baseball

Is It Time to Give Yankees Management A Vote of No Confidence? By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

“Right now, the joke is on the Yankees.” — David Cone, YES Network Analyst, following Yankees 11-8 loss to Angels Wednesday night.

Yes Cone, the joke is currently on the Yankees. It’s on the fans, the Front Office, the players, the Manager, the General manager and the Owner. For all the fans who were louding chanting “Fire Boone” during the Yanks’ ninth-inning collapse against the Angels, you should realize Boone isn’t the source of the problem. And because the fans continue to doll out the dough to see these Yankees play, they are just as much a part of the problem. 

The Yankees have been a different franchise since George Steinbrenner passed away in 2010. Hal, George’s son, has operated the team with more of a focus on the financial bottom-line than on the on-field results. Yes, if George were still with us, he’d have cleaned house already. Hal, who would never be mistaken for his late-father, needs to do something other than worry about his profits and losses. 

During the first several years of Hal’s reign, the Yanks weren’t exactly World beaters — yes they won The World Series in 2009 — but you knew they’d do whatever it took to right a wrong. Now, not so much. If the season was going poorly, moves would be made. If a player needed to be signed in the off-season, that player was signed. Yes, there were mistakes — Jacoby Ellsbury comes to mind. But you never felt the Yankees Front Office was holding the team back. You never felt the Manager was holding the team back.

Not anymore.

As baseball in general has gotten more and more analytics driven, some teams have adjusted slower than others. But the point isn’t to start a debate over the place of analytics in the game. For better or worse — in my view, definitely for worse — they are here to stay.

Kevin Kernan, America’s Most Beloved Sports Writer (that’s his moniker), currently writes for Ballnine.com and if you follow what he writes or says on social media, you’ll know he strongly feels the nerds are ruining the great game of baseball. Kudos Kevin, you hit it on the head and out of the park.

What does that have to do with these Yankees? On Monday, Manager Aaron Boone addressed the media by saying that the Yankees’ season was “on the line.”

“We’ve got to go do it,’ Boone said. “You can throw out all the sayings, [but] talk is cheap. We’ve got to go do it…We’ve got to go play tomorrow and try to dig ourselves out of this.”

Okay, for once I agree with the Manager. But then Wednesday happened. In the afternoon, prior to their game against the Angels, the Yanks released their starting lineup sans Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela. The immediate concern was they were injured. 

Turns out they weren’t. That’s the good news. The bad news? Boone told the press that the reason for sitting Judge was that it’s “just a day off.” Just a day off? You mean two short days after saying the season is on the line you’re sitting one of your best players? Was the season saved that quickly? Last I checked, they lost Monday night after Boone’s comments.

Forget that the Yanks were facing Shohei Ohtani, who actually ended up being knocked from the game after two-thirds of an inning, having allowed seven-runs in arguably the worst start of his career.

Sure, the powers that be in Major League Baseball, as well as the fans, wanted to see the star-studded Ohtani-Judge matchup. That’s neither here nor there at this point. The Yankees entered Wednesday’s game at 41-38, 7.5 games back of first-place in the AL East and 5-games back of the second wild-card spot. 

They entered their game on Wednesday in FOURTH-PLACE in their Division. The season was and is on the line until further notice. One game will not change that. Heck, one week of games won’t change that. 

This wasn’t an Aaron Boone decision though. This came from the nerds in the Front Office, who spoonfeed the Manager lineup decisions on a daily basis. What happened to the role of Managers in Major League Baseball? They used to matter. Now? Now they may as well be replaced by an artificial intelligence machine, because they don’t get to manage the game anymore. 

If Boone truly meant what he said about the season being on the line, then there are only two ways Judge shouldn’t be in the lineup. 1) He gets injured. 2) He literally begs for the day off. 

Judge isn’t injured as far as we know. Sure, he’s probably a little banged up, but so is every player in MLB. So that’s not an excuse to sit him. As for begging for a day? Judge isn’t the type of player to do that. We’ve seen him try to play through actual injuries before. No way would he beg for the day off if he’s just banged up.

However, the Front Office pre-determines who gets a day off and when. They relay their decision to Boone, who is then powerless to do anything about it. So no, this isn’t on the Manager. But he is still guilty. Boone’s predecessor, Joe Girardi, would have never sat back and taken orders like that. In fact, that’s why he’s currently managing the Phillies instead of the Yanks. 

Are the Phillies not using analytics to make decisions? Of course they are. Every team in MLB is. So then what gives? Girardi probably has plenty of enemies within Philadelphia’s Front Office, but you can be sure that when he says something like “our season is on the line,” he’s going to do whatever it takes to try and save his team’s season. 

Love him or hate him, Alex Cora up in Boston will do whatever it takes to help his team win; even if it means cheating. Is Boston’s Front Office not using analytics? Of course they are! But Cora knows when to push the “break glass in case of emergency” button and how to then use what he’s got.

Boone, like him or not, either doesn’t want to go against his Front Office or can’t. If it’s the former, then shame on him. If it’s the latter, then still shame on him.

But the real shame is on the staff GM Brian Cashman has put together. They’ve forgotten this game isn’t played on computers. You can’t pre-determine things. The game of baseball is an ever changing entity. It’s a living, breathing organism. Things are going to happen that just can’t be explained by numbers and computers. And yet, they still feel the need to operate as if the team is just another file on a giant super computer. 

If this is going to remain the case then it would be best to issue a vote of no confidence and remove the Front Office from power. And the only way to do that is for Hal Steinbrenner to channel his late-father. 

Until that happens, the joke will remain on the Yankees, “come hell or high water.” I hope somebody in the Front Office is enjoying the joke, because this writer certainly isn’t.

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