After Hal Steinbrenner spoke via Zoom midway through the GM Meetings on Tuesday, Yankees fans were disappointed. Another rendition of the same mealy-mouthed time wasting? Another half-hearted declaration that 2023 had been unacceptable, without any action items presented to prevent the same outcome in 2024? An off-handed defense of bunting?
Hours later, when it was Brian Cashman's turn to speak, fans grew disappointed for an entirely different reason: the man in charge of this franchise's direction had apparently gone insane.
The most optimistic reading of Cashman's Tuesday melee is that Steinbrenner (and Randy Levine, and the executive camp) has seized the reins, demanding big spending and big changes as a rebuke to Cashman's recent money management. That's why Steinbrenner was measured and useless, while Cashman was animated and on the defensive.
Unfortunately, the more pessimistic reading is also probably the likelier one; Steinbrenner didn't enjoy the on-field product, but enjoyed the revenue, and said what he had to say to pass the baton along one more day. Meanwhile, Cashman stewed for a full season, spent October waiting for the buzz to die down, then lashed out at his critics who dared to believe the man who masterminded deadline trades for Joey Gallo and Frankie Montas, as well as the signing of Carlos Rodón, should have to evaluate his team's process in any capacity. He doesn't aim to go 82-80, no, no, of course not. But the people speaking from outside the building bothered him more than the team's record ever could.
That's why he took to the microphone on Tuesday to assert, among many other wild swings, that anyone who believes the Yankees operate analytically and without considering old-school scouting couldn't be more wrong. In fact, the team has the smallest analytics department in the division! So ... take that!
Don't worry, Brian Cashman's Yankees analytics team is very small and bad
Yes. Cool. And three of the four teams with larger analytics departments in the AL East finished ahead of you in the standings last year. After your team has trended in the wrong direction for four seasons. Seems important.
Admitting that you're behind the times is not a flex. Say what you will about binder-reading analytics nerds losing their feel for the game, but the only reason that's a prevailing sentiment in New York right now is because the team is losing. The Astros absorb and embrace analytics. So do the Dodgers. So do the Orioles. So do the Rays. Every successful team incorporates actionable data these days. Why wouldn't a smart braintrust want to consult all available information?
The Yankees can't lose their old-school roots or their championship DNA, but failing to embrace analytics could very well be their downfall (or, rather, relying on Michael Fishman's small-time operation to carry the load and compete with LA's massive operation). The best teams blend modern data with learned experience (Bruce Bochy, meet Dusty Baker). The worst teams ignore the trends and fail to properly reckon with criticism, instead shrugging off valid critiques as ill-willed scorn.
The Yankees are in real danger here, and everything looks much worse after Brian Cashman stood in front of a crowd of reporters flexing their regression.