The first full day of the 2024 Yankees season was played in miserable weather before a couple of hundred fans in The Bronx, the game replete in meaning for the visiting Diamondbacks and worth nothing in the present for the home squad.
On the previous day — official elimination day — the captain of the Yankees, Aaron Judge, insisted that changes would have to be made without detailing specifics. Aaron Boone did the same Monday morning before the home finale. Maybe it was an Aaron thing, though Mr. Hicks was unavailable for comment.
Whatever is coming, Judge will have a voice in offseason discussions. Boone is a public unknown until Hal Steinbrenner reveals just how many firings will be the result of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Yankees owner has vowed to bring in an outside firm to audit what went wrong.
There is no simple answer. Those who scream about “analytics” probably can’t provide a coherent sentence on what analytics are or how the Yankees’ version differs from those of metric-heavy organizations going to the postseason such as the Dodgers, Orioles and Rays. Yet, I believe that the Yankees’ problems are rooted here, because Brian Cashman’s baseball operations veered toward treating analytics as a bible rather than a tool.
The absolutism locked them into philosophies that have disserved them in areas such as who they hire (they lead the league in charlatans), how they construct rosters, and what they teach and value. It was camouflaged in recent seasons by Judge, Gerrit Cole and deep/excellent bullpens helping the Yankees make the playoffs.
But it obviously cannot be ignored any longer with the franchise’s worst season in three decades. And if I were going to make an educated guess on what Judge, in particular, was alluding to, it is the lack of front-office feel that has diminished the baseball IQ, flexibility and competitiveness of the roster.
Let’s see if I can offer an analogy: If you build a house and prioritize how each of, say, 10 rooms look without thinking enough about how they fit within the whole, you will end up with a disjointed house. The Yankees did that with roster-building. I bet the front office would justify each acquisition on its own while it was assembling a too right-handed, too-unathletic positional group.
I sense that silo effect in everything the Yankees do — as if each individual instructor and each individual coach is solely focused on an area without much cohesion on how it all impacts coming together to win a game.
I wonder, for example, if you sell out completely on maximizing velocity or spin or bat speed, are you ever talking enough about game situations — about reading the scoreboard and the moment for what is needed.
If you hire one-size-fits-all instructors to prophesize, say, pull it in the air, does anyone ever think what these guys might have tried to tell Derek Jeter? Oswaldo Cabrera came up last year, precocious and full of talent and baseball IQ. There was prime Marwin Gonzalez in him — perhaps more. Then he tried to become a pull monster and had a dreadful season. I watched Anthony Volpe hit three more grounders to third Monday in a 6-4 win against Arizona and am curious where the all-field skills I heard so much about went.
Has Yankees leadership become so stuck in what it believes that what once might have been an analytic advantage has evaporated — after all, some team has to be the 30th-best at analytics and 29th and 28th. … Because becoming so entrenched in one way of operating speaks to arrogance that the other teams are not going to school on you while the sport (as ever) revolves heavily around adaptation and adjustment. Does this look like a group that has evolved with new rules, for example?
There seems a lack of feel, both in day-to-day decision-making and putting the roster together. Cashman’s group has had a terrible run the past three-ish years in acquisitions. Joey Gallo. Josh Donaldson/Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Frankie Montas. They traded Jordan Montgomery at the 2022 deadline, citing that he would have not been in their playoff rotation, only to see him blossom into one of the majors’ 15 best starters since. Have the formulas that worked at one point become outdated?
Look, maybe it was just a bad year and that nothing mattered more than freak injuries to Judge and Anthony Rizzo that no team could prepare to avoid. I think that would be the wrong lesson. The Yankees annually have been eliminated from the playoffs by a team that played baseball better than them in October.
This year, they were eliminated for the same reason from April through September.