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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: October 18, 2021 2:42 am PDT
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The Fourth of July is a great day to have a birthday. I know. Until I was about 10 years old, I thought all those beautiful red, white and blue fireworks were just for me.

Others who share the fourth as a birthday include Al Davis, “Just win baby’,’ Inventor Rube Goldberg and all his wild contraptions, my friend Yankee announcer John Sterling and, of course, Yankee fans, George Steinbrenner. The Boss.

Steinbrenner passed away July 13, 2010 but from what I’m hearing from Yankee fans, who evidently still have a direct line to Steinbrenner, he is staying quite busy spinning in his grave with the moves the Yankees are making as they stumble along in the AL East.

Steinbrenner’s RPMs make Spider Tack Spin Rate look like child’s play.

These Yankees, as we’ve been told, are not Steinbrenner’s Yankees. They are Hal Steinbrenner’s Yankees – and they have no direction as GM Brian Cashman, who runs the show these days, has created an unbalanced team that does not excel at the simplest of baseball maneuvers.

Shallow Hal is lost with Cashman having total control.

The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since George passed, the last victory coming in 2009, that was No. 27. Since 2003, they have won as many World Series as the Marlins – one – and have only appeared in two World Series.

If you are counting, and we are, that is one World Series win for the Yankees over Cashman’s last 20 years in charge. Cashman has never had more power with the Yankees than he has now. Make no mistake: this is his team. This is his manager, Aaron (“I believe in our guys’’) Boone, a guy who had zero managerial experience when handed the job by Cashman, who controls Boone’s every move.

“The scary part for Yankee fans is that maybe the Yankees are playing up to their capabilities. Maybe this is just one mediocre team.”

Like not starting Aaron Judge (rest day, yippee) against the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, depriving baseball fans a marquee matchup: Judge vs. Ohtani.

No Sho Time for Judge. That’s absolutely terrible.

But that’s what the Yankees do, they rest players at weird times, and that is part of the reason there has been so much Pinstripe Pain this season. They’ve turned a simple game into one of Rube Goldberg’s contraptions with the over-reliance on analytics. The game is simple, it is not a crazy mousetrap.

These players are Cashman’s players and on Tuesday he pointed out, “We suck right now.’’

Actually… they’ve sucked for quite a while, and if the Yankees ever want to make it to the playoffs, they have to turn it around immediately. Cashman molded this roster with the help of his analytical geniuses, pushing baseball people to the back of the class and this is what he has created.

Evidently, the Yankees Nerds don’t believe in the power of left-handed hitters at a ballpark, Yankee Stadium, that is built for left-handed hitters.

So be it. It was Cashman who invested heavily in players like Aaron Hicks (always hurt), Luis Severino (ditto) and Giancarlo Stanton (always coming back from injury) as he runs half speed to first base.

Many say the Yankees are just not playing up to their capabilities.

The scary part for Yankee fans is that maybe the Yankees are playing up to their capabilities. Maybe this is just one mediocre team.

We tried to warn you here at BallNine in early April with The Empire Strikes Out column. We saw it coming while most people were still on the Yankee bandwagon.

While having some individual skills, these Yankees simply are not good at baseball things and that matters. Fielding, running, situational hitting, basically any kind of hitting except for hitting home runs, is a challenge for these Yankees, who have shown over and over again they cannot hit with runners in scoring position.

How did this all happen?

Well, it wasn’t easy. Cashman & Co. had to make a lot of mistakes to get here, where they are just a mediocre team that costs upwards of $200 million with Shallow Hal seeking financial flexibility.

The answer ain't down there, Gerrit.

One of their mistakes is staring them in the face this week at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees did not land Ohtani and certainly Ohtani’s preference to play on the West Coast was an issue, but in George Steinbrenner’s days, when a supreme, game-altering talent made himself available on the free agent market that the Yankees wanted, they usually got him. Or at least put up a fight.

These Yankees immediately “pivoted’’ to Giancarlo Stanton, making a bad situation worse.

First of all, I am not a fan of the word “pivoted.’’ It’s an excuse word. I prefer the word “panic’’ in this situation because that is exactly what “pivot’’ moves are, they are panic moves.

The Yankees panicked and traded for Stanton from the Marlins, seduced by his home run power.

Also, if you are looking for left-handed power, and we are not even talking about the pitching end of the deal with the athletic Ohtani, how in the world do you immediately “pivot’’ to a one-dimensional right-handed power hitter?

That makes no sense, but that is exactly what Cashman and the Yankees did. That is a panic move.

Also, the Yankees should have done their homework before the negotiations began and got the 411 that Ohtani needed to be won over to play in New York and then you put that plan in motion, always knowing if you can’t win Ohtani over you have a Plan B not a “Plan G” with Stanton.

All this took place in late 2017 and that was a terrible time for the Yankees because Gene “Stick’’ Michael, passed away on September 7, 2017. Stick was a scout’s scout. And he was the guy the Yankees relied on for inside information for so many years.

He had the Boss’ ear and he even had Hal Steinbrenner’s ear.

Once Stick passed away, no other scout-oriented baseball person had Hal’s confidence. Cashman was basically the only one Hal relied on for that kind of information and Cashman, a deep believer in analytics went that route.

Hal is a numbers guy, too, Cashman is a numbers guy, so it was a perfect power match.

The Yankees went all in on Stanton and the Yankees were locked into a righty, power-hitting DH, who can’t run. Watch when Stanton hits a ground ball with a runner on first base and less than two outs or even two outs. The fielder, immediately relaxes as the ball comes to him, because he knows he has all day to turn the double play with Stanton running and if there are two outs he has all the time in the world to get the ball over to first base.

It’s an automatic out. Stanton has to hit the ball out of the yard to be effective.

That is just one of the many baseball reasons the Yankees hit into so many double plays. They don’t have any team speed to put pressure on the fielders and they take wild big leg kick launch angle swings. To his credit, Gary Sanchez got rid of the big leg kick and started hitting the ball to all fields, but Gleyber Torres picked up even more of a leg kick.

Yankees young talent doesn’t seem to get better and that is another huge problem.

Clint Frazier, he of the “legendary bat speed,’’ Cashman mentioned when the trade with the Indians was made, has only gotten worse as a player and is hitting .186. He still has no clue how to catch a fly ball or set up to throw the ball home. From left field or right field Frazier has the ability to miss the target by 20 feet and yet that continues to be tolerated by the Yankees and Boone with no fix in sight.

The Yankees are the epitome of the No Accountability Franchise.

Remember all the talk last year about the difference young pitcher Deivi Garcia was going to make with the Yankees? Well, he is a hot mess in the minors. After going 3-2 with the Yankees last season and was good enough to start a playoff game, but was yanked quickly, certainly damaging his confidence, Garcia was 0-2 this season with a 6.48 ERA with the Yankees. At AAA he has been a nightmare with a 1-3 mark and 8.80 ERA. A scout who saw him last week told me he could not believe how Garcia has regressed in everything from velocity to command.

Pick a winner, Booney

That is on the organization and pitching coach Matt Blake, Cashman’s handpicked pitching coach. Gerrit Cole is coming off his most embarrassing start, crushed for first inning home runs by the Red Sox Kike’ Hernandez and Rafael Devers on grooved fastballs. Cole appears to be more concerned with pitch sequencing than with pitch efficiency, again, another result of the analytical approach.

This is more than a spin rate issue. The problem is the spin rate in Cole’s head, he is thinking too much instead of just commanding the fastball.

Command the fastball, forget about spin rate. Read swings. Don’t leave 100 mph fastballs over the middle of the plate.

Eric Cressey also was made the Yankees Director of Player Heath and Performance by Cashman. How’s that going? There have been injuries and injuries with players coming back on rehab.

Injuries happen, I get it, but not this many injuries.

Essentially the Yankees are playing the game without a true shortstop with Torres at short. Two years ago, I pointed out Didi Gregorius would be a tremendous loss at short, and his left-handed bat and his presence in the clubhouse as a leader, but none of that stuff is really calculated by Yankee Nerds.

Here is something else.

Everyone can’t play everywhere. You can’t just make Miguel Andujar an outfielder. You can’t just switch Torres, a good second baseman, to shortstop thinking that he will be a good shortstop. His problems at short also affect his offensive game.

Baseball is a game of connections. Yes, it is a game of numbers too, but if you don’t understand the connections of the game, your numbers won’t add up and you will have a 17-24 record in the AL East like the Yankees have = including an 0-6 mark against the Red Sox and a 5-8 record against the Rays, the two teams you must beat.

Have you noticed the extreme pleasure Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Kevin Cash of the Rays have in beating the Yankees and Boone? They revel in it. I’ve always backed Cora as a manager because of his competitiveness and I pushed him for the New York teams to hire him, but they didn’t. I’ve grown to appreciate Cash as well even though he could make life easier for himself in one run games if he would occasionally bunt. As for Boone, you have to ask yourself, what is his identity as a manager?

Other than doing whatever the Nerds want him to do.

Tino would like a word, Aaron. Get your way into the damn lineup.

He’s a nice guy who chews a lot of gum, but you never get the feeling he is two moves ahead of Cash or Cora, you can tell he is trying to just keep up, kind of like when Cora got his bullpen righties involved early after starting a lefty.

One of those relievers who was a difference maker over the weekend in Fenway was rookie Garrett Whitlock, a Rule 5 steal from the Yankees. Whitlock was the winner Saturday pitching two innings and bounced back Sunday with the five most important outs of the game before the Red Sox blew the game out of the water.

Whitlock was an 18th round selection by the Yankees back in 2017, a great choice, but to lose him to the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, or any other team, was a major screw up, to put it lightly. The Yankees did manage to sign injury prone veterans like Corey Kluber, who is out injured, but couldn’t find a way to keep Whitlock on their roster. That’s on Cashman and the Nerds, too.

Way to go, nerds.

The Yankees are no longer a scouting-based organization and it shows. They have good scouts, but they don’t rely on them. The scouts are no longer the Cool Kids in the room when it comes to making decisions because analytics rule. Just like the Yankees lineup is too right-handed under Cashman, the Yankees decision-making process is too analytics driven under Cashman, as is player development.

And Hal Steinbrenner, the son of a shipbuilder, is not watching the ship carefully. Yes, his father was too involved but Hal, other than pinching pennies, is not involved at all and this is what you get. That’s why I refer to him as Shallow Hal. His overall knowledge of what’s going on with his team is Shallow.

Here is one important number that I have chronicled that probably never occurred to the Yankees Nerds In Charge. I like to show Nerds numbers as well to make my point because that is all they know and care about.

The heart of a player shows up in RBIs. Nerds think that is kind of arbitrary. They don’t admit some players have a better knack for knocking in runs than others. Barrels and Exit Velocity make up their hitting Bible. There is much more than that to the equation.

With RISP, the Yankees have hit only 17 doubles all year and two of them came Tuesday night.

The Astros have hit 48 doubles with RISP. Doubles, to me, are what hitting is all about. Doubles are lashed to the gap or ripped down the line or slashed down the opposite field line and once in a while are dropped into a Bermuda Triangle of fielders. Doubles make good things happen, keep the line moving and score runs – and make for big innings and clutch two-out hits.

The Yankees need to focus less on home runs and hit more doubles.

Hitters using the whole field and hitting the ball hard are exciting to watch. Have you noticed the Yankees are boring to watch?

Doubles are a great indicator of success (again, 48 by the Astros with RISP) or failure (an MLB-low 17 by the Yankees with RISP).

Hit more doubles, win more games. Just another important issue that has eluded the Yankees braintrust. The Yankees season can be salvaged if they approach the game in more of a baseball fashion because there are so many bad teams out there and even this weekend the Yankees get a huge break because the Mets are not pitching Jacob deGrom against them.

Start playing with an edge and a sense of urgency, improve the defense, the situational hitting and the base-running, Yankees.

This can be such a simple game if you just play baseball.

Then you might not suck.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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