The Yankees drive the American League. Time to thank Brian Cashman for that | Klapisch
NEW YORK – There is no rational counter-argument to the Yankees claim to be the best team in baseball. Not that they would say it to your face. The franchise’s motto is “stay humble” in the words of Gleyber Torres, so if you’re looking for a post-series trashing the Blue Jays – who the Yankees did trample again – better to move on.
Moreover, the numbers alone are a convincing argument. The Bombers have the best major league record, have won 15 of their last 17 games and are off to their best start in nearly 20 years.
If you still disagree, watch what the Yankees did to the Jays, who were expected to topple the preeminent AL East roster. Despite all the early gasps about the inevitability of Toronto pulverizing the Yankees’ pitch into fine powder, they scored just 22 points in nine games against the Bombers, losing six of them.
While it’s obviously too early to write off the Jays, they’re still six out, struggling to stay above .500. In a home-and-away series against the Yankees, they came up against a perfect storm of clean starting pitches, vastly improved athleticism and a diverse offense that, unlike previous years, is capable of winning games at low score.
“Before, we were the same eight guys, eight right-handed hitters with the same plan, and the pitchers could take us out the same way,” Aaron Judge said. “Now we have so many ways to beat you, even from the bottom of the lineup. And that makes a difference.
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The judge is right about the shapeshifting; its architect deserves credit. It’s not Hal Steinbrenner, nor Aaron Boone, neither of whom is responsible for building the roster. It was general manager Brian Cashman who was prescient enough to a) hand over the keys to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa b) stop Steinbrenner from overpaying for Freddie Freeman, betting instead on the more modest price tag of Anthony Rizzo and c) get rid of Gary Sanchez, whose lethargy not only impacted the pitching staff, but nearly took Torres with him.
But Cashman won’t get much praise for the Yankees makeover, which is unfair. He instead became the target of an army of fans who blame GM for a 13-year championship drought. Haters don’t care enough about regular season excellence. It’s also unfair.
Cashman has become such a polarizing figure that reasonable opinions of his work have evaporated. You’re either part of the “Fire Him Now” crowd or a blind loyalist who thinks everything is fine, including Joey Gallo’s .187 average and Aaron Hicks’ chronic underperformance.
Both Yankees represent mistakes on Cashman’s part, which only proves that he is human. But it’s also true that this year’s club could be the best for a decade or maybe more, largely because of the decisions Cashman made on the sidelines.
Think of who excels besides Judge, who leads the Majors in home runs. Or Rizzo, who is among the top ten hitters in the American League in RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. Or Torres, who made all five points in the Yankees’ 5-3 win on Wednesday.
It’s low profile Clay Holmes, who has allowed no runs in his last 15 appearances and has become the most devastating right-hander in the bullpen. Boone wasn’t kidding when he compared Holmes’ lead to a “bowling ball” that flattened Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the seventh inning, prompting a double play that killed a Jays rally and effectively ended the game.
Holmes replaced Jonathan Loaisiga, whose own lead lost bite, and Chad Green, whose fastball became increasingly vulnerable. The move is similar to what Kiner-Falefa did for the infield, giving the Yankees a short-term anchor but also causing problems for opposing pitchers who are otherwise preoccupied with Judge, Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton and their potency. combined.
“I’m sure there are pitchers who see (Kiner-Falefa) standing there and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m just going to throw him a first-pitch curveball,'” Judge said. “But he is always ready, he will smoke a line in the corner if you take him for granted. Next thing you know, we’re changing the lineup.
It’s the energy that the Yankees have been missing since 2019, but the mood has changed so drastically that I’m surprised Cashman hasn’t been around more to deal with the upgrades. But the chief executive went almost two months without speaking to the press – a power outage that coincidentally ended on Wednesday afternoon.
Cashman was walking off the field after a pre-match ceremony when he encountered a group of reporters. He finally held court but did not dare to gloat. He said modestly, “I know we have a good crew. We knew that before the start of the season, but it’s nice to see the guys coming together really well and doing what is necessary.
I suspect Cashman’s long absence was a reaction to the scathing reviews. He is, after all, human enough to be exhausted by those 24/7 calls for his dismissal. And unlike Boone, Cashman has no contract beyond this season. Maybe he’s worried about his job. It shouldn’t be.
The truth is, the Yankees have been a model of consistency since day one of the Cashman regime in 1998. Some of his teams have been historically good. Some just so-so. But never terrible. This club could be a souvenir. If so, you know who to thank for that.
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Bob Klapisch can be reached at email@example.com.