One thing the collective baseball world can agree with is that the Bombers’ 5-9 start is beyond incomprehensible. This lineup is filled with supposed All-Stars. The bullpen is unstoppable. They have Gerrit Cole atop the rotation.
But when you look a bit closer, you’ll see some moves made by general manager Brian Cashman, which many would argue have set this team back.
Instead of re-signing Masahiro Tanaka and revamping the starting rotation after that, he opted to let the right-hander go and sign Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, both of whom have had injury problems for two years now and had barely pitched since 2019. Now, the rotation beyond Cole is one of the worst in the league. We’re already seeing bullpen games! And the team stood behind Domingo German for a year and a half amid domestic abuse allegations only to watch him completely stink for his first two starts in 2021 before being optioned.
How about the lineup? Beyond DJ LeMahieu, everyone from 2-9 is a three true outcomes hitter. The sick part? They’re not walking or hitting home runs (15 in the first 14 games) right now! It’s just a one true outcome: strikeout.
There’s no versatility. Everyone thought trading for Giancarlo Stanton prior to the 2018 season was a good idea, but he’s now a $27 million designated hitter who can’t provide good at-bats in the middle of the order. We’ve heard enough of his 115 MPH line drives. They don’t matter.
There aren’t any capable left-handed hitters, which has led to Aaron Boone consistently benching Clint Frazier at the onset of 2021 in the name of starting Brett Gardner to “mix things up.” Aaron Hicks, a switch-hitter who has historically not made great contact, has been the team’s primary No. 3 hitter. Cashman deviated from the Yankees’ policy of not signing players to contract extensions before their deals are up and inked Hicks to a seven-year deal before the 2019 season. They famously refused to negotiate with team MVP DJ LeMahieu, but went ahead and did that.
And the defense? Ohhhh … the defense! Eleven errors on the year, which is good for fifth-worst in the league. And those blunders don’t even tell the whole story. Gleyber Torres wasn’t charged with one on Saturday for some reason when he let a one-hopper from catcher Kyle Higashioka slide under his glove on a stolen base attempt. Had he hauled in the very catchable throw, the runner would’ve been out and the Yankees would’ve escaped the inning.
Instead? The Rays clock a two-run homer to go up by four. The game ended in a 6-3 loss.
To continue on the defensive front, it’s clear the Yankees do not trust Frazier in left field. They can say otherwise all they want, but fans know how nerve-wracking it is whenever a ball is hit his way. He’s simply not a good defender (despite the 2020 Gold Glove nomination) and it’s been a narrative for years now.
There’s no capable backup (or starting!) shortstop. There’s no capable backup first baseman. There’s no capable backup third baseman. They’re just relying on LeMahieu to fill those latter two voids (he’s a natural second baseman) and Gio Urshela, who doesn’t play shortstop, to fill the shortstop role when Torres is getting a day off or missing time due to injury.
All of this has to do with roster construction. Yes, the players need to perform. That’s where a majority of the understood frustration lies with the fans. But the lineup isn’t balanced and refuses to hit situationally. The defense is downright bad. The fundamentals are non-existent. The pitching, once again, is not enough, despite the fact we’ve known for about a decade now that starting pitching is arguably the most important aspect of a baseball roster.
Fourteen games certainly won’t do Cashman in. Far from it. But it’s not out of the question to start considering that could be the case if the Yankees’ woes continue, because there’s been no sign of any of it turning around.