Given how poorly the New York Yankees have played since their 13-game winning streak ended on Aug. 28, their spot in the AL Wild Card race is in jeopardy. The Toronto Blue Jays are on fire right now, the Boston Red Sox are still battling, and only a little over 20 games remain.
What are we to do if we experience the worst-case scenario? Who should be held accountable if the club doesn’t make the playoffs? The players?
Maybe, to some extent.
What about general Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone? After all, Cashman spent over $210 million to assemble the team. At the same time, Boone crafted the lineup cards and oversaw the Yanks’ play on the field.
If the Yankees aren’t playing October baseball, should owner Hal Steinbrenner fire Cashman, not retrain Boone, or both? Let’s analyze their records and determine whether Cashman, Boone, or both should be dismissed after the 2021 season is over if it comes to this.
Brian Cashman’s days as Yankees’ GM numbered?
Cashman was the assistant GM of the Yankees from 1995-1997 and became GM in 1998 when he was 31 years old. Quite impressive.
As GM, the Yanks won four World Series and six American League pennants. Taking advantage of the team’s deep financial pockets, Cashman aggressively pursued free agents and made many significant trades.
The record shows that Cashman made many trades for several marquee players. Some examples include Chuck Knoblauch, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, David Justice, Randy Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Anthony Rizzo, and more.
Cashman also signed off on a number of significant free-agent signings that made the Yankees a better team. These include, Mike Mussina, Robinson Cano, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Luis Severino (an amateur free agent), Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman, D.J. LeMahieu, Gerrit Cole and more.
Lastly, Cashman also made several good draft selections. Some of those examples include Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Aaron Judge, Nestor Cortes and others.
Unfortunately, Cashman put a few awful contracts on the books with guys like Aaron Hicks, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Jose Contreras, and Giancarlo Stanton. Arguably his worst signing was Jacoby Ellsbury. At least Cashman was wise enough not to re-sign Cano to a blockbuster contract. He also smartly balked at signing Patrick Corbin to a rich, multi-year contract during free agency.
However, the Yankees GM allowed a number of good players to escape. These include, for instance, Mark Melancon, Nathan Eovaldi, and, most recently, Garrett Whitlock.
Most baseball analysts believe that Cashman had almost nothing to do with the Yankees’ World Series victories in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and one could argue that’s true. He was not the GM when the foundation of those teams were built and cultivated.
Instead, general manager Gene Michael (1980-1981 and 1991-1995), with the help of manager Joe Torre, is credited with putting those teams together, as well as their subsequent success. Michael assembled the core of the Bombers, namely Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. Tino Martinez, David Cone, Darryl Strawberry, and David Wells were other significant contributors. None of these players were acquired by Cashman.
Also, before the 2009 World Series championship, a frustrated George Steinbrenner all but officially directed Cashman to add CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeria and A.J. Burnett as free agents. The Boss was instrumental in selecting the critical pieces necessary to reach and win the 2009 World Series.
While it’s true that Hal Steinbrenner has placed significant fiscal constraints on Cashman since he took over the club from his father, it’s also a fact that the Yankees GM still has had a huge budget to put together a championship club every year since 2009, the last time they appeared in a World Series.
Yet, small-market teams, like the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays, reached the World Series during that time. The Royals did twice and won it all in 2015. The Rays made it last year, and they’re well-positioned to reach the Fall Classic again in 2021.
Cashman last signed a five-year, $25 million contract that expires in 2022. Steinbrenner could move Cashman to another executive position in the Yankees organization after the 2021 season if he wants to see a change in direction immediately. Or, he might wait until the 2022 season and “promote” Cashman then (or simply let him go). We’re betting that the latter scenario is more likely to happen given Steinbrenner’s support of Cashman in the past.
What about Aaron Boone? Do the Yankees re-sign him?
Back in December 2017, Boone was awarded a four-year contract. Initially, the hire was largely viewed favorably. But in 2021, it’s becoming more and more evident he’s not fit to lead one of the most storied franchises in sports.
Many fans who support Boone argue that his teams finished 100-62 (.617) in 2018 and 103-59 (.636) in 2019. But there’s been a stark decline since then with lackluster performances last year and in 2021. And did we mention the postseason futility?
We’d argue that the Bombers were so good in 2018 and 2019 that even a manager with no prior experience and weak leadership skills could’ve achieved similar heights. These teams were outstanding, and could’ve been managed on autopilot.
As of this writing, the Bombers are 78-61 (.561) in 2021. It’s not a bad record, but it’s well below average for the talent they have on this team. Additionally, since their 13-game winning streak ended in late August, they have a dismal 2-9 record and have lost the top AL Wild Card spot, which they led by seven games at one point.
If the Yankees continue to falter, it’s really not out of the question Boone is held accountable. It’s fairly self-explanatory why they might consider that, too. They might think Boone doesn’t:
- Possess enough managerial experience or have a feel for the game. He sometimes makes odd and questionable decisions, especially involving the use of the pitching staff, which have become the norm during games rather than the exception.
- Know how to utilize analytics and realize that there’s a distinctively human element to the game that must also be considered.
- Create an atmosphere for winning and a winning mindset. Boone is unable to balance empathy and support with occasional strong discipline. Boone is too accommodating and is not tough enough on his players.
- Instill inspiration, motivation, and confidence in his players. The fielding and hitting problems players are still experiencing should have been dealt with during spring training and at the beginning of the season.
- See the importance of having players consistently remain in the lineup and play the same position on the field as much as possible. It seems like lineup cards are changed indiscriminately with no rhyme or reason. What’s the strategy?
- Learn from past mistakes. They’re endless.
The AL and NL Manager of the Year Awards are given to individuals who have dramatically improved their teams’ performance between two seasons. Managers are normally dismissed when the reverse happens. If the Yankees fail to make the playoffs, the most likely dismissal to come will be Boone, especially since he’s not signed beyond this season.