Now that the New York Yankees have left the postseason far too early, once again, Yankees fans are again looking for people to blame. There are so many places to look it would make a house mouse dizzy. But looking back to before the 2021 season started on April 1, there were some questionable decisions made; some of those now stink big time.
First of all, we have to look at how those decisions were made. Other than how much would be spent, which is Hal Steinbrenner’s sole judgment, make no mistake about it, general manager Brian Cashman makes them, then, during the season, and now. Anyone that thinks differently doesn’t know how the Yankees operate. Sure there most likely are some discussions held, but Cashman holds the reins.
To further prove that almost all decisions are made by Cashman, you have to look at ownership. Nearly every Yankee fan has said at one point or the other, Hal Steinbrenner is not his father “The Boss,” George Steinbrenner. The father and son are nothing alike. George was every day in your face; you never wondered who ran the Yankees. He was up in his luxury box analyzing nearly every move the Yankees made, on and off the field. If a player made a bone head play on the field, he knew all too well that he might expect a visit from George in the clubhouse.
Hal, the son, is not that man no matter how much we want him to be. He controls the purse strings, and that’s about it. His style is totally different. He relies on Brian Cashman to handle almost everything. As a matter of fact, you will seldom see Hal at a game, never mind in the clubhouse. He isn’t the baseball man his father was. But, unfortunately, this is what Yankee fans have to live with. It also may be why the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since Mariano Rivera laid two single long stem red roses upon home plate in July of 2010.
Today let’s take a look at three decisions that Cashman made before the 2021 season that may have cost the Yankees another trip to the World Series. The Yankees not only haven’t won a World Series since 2009, but they also haven’t even played well enough to appear in one.
Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber, really?
It’s effortless to play Monday morning quarterback, but I’ve selected three decisions that were even questioned at the time. First, before the start of the season, the Yankees traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates to get Jameson Taillon and went out and acquired 2 time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, once one of the best pitchers in baseball. On the surface, they seemed like great add ons, considering they let several 2019 pitchers walk, including Masahiro Tanaka.
The problem from the beginning was that these two pitchers combined for only a few starts in the past two years, one suffering from two Tommy John surgeries and the other from shoulder problems. At the time, the organization promoted these moves as “low risk, high reward” moves. The risk was not getting to a Championship. Did the Yankees (Cashman) believe that either of these two pitchers could get 30 or more starts after pitching so little in the previous two seasons? Although Taillon almost made it, Kluber only pitched in half that many games.
It was not surprising that both of these pitchers had very slow starts to the season, even though they got better as the season progressed; just think if they had won more than 13 starts combined. Could the Yankees have won the division if they did?
Let’s have everyone play positions unfamiliar to them?
It didn’t necessarily start this way, but as the season progressed, the Yankees, more than any other team in baseball, had players playing in positions that they were not familiar with. Examples are natural right fielder Aaron Judge playing in center field, left fielder Giancarlo Stanton playing right field. Second baseman Rougned Odor was playing at third, Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu at first. None of these moves turned disastrous, but one glowing decision that turned out bad was keeping Gleyber Torres at short.
In recent years, the New York Yankees have a history of making a mistake and then sticking with it no matter how glaringly wrong it was. Think Gary Sanchez. But today, we are zeroing in on Gleyber Torres. When the Yankees let Didi Gregorious walk to the Phillies, they made second baseman Torres a shortstop. It didn’t work out. Nevertheless, they (Cashman) stuck with the decision again this year. Finally, after miserable failure at defense and behind the plate, they permanently moved him back to second base.
Brian Cashman could have resolved the problem before the season but didn’t. He could have gotten any number of free agent shortstops to fill the position, including Marcus Seimen, who has been a Yankees killer all season long. Seimen instead was picked up by the Blue Jays. With them, he has a 7.1 WAR with 45 home runs for the fourth-most in all of baseball and a batting average of .265 and 102 RBIs. Compare that to Torres with .08 WAR, 9 home runs, and 51 RBI.
What makes this mistake all the more glaring is that Cashman could have passed on Corey Kluber, held onto Masahiro Tanaka, and acquired Semien for about the same cost to the franchise. For more on the future of the Yankee shortstop read this ESM article from fellow writer Alex Wilson.
Bad boy, Frazier the Yankee’s red hope?
The decision to make Clint Frazier the starting left fielder is a little more difficult to dissect. Although some of this decision probably was due to Frazier being nominated for a Gold Glove award, which was a mistake that surprised most Yankees fans, making a few great diving catches does not deserve a Gold Glove nomination.
Frazier was an immediate fan favorite with his floppy red hair and slanted cute smile, but the fact of the matter is that he was never a fit for the Yankees. His attractive look never matched his cry-baby personality. Frazier had bad luck early in his career by crashing headfirst into an outfield wall and getting a concussion. But facts are facts, Frazier has never played in more than 69 games in his five years with the Yankees. Frazier should have been traded years ago. Instead, he got the left-field starting job. He played okay for a while but eventually was replaced by Brett Gardner and others.
Frazier, who was once heralded for his quick bat, that bat has never delivered results. This season he could only hit five home runs and a miserable .186 batting average. His WAR is -1.4, far worse than Torres. Then as July approached, mysterious dizziness and vision problems cropped up that had never been fully explained. Is it due to his earlier concussion or the start of the Ellsbury effect? Whatever the case, he never played another game in the 2021 season, and this writer believes you will never see him in Yankee pinstripes again.
One mistake finally corrected
For far too many years, the New York Yankee lineup has been either totally or heavily right-handed. This scenario makes it much easier for opposing managers to set up their rotation. This season at the trade deadline, Cashman finally fixed the problem by acquiring lefties Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. Gallo, the home run hitter (39), will be with the Yankees in 2022. Rizzo will be a free agent, and only time will tell if Cashman offers him a contract.
In 2020 the Yankees traded away lefty Mike Tauchman. If Rizzo is not rehired, it will leave only Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade as lefties available to the lineup as many feel that veteran Brett Gardner may have seen his last season with the Yankees. The Yankees realizing their mistake must keep the righty/lefty lineup in place going forward.