If you gave a cogent nine-year-old a blueprint of Yankee Stadium and a $300 million budget, that nine-year-old's first order of business would be to use that money to sign players who are talented. His second order of business, after being nudged in the right direction slightly, would be to sign players who hit the ball over the very specific fence shown on the blueprint.
Since 2009, the last time the Yankees won a World Series, they have been steadily sliding away from the championship blueprint their franchise created in the early part of the 20th century. In a hilarious twist, even the rare things the Yankees have gotten right since stumbling into a championship window again in 2017 have betrayed their DNA.
What do the 2023 Yankees (and the 2022 Yankees, and the 2021 Yankees) do well? They pitch. They've established a precedent for building a bullpen that functions on spare parts and emergent former starters, and they've found an effective lab with an effective leader in Matt Blake.
Except ... well ... the last time the Yankees won the Series, their rotation consisted of three bulldogs in CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and AJ Burnett. Burnett wasn't even a great bulldog; most of the team's losses during that run were his creation, though we can't thank him enough for outdeuling Pedro in Game 2 against the Phillies. Their bullpen? You could write Mariano Rivera's name in annually, but the Yankees' best setup men were a failed starter (Phil Hughes), a failed free agent signing (Damaso Marte), and a Houdini act (David Robertson). They pieced together a pitching staff. They planned to bash.
The '09 Yankees didn't stop short in any of their efforts to create a championship-caliber offense, stacking the deck by surrounding right-handed stalwarts in Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez with an All-Star collection of left-handed and switch-hitters. Crucially -- and this is the most important part -- they were a left-handed machine in a stadium built for left-handers to succeed, ranking first in MLB in terms of left-handed plate appearances against righties.
Since 2017, with a new era cresting, they have gone from 15th to 29th to 27th, never getting out of the 20s again after falling into the doldrums in 2019. Categorically, that is insane. They are doing this on purpose. They are sacrificing a strength for a half-decade "Our Bad." They are out of their minds.
Yankees' 2009 World Champions had a ton of lefties! Now, they have basically zero lefties! Is that good?
The Yankees have tried, in recent years, to find left-handed balance midstream, acquiring Anthony Rizzo, Andrew Benintendi, and Joey Gallo in trade deadline attempts to remedy a problem that should've been remedied before each successive Opening Day. Or, failing that, should never have been a problem at all, considering an imbalance in favor of left-handed hitting has been a core tenet of Yankees roster building for 100 years. And with good reason!
Their current issues were only further obscured by their offense's success during the 2019 season, which gave Cashman a false sense of security about the state of the right-handed offense. Spoiler alert? That was a mirage; a poodle with a paddle could've hit home runs that season, considering MLB's regulation baseball was a rubber band ball covered in lighter fluid.
Whether it was because of '19's boon or Shohei Ohtani spurning them and leading to the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton at the end of 2017, the Yankees lost their way at the exact moment they had to start being more careful than ever, with titles at risk. Pinpointing injured, ineffective trade acquisitions is one thing. Scrambling -- and needing to hit on every single target -- because of an eternal lack of preparedness is another.
What is it that makes the "Yankees" different than any other franchise? What breeds the success they've long been known for? An expansive budget that allows them to outmuscle their competitors (still true, even in the era of the luxury tax) and a stadium built to turn average left-handed hitters into fearsome threats. Based on the percentage of profits spent on the payroll, they've chosen to shirk that advantage over the past two decades. Based on their 27th-ranked non-group of left-handers, they've shirked both. Congratulations to everyone involved.