situational lefties, and Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman can handle the back end. That should be good enough and doesn’t even include any rotation castoffs. Severino, given trust to handle a high leverage spot in just his second game last night, seems in good position to pitch late innings, too, which can alleviate Green a bit, something he sorely needs.

The Playoff Rotation

Both these thoughts might be getting ahead of themselves, but let’s be optimistic and assume the Yankees make the ALDS. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are obvious locks, though when Cole pitches won’t be game one. The next spot probably has to go to….Nestor Cortes, no? Jameson Taillon has pitched admirably this year for many reasons, but I think he’s at his limit. Corey Kluber is a great vet, but with how much time he’s missed, I’m not sure he’s able to be relied upon. So I think I’d go with Cole, Montgomery, Cortes, and, assuming the need for a fourth, Taillon.

The Playoff Lineup

While we’ve spent a lot of time clamoring for a different lineup, a supposedly optimal lineup, the Yankees just haven’t done it and it’s clear they’re not really going to. With that in mind, let’s imagine a playoff lineup based on what the Yankees have done so far.

  1. Gardner, CF
  2. Judge, RF
  3. Rizzo, 1B
  4. Stanton, DH
  5. Gallo, LF
  6. Torres, 2B
  7. LeMahieu, 3B
  8. Sanchez, C
  9. Urshela, SS

That works, no? Maybe you swap LeMahieu and Gardner if you don’t want four RHB in a row at the bottom, but…I’d be happy with that lineup, given how Gardner has played in the second half. If the Yankees aren’t going to play Luke Voit, this is the way to go.

Two Days, Two Games, Two Teams: A Season Encapsulated

A roller coaster.

Jekyll and Hyde.

The best of times, the worst of times.

There are many times this season when these descriptions of the Yankees have applied in back-to-back days. Yesterday and Friday were just the latest. A day after winning 8-0 behind five homers, the Yankees were drubbed 11-1 by Cleveland.

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