At some point very soon, almost certainly before the end of the weekend, the New York Yankees will be officially eliminated from postseason contention. Of course, the Yankees have been out of the race for weeks, even if the math says they're still alive. They effectively threw in the towel in 2023 on Aug. 22, .
"We're making a commitment to these guys that they're going to be playing regularly," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said at the time (per MLB.com). "We're hoping that in the short-term that's something that serves us well in the ability to win games, bringing up talented players that can provide a spark and some athleticism."
The Yankees have called up more young players since then and they play them regularly -- these days their lineup looks like a spring training split squad game -- and they have done some winning lately. Boone's club has won 14 of their last 22 games, though that is the definition of too little, too late. Winning is nice, but these September wins are ultimately meaningless.
The fact of the matter is the Yankees have been on a downward trend the last three years, although the first half of 2022 was a huge outlier compared to 2021, the second half of 2022, and 2023. Those first few months of 2022 -- the Yankees started 61-23 last year -- are the only time in the last three years New York has been a truly elite, top of the league team.
Had to win Game 162 to avoid a tiebreaker game, then lost the Wild Card Game
Won AL East, then got swept in the ALCS
76-76 so far
Will miss the postseason for the first time since 2016
The Yankees started 61-23 in 2022 and then went 38-40 the rest of the way. They are 117-122 in their last 239 games, postseason included. I'm inclined to ignore 2020 because it was a bizarre season, but even that year the Yankees went 33-27 and would not have made the normal 10-team postseason format at the time. They only snuck in because of the expanded 16-team format.
and GM Brian Cashman, who has been at the helm since 1998, is under more heat now than at any other point in his tenure. We know this because, on July 9, the Yankees fired hitting coach Dillon Lawson. It was the first time they fired a coach during the season since 1995. It was a clear act of desperation.
"It has been well documented that I have been reluctant in the past to make changes to our coaching staff in the middle of a season," Cashman said in a statement after Lawson was let go. "I am a big believer that successes and failures are collective efforts. However, I ultimately felt that a change was needed and that a new voice overseeing our hitting operations would give us the best chance to perform closer to our capabilities as we move forward into the second half of our season."
At the end of the day, this is Cashman's roster and Cashman's coaching staff, and the mistakes over the last 26 months or so have piled up and meaningfully subtract from New York's World Series chances. Consider:
- The Joey Gallo and Frankie Montas trades were complete busts. At best zero impact, more realistically negative impact.
- Josh Donaldson (in decline) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (not an everyday shortstop) were misevaluated, and that's putting it kindly.
- The Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader trade is another loss, and Bader was dumped on waivers this year .
- Carlos Rodón's first season in pinstripes has featured a 5.90 ERA in 12 starts around multiple injuries.
We should also include the failure address left field last offseason. The left field hole is going on three years now and it was a clear need last winter, yet the position went unaddressed. There have been wins along the way -- in separate trades the Yankees stole relievers Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta, and catcher Jose Trevino -- but the bad outweighs the good, and it's not close either.
Cashman has been at this a long time and his teams are never truly bad -- the Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992 -- but the downward trend can not be ignored. The Gerrit Cole/Aaron Judge era Yankees should be a powerhouse. Instead, the Yankees are having their worst season in three decades and just about every move they make these days backfires.
"It's been a disaster this season. Yes, definitely a shock. We're embarrassed by it," Cashman said last month. "We're really obviously disappointed, frustrated, angered. And that's representative from every aspect of this franchise from top to bottom."
Despite the club's current situation, namely a roster unfit to contend and a bloated payroll,. And, frankly, if Cashman were going to be replaced, it should have happened already. Teams don't fire GMs after the season. They fire them in August or September so the new GM is in place for the start of the offseason.
I am not here to call for anyone's job -- that's bad juju -- but it seems clear the Yankees need a fresh set of eyes and a fresh perspective. Maybe that means replacing Cashman, maybe that means elevating Cashman to a senior management position and hiring a new GM to run the day-to-day operations. Either way, things have gone stale in the Bronx. They need a new voice.
To that end, Steinbrenner said the Yankees will "." He pledged a deep dive into everything -- analytics, player development, etc. -- and it is needed, though it's unclear a) if this will actually happen, and b) whether the Yankees will follow any recommendations or are doing this for show.
Steinbrenner is culpable too. He runs a high payroll, no doubt, though it's almost certainly not as high as the team's resources could support. If Cashman remains, it is for one reason: Steinbrenner believes he's doing a good job and is satisfied with the current state of affairs. It really is that simple. Cashman is paid and paid well to wear the criticism, but it is not all on him and him alone.
The thing is, as poorly as this season has gone by Yankees standards, you needn't try hard to see them making the postseason in 2024. They need help this offseason -- a starter and a lefty bat are a must -- but they have stars (Cole and Judge), a few solid supporting players (Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, etc.), and now some youth ( ).
That is a short-sighted look at things, however. In the big picture, there are real issues here. Cole and Judge are on the wrong side of 30 and only have so many prime years remaining, there are bad contracts on the books, and the Yankees have struggled to finish off the development of young players at the MLB level. A lot of players arrive in the Bronx and just stagnate.
This "disaster" of a season -- Cashman's word -- has been in the making for a few years now. Sometimes moves don't work out the way you hope, that's just baseball, but this season is a culmination of poor decisions at both the front office and ownership level (why was payroll cut in 2018 and 2021, exactly?) and a lack of proactivity. There's a thin line between patience and complacency.
Barring a sudden change of heart, it seems Steinbrenner will give Cashman the chance to clean up their mess next season, though the damage has been done. The Yankees are not at the level of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the sport's flagship big-market operation, never mind other contenders and recent champions like the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. Red flags abound with New York's process and decision-making.
Two years ago, Boone said the "league has closed the gap on us" after the Wild Card Game loss and it was delusional. Even then, the gap was only growing wider, and the Yankees were on the wrong side of it. The way they have operated the last few years does not work. The proof is on the field. Change won't guarantee success, but the status quo has only resulted in increasing failure. The Yankees are broken, and it won't be an easy fix.