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.