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Thoughts after the end of season press conferences

Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman spoke to the media yesterday afternoon. Each took the better part of an hour for their discussions with the media, though I think folks were a bit more curious to hear what the general manager had to say. We had already heard Boone talk a bit after the Game 5 loss, though yesterday came with a few days to marinate after the end of the season. I know I was more interested in what Cashman had to say, at least.

I do have one thing I want to say about Boone’s presser, but the rest of my thoughts relate to Cashman’s briefing. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Aaron Boone needs to stop saying how close the Yankees are to winning a title.

This is grating. Boone said this in what seemed like a dozen different ways yesterday. Close? If this is close, then how do you describe the 2001 Yankees? Or the 2011 Rangers? Maybe make a World Series before you start saying that this team is close. Here’s how Boone’s seasons have ended since taking the helm:

  1. 2018: 100-62, Wild Card, Lost ALDS to Red Sox 3-1
  2. 2019: 103-59, Division Title, Lost ALCS to Astros 4-2
  3. 2020: 33-27, Wild Card, Lost ALDS to Rays 3-2

The “closest” Boone’s Yankees have gotten was a year ago. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe 2020 except as a step back for this group, unusual circumstances of this season notwithstanding.

End of season press conferences: Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman

The Yankees’ manager and general manager spoke in today’s annual end of season press conference. Below are some of the highlights from this afternoon’s media briefing.

Aaron Boone

  • We’ve grown accustomed to learning about offseason surgeries scheduled in the last couple of season recap press conferences. Not this year, thankfully. The manager said that there are no surgeries needed, to his knowledge.
  • Boone noted that there are no coaching staff changes anticipated. That said, Marcus Thames’s name has come up as a managerial candidate for Detroit. That could force the team’s hand.
  • The manager reiterated how close this team is to winning a World Series. He said it a few times in this presser, in fact. Frankly, this wears a bit thin. He’s been at the helm of two ALDS knockouts and an ALCS elimination. I’m not so sure that qualifies as close. Plus, the Yankees would have fallen short of the postseason had MLB not expanded the playoffs this season.
  • Is there a starting catcher controversy next year? Boone noted that he still has plenty of confidence in Gary Sánchez and that he liked his at bats toward the end of the season. The skipper also noted that Kyle Higashioka’s performance was the driving factor in the postseason lineup cards, not Gary.
  • Gleyber Torres’s defense at shortstop was not great this season. According to Boone, it’s consistently making the routine play that will make him a better defender.
  • As you might expect, a number of questions were about Game 2 against the Rays. But how much of that was Boone’s say? The key quote, I think: “I think that room understands that I’m writing out the lineup and I’m making those decisions.”

Thoughts after the Yankees fall to .500

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How’s everyone feeling about the Yankees this season? Great, right? Yup, feels wonderful to be 21-21 after a 16-6 start. The Yankees are in the midst of as terrible of a run as I can recall, though I’m also spoiled as a person born in 1990. It’s hard to be optimistic about the current team turning things around, by the way. Here’s what’s on my mind now that the Yankees are barely hanging on to a playoff spot.

The Yankees may need to accelerate the returns of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and/or Gio Urshela. There are 18 games remaining and it’s increasingly likely that the Yankees only chance at a playoff spot is the 8th seed. There are still a ton of games left against Toronto, so I suppose the Yankees could still sneak into second place division spot (currently three games back), but it’s getting more difficult to imagine that working out. So, who would have thought the Yankees would have to hold off the Orioles, Mariners, and Tigers to make the playoffs this year?

Just incredible. And that brings me to the players on the injured list. I think Yankees (reasonably) assumed that the current roster would have no issues holding off these teams. That’s why we’ve seen patience in bringing back guys like Stanton (who’s way past his original timetable). But now we’re at the point where the team can’t be much more patient. The Yankees need the likes of Stanton, Judge, and Urshela back in this punchless lineup. This current roster *should* be able to maintain the 8th seed, but it’s officially too close for comfort.

Of course, there is the risk of aggravating an injury by bringing back a player too soon. We’ve already see that with Judge this season. That very well could happen again. That said, would you rather miss the playoffs without getting Stanton/Judge/Urshela back within the next week? Or would you rather miss the playoffs taking getting them back as soon as possible?

Mike Tauchman should not hit sixth. I really do not understand why Aaron Boone penciled in Tauchman sixth in the lineup last night. I get that there are a lot of guys not hitting in this lineup, but Tauchman looks terrible at the plate. Naturally, he came up in a couple of big spots yesterday.

The Yankees had Taijuan Walker on the ropes in the first inning. Tauchman came up with the bases full and two outs and worked the count to 3-1. Here’s what he did:

That’s an eminently hittable fastball in a fastball count. Tauchman could do nothing but hit a soft fly ball to left center.

He came up again with the bases loaded in the fifth. He lifted a sac fly to left for the Yankees’ only run of the game.

I’ll give him a little credit for going with that splitter away to left, but man, I would have rather had a more dangerous hitter up. Miguel Andújar, anyone? At least he’s shown some life of late.

Again, I just can’t fathom hitting Tauchman sixth. He has shown absolutely no power (.063 ISO) this season and constantly misses hittable fastball. He’s literally batting .000 on fastballs over the heart of the plate. It’s not like he’s been that unlucky either with a .192 xBA and .336 xSLG in that location.

Reaction to Brian Cashman’s team meeting. I gotta say, I didn’t love the idea of Cashman addressing the team before a JA Happ start. It’s preferable to do so with a better pitcher on the mound. But hey, credit to Happ for pitching well yesterday. The offense was yesterday’s letdown.

It sounds like Cashman struck the notes you’d expect him to. Per Cashman’s press conference, he emphasized his belief in the current roster and reminded them that everyone in the room was brought in for a reason. What else is he gonna say?

The GM also noted that there’s no help coming (duh). The trade deadline has passed and the Yankees stood pat. Similar to what he said a little over a week ago, Cashman noted that the prices were just too high and would have subtracted current big league contributors (i.e. Clint Frazier, Deivi García, and/or Clarke Schmidt). But even if he won’t admit it, I’m sure Cashman would like a mulligan. I can’t imagine all trade possibilities required one of the three mentioned above to be sent packing. We can’t know for sure, though.

In any event, talk is cheap and this roster just isn’t performing. A pep talk is nice and all, perhaps needed, but it can only do so much with the likes of Tauchman, Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, and Thairo Estrada needing to play so much. It’s not gonna snap Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres, or Brett Gardner out of their slumps.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit here, but I guess I’m just trying to reiterate the frustration about this team’s depth. We often point to the absence of Didi Gregorius this year, but let’s not forget that this team also had Cameron Maybin and Edwin Encarnación around last summer. Those are three big losses that Cashman did absolutely nothing to address. It’s great to have confidence in who’s on the roster already, but sheesh, it sure would have been nice to have a little more cushion. It’s too late the fix that now. Literally all Cashman can do is try to light a fire under the guys currently in the clubhouse.

On the future at catcher and following the Dodgers. There really are no excuses to make for Sánchez. He’s been atrocious at the plate and his defense has taken a step back. Save for a hot start last year, Gary’s been mired in offensive problems since 2018 and it’s concerning. His bat has always been his carrying tool, but it’s been a while since his incredible run from 2016-2017. Unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of clamoring to find someone new to replace him long-term. I’m sure the cries for impending free agent J.T. Realmuto will be loud this winter.

Don’t count on Realmuto coming aboard, though. We have heard his name come up in rumors with the Yankees over the years, even when Gary was playing well, but I don’t expect the Yankees to pay up after splurging on Gerrit Cole last winter. That said, I do expect the Yankees to bring in some catching insurance. I know the team likes Kyle Higashioka, but I think they need something more. It would behoove the team to have two starting-caliber catchers kind of like the Dodgers do (Will Smith and Austin Barnes). They more or less split duties and I think it allows the two of them to stay fresh all season. It’s not lost on me that there are not many starting-caliber catchers available, of course. Getting another is much easier said than done.

It just may not make sense for catchers to play, say, 120 or 130 games anymore. It’s too much on their legs. That’s why such a move might be good for Gary too, especially if he can rediscover his offensive ability and be useful at DH on days he doesn’t catch. Here’s what’s out there other than Realmuto in free agency:

  • Alex Avila
  • Jason Castro
  • Robinson Chirinos
  • Tyler Flowers
  • James McCann
  • Yadier Molina
  • Wilson Ramos
  • Austin Romine
  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Mike Zunino

Not particularly exciting! But a lot of these guys are probably better than Higashioka and would be playable 3-4 days a week. Tyler Flowers and James McCann are first to mind for me, personally.

Now, as for Higgy: he’s out of options so the Yankees would risk losing him unless they carry three backstops. It’s a tricky situation, but something the Yankees should consider. They need a little bit more insurance behind Gary.

Game 42: There’s no help coming

Brian Cashman traveled with the team to Buffalo, an obvious sign of urgency coming from the front office’s top dog while the Yankees sputter. The problem? It’s literally too late for help, as Cashman said himself. Cashman met with the team before tonight’s game and reminded the team of his belief in them but that they have to get back on track “yesterday”. At this point, there’s no better time to get back on track tonight, I guess. Here are the lineups as the Yankees look to return to the win column:

New York Yankees (21-20)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
  2. Luke Voit, 1B
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Clint Frazier, RF
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Mike Tauchman, LF
  7. Gary Sánchez, C
  8. Miguel Andújar, DH
  9. Tyler Wade, 2B

LHP JA Happ

Toronto Blue Jays (23-18)

  1. Cavan Biggio, 2B
  2. Randal Grichuk, CF
  3. Rowdy Tellez, 1B
  4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., DH
  5. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
  6. Joe Panik, 3B
  7. Jonathan Davis, RF
  8. Danny Jansen, C
  9. Santiago Espinal, SS

RHP Taijuan Walker

News & Notes

  • Gary Sánchez is back in the lineup. Aaron Boone benched him the previous two games so Gary could get a reset of sorts. He’s hitting .130/.237/.350 (58 wRC+) with a 42.1 percent strikeout rate. Hopefully the short break helped.
  • Tonight’s home plate umpire is Brennan Miller, who you’ll recall from Aaron Boone’s “savages in the box rant” last year.

YES, WFAN, and WADO have the call of this game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. EDT. Enjoy the game.

Highlights From The Gerrit Cole Press Conference

This is Cole’s first win.

The big day is here. After an eleven year pursuit, the New York Yankees will unveil their new ace Gerrit Cole today. He was the main target of the offseason plan and they gave him 324 million reasons to put on the pinstripes. This is clearly a significant day in recent Yankees history. We will have all the highlights along with some brief thoughts of the presser.

  • Sitting on the dais for the press conference are Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Michael Fishman, Matt Blake and Scott Boras. The team brought out the heavy hitters of the Yankee brain trust. This signing is a big deal and the team is not shying away from it.
  • Brian Cashman begins his statement with the story of Cole making the decision to turn down the Yankees draft offer to attend UCLA. Cashman goes on to detail the journey the team went through to acquire Cole through trade and free agency. Cashman acknowledges the hard work Cole has put in to be one of the elite free agents in the game. He believes that process created this moment as the right time for both the player and the team. Cashman also notes there is no guarantee for future success with this partnership.
  • Aaron Boone says this is a big deal for the franchise. He got the word three or four weeks ago that the Yankees were going to pursue Gerrit Cole. Boone describes meeting with Gerrit Cole as a privilege. The process of getting to know a player and person like Cole is a privilege in his mind that he did not take for granted. Boone understands how great of a player Cole is, but he was blown away by Gerrit Cole the person is. Aaron stresses the importance of culture to him and he believes Cole will be a tremendous addition to the locker room. Boone was especially impressed with Cole’s ability to communicate the processes, the nuances and approach of his craft. The Yankees manager is looking forward to experiencing the ups and downs of their journey that will ultimately be a fruitful one.
  • Gerrit Cole is officially number 45. I would love to know what he offered Luke Voit to get that number if anything at all.
  • Cole looks amazing in pinstripes if I say so myself. I say that with absolutely no bias at all.
  • Gerrit Cole brings up Hal, Boras and his wife Amy to present the original sign from when he was eleven years old and attended Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. This is the same sign from the now famous picture of Cole hanging over the outfield wall. Cole then says “I’ve always been here.” That was a very dope moment.
  • Cole gives thanks to his teammates, coaches, Boras and former teammates. He also took time to shout out Marvin Miller entering the Hall of Fame and Curt Flood pioneering free agency for the current group of players. It was a really impressive gesture to recognize those who came before him to pave the way for this historical contract. Gerrit Cole is pretty involved in the Player’s Association and this is an example of that involvement. That moment reveals a lot about Cole the person that both Boone and Cashman went out of their way to acknowledge.
  • Cole says he joined the Yankees because it was his dream. He believes it is the best organization in the league. It was his second chance to join them and he took it. He feels a lot of confidence in the organization and Cashman’s vision. It also helped that the Yankees were his favorite team.
  • Cole became a Yankee fan through his father who went to school for a few years in New York. He said it was hard not to fall in love with the Yankees during their dynasty years. The Yankees were on tv a lot right after school ended since he lived on the west coast and he watched a lot of the games.
  • It was extremely tough to turn down the Yankees after he was drafted. Cole and his family wanted to honor their commitment to UCLA and even more importantly, to education. His father is a PHd and education is paramount in their family.
  • “Pressure is a privilege.” The pressure of pitching in the playoffs is the reward for playing well in the regular season. He felt like he could see a title in his sights with Houston, but they weren’t able to accomplish that goal. Cole doesn’t think there is a better place to finish that championship journey in New York.
  • He explains the 30 pound contraption! It is a gold plated home plate that opens up and reveals an iPad. It gives a history of the New York Yankees, where to live in the city and outside of the city and other pertinent information that would inform him and his family about the organization and the city. Cole also mentioned that after he signed the Yankees gave him a Yankee hat and he didn’t take it off for about three days.
  • Cole makes it very clear that he wasn’t thinking of free agency when he took the mound in Game 3 of the ALCS. He understood the magnitude of the moment and the challenge in front of him so signing with the Yankees was the last thing on his mind.

Here are some immediate feelings from the presser:

1. If you could win a championship for a press conference, Gerrit Cole just won his first ring. He was smart, engaging, funny, reflective, selfless and confident. You could immediately see all of the qualities that would make him attractive to any franchise beyond his golden arm. He said all the right things that Yankees fans wanted to hear today.

2. The most important quote from the presser is “pressure is a privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a t-shirt in the near future. The phrase perfectly captures Cole’s competitive character. He is embracing the challenge and journey of winning a championship in the largest market in the world. There wasn’t any doubt that Cole wanted to be a Yankee. He mentioned his decision to join the Yankees came down to his heart. There is nothing sweeter to Yankees fans ears than hearing an elite player say they wanted to put on the pinstripes. His ultimate goal is to at least win championship number 30 for the Yankees. Those are lofty goals and I am here for all of it.

3. We have to talk about the sign. That moment was awesome. It feels like this was Cole’s first big Yankee moment and he hasn’t taken the mound yet. Showing everyone the sign was great, but what that gesture represents is even better. It perfectly captures his fandom of the team. This was also a rare moment when a free agent expressed genuine and raw excitement to be a part of his new team. Cole was not putting on a show here. Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees was truly a dream come true scenario moment for him and he didn’t shy away from it. The Yankees wanted him and he wanted the Yankees. It’s like a feel good ending from some rom-com and I am here for all of it.

4. We all may learn about the craft of pitching over the next nine years. Cole is so impressive when he talks about his process and use of analytics. He is very aware of what makes him good and he is skilled at articulating it. He is also not shy about sharing that information with the public. I go back to his post game interview on the field with Ken Rosenthal after his Game 3 ALCS victory. He succinctly summed up his game plan to attack the Yankees lineup and briefly discussed the adjustments he had to make when he knew he didn’t have great command. The Yankees have mentioned a few times that Cole knows who he is and can go into great detail of what makes that possible. It feels like we’ll all be smarter fans with Cole on the team now.

5. This is a perfect fit. CC Sabathia was a perfect fit when he signed in the winter of 2008. I would say this is an even better match. The Yankees fan plays for his favorite team. The Yankees clear need for an ace. The clear embrace of the market and expectations by that ace pitcher. The established core of the 2020 Yankees team. The arrival of the new, cutting edge pitching coach who emphasizes non traditional approaches to the craft. This is all really exciting. If you don’t want the season to start tomorrow after experiencing this then nothing will. I am fired up and ready for the new season.

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