This is what Brian Cashman said the other day, in one of the earliest State of the Yankees speech we’ve ever gotten from him, one that actually sounded more like State of the Injured List:
“We got a good group of people, player-wise, staff-wise, support-staff wise. It’s a championship-caliber operation.”
At which point Yankee fans probably wanted a word, thinking the team’s for-life general manager had to be talking to Hal Steinbrenner, just because he couldn’t possibly have been talking to them.
The Yankees lost a game to the Rays on Friday night in St. Petersburg, and found themselves 10 games behind the Rays, at the end of the first week of May. At that point the Yankees’ record was 17-16 and they were still in last place in the AL East. On the same night the Mets won a game they badly needed, 1-0, over the Rockies, ending their night with the same record as the Yankees, with an even bigger payroll. The Mets have been injured, too. They just didn’t call a press conference this week to talk about it.
Here is the real State of the Yankees, one-fifth of the way into things: They ended last season getting swept in the American League Championship Series by a team — Astros — better than the Yankees, deeper, more talented, better constructed. Now the Yankees start this season feeling as if they’re being swept by a Rays team that looks, well, better, younger, deeper, more talented, and better constructed.
In addition to being a championship-caliber operation, one that spends $200 million less than the Yankees on baseball players according to the current Spotrac standings (and a whopping $272 million less than Uncle Steve’s Mets), the Rays continue to know who they are. The Yankees? Their fans once again wonder exactly who they are, what their biggest strength is, where they’re going with this roster, even when everybody, or mostly everybody, is fitter than fighter pilots.
“If you want to convict somebody, convict me,” Brian Cashman said the other day in the Yankee dugout.
It’s just something executives and coaches and managers say when their teams are losing more than they should be. They don’t really mean it. It just makes them sound more accountable than they’re comfortable being. But when Cash said that, you wanted to ask:
Convict you of what, all the injuries you just talked about?
The Yankees have plenty of time to turn this around, and likely will turn things around to some extent, when they have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton back, at least until Stanton is back on the injured list again, at this point in Stanton’s Yankee career when it is disingenuous at best and idiotic at worst to see him as any more than a big, talented, home-run bashing parttime player. They certainly can turn things around real good when — or maybe it should be if — Carlos Rodon gets the ball, even though Yankee fans probably heard alarms going off all over the Bronx when Rodon talked about his back issues being “chronic.” Oh good.
There are 128 games left in the season. So, of course no one is writing off anybody, as tough as the AL East looks like it’s going to be now that the Orioles are playing this well and the Red Sox are playing better than anybody except perhaps a pretty great manager named Alex Cora thought they could.
If Yankee fans want to be optimistic about how sharp a turn a team can make, and in a good way, they actually should look to their rivals in Boston. Put me down, top of the heap and head of the list, as somebody who thought the Sox were on their way to last place again after they were swept by the Pirates early at home and at The Trop by the Rays, four-game sweep by them, a week later. Through Friday night, the Sox were riding a sweet seven-game winning streak and weren’t just ahead of the Yankees, too, were a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays.
Maybe the Yankees even have it in them to totally flip the script from last season, a rather amazing script that saw them be 64-28 through the All-Star Break and then be nothing more than a mediocre .500 team the rest of the way, all the way until the Astros got them again in October.
The Yankees are better than they’ve shown so far, and should be a lot better just when Judge is back to being the kind of presence he is at the top of Aaron Boone’s batting order. And spoiler alert? If you think what you’ve witnessed so far from our guys from 161st St. is the manager’s fault, you’re watching the wrong movie. Somewhat in the same way the owner of the team always is.
But did the people in charge honestly think they had a championship-caliber operation coming into the season, with Bad Contract Aaron Hicks still on the team and Worse Contract Josh Donaldson still at third base (before he got hurt) because they couldn’t give him away? Did they think they really had a Yankee-blue blueprint for sustainable success across 2023 with too many infielders and too few outfielders, even before Judge went down and while they waited for Harrison Bader to get healthy?
If you think about it, by the way, Bader might be a perfect fit around here, since he was already hurt when they made the trade for him from the Cardinals.
Say it again: Nobody is writing off the Yankees. So much season left. Still a trade deadline to come. Someday Rodon might be coming over the hill to join the Yankees only real star so far this season — Gerrit Cole — at the top of Boone’s rotation. But the reality of their situation, after just five weeks of baseball season, is that to win the AL East this season they will need to be at least 10 games better than the Rays over the next 128 games. Even the army of people in the analytics department know that’s a lot.
And all you have to do is look at the standings in the East to realize that a wild card is no sure thing this time for anybody behind the Rays in the division. At least one team from the East isn’t going to make the postseason. If it’s the Yankees, you wonder what Hal will do about that, other than perhaps give everybody in the front office new contract extensions.
Same record for the Yankees and Mets after Friday night. Only difference is that the Braves’ lead over the Mets was only half as big as the one the Rays had over the Yankees. They all better hope the Knicks keep playing, because when they’re out of the way, both our expensive baseball teams lose their cover, at least until Aaron Rodgers.
STEPH VS. LEBRON IS NO DEBATE, MAX NEEDS TO PICK UP PACE & NO GALLANT ENDING FOR RANGERS …
The idea that Warriors vs. Lakers is some sort of referendum on whether LeBron or Steph has had the better career is just air.
Not like “Air” the movie.
Not like Michael was air.
Just hot air.
That doesn’t change if the Warriors somehow go all the way and Steph then has more titles than LeBron does.
I love watching Steph Curry play basketball, because there is as much magic in his game as there was in Magic Johnson’s.
He is the shooter who reimagined the dimensions of the court because of range that essentially begins once he gets off the team bus.
One week ago he played the best Game 7 anybody has ever played when he dropped 50 on the Kings, and did that on the road.
But for the last time:
LeBron is the greatest all-around player in the history of the league, whether you’d make Michael the first pick or not if you were choosing up sides to play for the championship of the world or not.
LeBron could have been an All-Star at all five positions, and has done more positive basketball things, game to game, to help his team win than anybody ever has.
He has scored more points than anybody in history, he has won titles with three different teams, and he is still playing at this level after two decades, and at the age of 38.
He’s on my Mt. Rushmore with Michael and Bill Russell and Kareem.
Steph can be on the other side of the mountain with Kobe and Magic and Bird.
My pal Stanton said the other day that we’re supposed to recognize championship DNA in sports when we see it, and he sure saw it over the past week with Steph and Klay Thompson.
Time for Max Scherzer to pick up the pace a little bit.
Maybe now that Patrick Cantlay has Joe LaCava, Tiger’s old caddie and one of the best loopers of all time, on his bag he’ll pick up the pace a little bit.
Well, at least Gerard Gallant can stop complaining that people are speculating about his job security.
Joe Ide’s new novel about one of the great characters in crime fiction — Isaiah Quintabe — goes on sale on Tuesday.
It’s called “Fixit.”
You’re welcome in advance.
Neither my guy Coach Daboll, nor Joe Schoen, have made many mistakes since they got to Jersey, have they?
It sounds as if Clarence Thomas’ billionaire friend bought him everything except his robe.
Let’s just put it this way: The most exciting two minutes in sports weren’t at the coronation on Saturday.