By Lenn Robbins
We are less than 10-percent into the 2021 MLB season. The Mets recently were snowed out. Trevor Bauer has yet to ignite a social media free-for-all.
If the GM of any New York team is going to push the panic button at the first sign of adversity than daily newspapers will have to go back to printing morning and night editions. ESPN will have to air an hourly New York Sports TV show. Another all-sports radio network will contribute to the demise of society in Gotham.
So any thoughts on Monday that Brian Cashman was going to make an outrageous challenge to the 5-10 Yankees or even pause too long if asked about the future of manager Aaron Boone, were premature to say the least, preposterous to be more accurate.
Yet the fact that Cashman felt compelled to address the fans and media on the Yankees off day is more than enough confirmation that there is real concern in The Bronx, as there should be. A team with a roughly $200 million payroll is averaging $40 million per win. Yikes.
“The purpose of me being on this call right now is that I don’t want to run and hide from it,” said Cashman. “I acknowledge obviously our disappointing play, but also reinforced that we’re not going to have 15 games to have us adjust the course.
“Our message to our players and therefore our fans is we are going to fight our way out of that start. Hopefully by the end of the month, you’ll see a more reflective record that gets us back online and it gets people’s confidence back to where it should be.”
That’s exactly the message fans should receive on the third Monday of the baseball season.
That’s exactly the message the team that retains many of the talented players that won almost 300 games from 2017-2019, when Aaron Judge and Co first donned pinstripes, should receive.
That’s exactly what the message Boone, who was 236-148 entering this season and has galvanized the fans, “My guys are savages in the box!” (well, not this year) and supported his players’ right to kneel during the national anthem, should receive.
But if these pathetic results (.333-win percentage) and this lousy quality of play (12 errors in 15 games) continue than the next unscheduled, off-day press conference will not be a cry to arms. It will be to answer the anguished cry of fans and it will likely leave someone in pinstripes crying on the inside.
“I’ve got a lot of trust in the people we have,” Cashman said. “I’ve been around the block a long time now and had a number of different managers, a number of different coaches, and they were all faced with the same situation at times on a year-in and year-out basis.
“It just comes down to trying to put your players in the best position possible to succeed, give them the best information you can in the simplest terms you can and then letting them play. And then stand out of the way and let them play.”
That has not been easy to watch to date. After Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay, the Yankee’s fifth straight defeat, DJ LeMahieu acknowledged there is some frustration in the home clubhouse. He would probably have used a different word if the late George Steinbrenner was in charge.
Steinbrenner’s son is, brace yourself, more restrained, but Hal Steinbrenner will not sit by and watch the Tampa Bay Rays win the A.L. East (again) or, even worse, the Mets entrench themselves as the city’s team. As Cashman said, Steinbrenner has a lot invested.
As does Cashman. As does Boone. As does any player who might be deemed responsible if the Yankees don’t get back online. Cashman’s choice of that word is intriguing. The Rays do not play like a machine. Neither do the Mets (not sure if that’s such a good thing). Neither to the Dodgers.
None of them play with the pressure that comes in a pinstripe uniform. That pressure has mounted with every loss, every error, every boo that the home crowds of 10,600 have mustered at a hurricane-rage howl.
“It’s 15 games,” Cashman said. “It’s 15 games I’d like to forget.’’
That can start to happen as soon as Tuesday, should the Yankees begin a win streak with a victory over the Braves in Yankee Stadium. But if the next time Cashman, or someone higher in the organization, holds an unscheduled press conference, it won’t be to acknowledge the obvious. It will be to announce change.