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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: October 24, 2021 5:42 am PDT
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Arrogance. 

There are many reasons the Yankees continue to fail year after year with one of the game’s most enormous payrolls, but arrogance is at the top of the list.

They think they are better than they are, both on the field and especially in the front office. As a result, they have locked themselves up with some horrible contracts as well.

They have the Teflon Don running the Yankees in Brian Cashman and the Sleepless in the Dugout manager in Aaron Boone.

And once again this October they have been ousted, this time they could not even make it out of the AL Wild Card game.

Since 2003 the Yankees have won as many World Series as the Marlins – one.

That says it all about the organization which is nothing like it once was. From owner Hal Steinbrenner on down to Cashman to Boone and a number of players, including Gary Sanchez, whose contribution to postseason baseball was a one swing fly out (do I really have to be here if I am not starting) to Gerrit Cole, who was the most expensive deer caught in the headlights in baseball history Tuesday night at Fenway Park in the 6-2 loss to the Red Sox.

A performance Cole said made him, “Sick to my stomach.’’

Boone, meanwhile, had the gall to say after the game that the league has caught up to the Yankees. “The league has closed the gap on us,’’ Boone moaned. “We’ve got to get better in every aspect.’’

Closed the gap?

There has not been a gap in a long while.

The Yankees are caught in a loop of October failures and that has worn down the mindset of the fans, who are doom and gloom come this time of year, expecting yet another failure.

The Yankees have not won the World Series since 2009. That’s the last time they’ve been to the World Series. In 2020 they lost to the Rays in the ALDS; in 2019 they were gifted the Twins in the ALDS but then were ousted by the Astros in the ALCS; in 2018 they lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS. In 2017 they lost in the ALCS to the Astros. They didn’t make the playoffs in 2016. In 2015 they could not get past the wild card, in 2014 and 2013 they did not make the postseason.

Closed the gap? What gap?

Teams have not closed the gap on the Yankees, teams have lapped the Yankees. That’s the reality. That’s the truth of the matter. That’s a classic no accountability “we all have to get better’’ cop out answer by Boone instead of pointing out what’s really wrong and it is laughable that he said that.

Essentially, he is taking Yankee fans for fools. Yankee fans are not fools.

Boone and the Yankees had 162 games to get better from last year’s team that was ousted by the Rays. The 100-win Rays got better, the Yankees have gotten worse. The Yankees had all of spring training to get better and got worse because the Yankees, under Boone, are pretty much a country club.

For example, their base-running was atrocious all season. Base-running takes work. It takes effort. It is not something you can just turn on and off. Secondary leads are not something to be admired and worked on in the Yankees analytical playbook.

The league passed the Yankees by long ago and this year the Yankees finished in third place, eight games behind the Rays in the AL East – and were lucky to even get an invite to wild card dance.

It is the Yankees who need to close the gap on the best teams in the league.

Once again, Alex Cora managed circles around Boone from getting the matchups he wanted to using his bullpen decisively, a game Cora admitted was a “tough game to manage.’’

Boone always talks about “compete.’’

I’m sick of hearing him use that word compete, but Cora actually gets his players to compete and to hustle. And then just for fun, Cora closed out the win with right-hander Garrett Whitlock, the Rule 5 draftee the Red Sox pilfered from the Yankees.

There was a message in that statement.

There was some “compete’’ in using Whitlock even though Cora would not admit to that.

So many changes have to be made for the Yankees, but we will see if Hal Steinbrenner has the stomach to make them. I doubt it. We will see if he is sick to his stomach with Cashman and Boone’s ways.

Cashman usually finds a scapegoat, remember when it was Joe Torre’s end of the line and remember when it was all Joe Girardi’s fault, so Boone, who does not have a contract for 2022, might pay the price.

When is Hal Steinbrenner going to put the blame on Cashman for the organizational failures?

I remember Jeff Van Gundy telling me years ago that for management and coaches in New York City, “It always ends badly in New York.’’

Van Gundy was talking about basketball, but Van Gundy is a big baseball fan and he could have been talking about that game as well.

Cashman had his success in New York but that was a much different time. Once he went all in on analytics and less in on the teaching of the game by veteran baseball people and listening to his scouts, it changed for the worse.

Cashman will probably keep his job and will be given another opportunity because Hal Steinbrenner seems more excited about cashing checks than winning championships or upsetting the apple cart like his father loved to do.

Will Aaron Boone get the heave-ho out of The Bronx?

Maybe Cashman will have the good sense to revert back to what once worked for the Yankees in the days when Gene Michael helped him with baseball matters and not go deeper into the analytical abyss. Others in baseball have noticed Cashman’s poor performance as well and not just what they are seeing at the major league level.

“Cashman is horrible,’’ one top talent evaluator who knows the Yankees inside and out, told BallNine. “What he has done to that organization. He’s ruined their minor league system and this is not just me saying this. Others who have seen the Yankees believe that.

“The Yankees have a lot of compliant people on staff who buy into all that analytical bullshit and none of them are teaching,’’ the evaluator added. “They better bring in some baseball guys that are hungry and like to teach. The big leagues is a Master’s Degree program that needs teaching still, because they get to the big leagues and none of them know how to play anymore because they all get there too soon.’’

Some teams have recently gotten the memo and will upgrade their teaching in the minor leagues and in the majors and those are the teams that will move ahead in the future. And to be clear, teaching is not looking at an iPad. Teaching is spikes on the ground learning. As I have pointed out time and again, the Rays teach in their system and in their major league coaching, too, that’s how they continue to be the Rays.

The Yankees are kings of station-to-station baseball, they rarely try to steal a base and they have become known for getting thrown out at home. A lot of that is on the players for weak secondary leads. I see it all the time.

And how about this point to from the evaluator about the state of catching in the game today. “Most of the catchers, when they get challenged, they drop the ball because they can’t get off their knees and have a good transfer and make a good (bleeping) throw.’’

That’s yet another in a long line of “Thanks Nerds’’ for creating framing as the be-all, end-all of catching. Stealing a base has never been easier. But teams don’t try to steal because they don’t want to give up an out on the base paths.

All together now, “Thanks Nerds’’ for taking away the running game from baseball.

When the Padres beat the Dodgers three of four in late April, they ran the Dodgers off the field. The stolen base is a monster weapon, especially in October (remember the 2004 Yankees and Dave Roberts stealing second off Mariano Rivera) and teams need to get back to teaching how to steal bases.

Teaching and execution is still what this game is all about. The Red Sox perfectly executed the relay on Aaron Judge and he was out easily at home on a play third base coach Phil Nevin overreacted to when the ball bounced past left fielder Alex Verdugo. Hustling centerfielder Kiké Hernandez was right there to back up. Xander Bogaerts, who I predicted would be the key to the Red Sox success on Rob Dibble’s ESPN show about five hours before first pitch, crushed a two-out, two run home run to centerfield against Cole on a changeup, of all things, in the first inning and then made the calm perfect throw to ex-Met Kevin Plawecki to nail Judge at home. Bogaerts also scored a vital run with perfect baserunning, coming all the way around from first on Verdugo’s double, that is what base-running execution is all about.

On that play second baseman Gleyber Torres bounced the throw home. A stronger throw might have gotten Bogaerts. Again, execution. You see, the Red Sox believe in having a true shortstop, unlike Cashman who stuffed a second baseman, Torres, at short most of the year until even he had to concede shortstop should be manned by someone who can play shortstop.

This is not the NFL. Shortstop is not a zone defense position.

One of Alex Cora’s comments after the win was that Nathan Eovaldi learned some things from his last outing against the Yankees. He learned to throw more fastballs for strikes against the Yankees who love to sit off-speed.

What did the Yankees learn? Did they think a win or go home game was going to be the same Red Sox team as the one they had just swept two weekends ago?

Cora was going to throw everything at the Yankees, especially when he saw that Yankee lineup that was lacking 4-through-9.

There were more fastballs from Eovaldi and the relievers and way more strikes. The Red Sox pitchers did not walk a Yankee. The Yankees needed to earn every hit, every run and the Yankees only got two runs and six hits, one a dribbler by Judge.

Brian Cashman

That’s what happens to the Yankees every year it seems in the playoffs. They aren’t facing mediocre pitchers anymore that make mistakes they can hammer. They can’t score runs against the top-flight pitchers.

The Yankees struck out 11 times, eight times Eovaldi, another ex-Yankee by the way, got them to K.

Yankees fans have seen this disappearing act before, every postseason since 2009. The Yankees can’t manufacture runs in October the way Cashman has built this team. Yet, he never learns from his mistakes. The Yankees are caught in a loop of October failures and that has worn down the mindset of the fans, who are doom and gloom come this time of year, expecting yet another failure.

Then, like Tuesday night, it happens. Season over in the blink of an eye.

A lot must be done to fix the problems. At least the Yankees have a top prospect in infielder Anthony Volpe who could be a star and certainly has the right mindset, but he remains a couple years away.

Near the top of the fix list is getting a manager who holds the players accountable. Boone has failed miserably at that during his tenure. He’s too nice for his own good. Players don’t hustle and there is no penalty. The Yankees fundamentals are poor, their base-running is horrendous, their defense is inadequate and when you attack them with fastballs as the Red Sox did, they melt away at the plate.

Here is another question for Cashman & Co. When was the last time young Yankee players got better not worse? Look at the career slides of Sanchez, Torres and Deivi Garcia. The Yankees did not want Sanchez to get anywhere near catching with Cole on the mound Tuesday night.

To be clear, I questioned all of this at the start of the season so none of this is a second guess after a wild card loss. This is the reality Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone have created. They have the power and they have created this debacle. Imagine being so arrogant to think the Yankees did not need any left-handed hitters to succeed at Yankee Stadium, a ballpark that is gold for left-handed hitters, like the team that was originally built for 2021.

That’s ridiculous. Just because the Nerds say the Yankee right-handers can supply opposite field power at Yankee Stadium does not mean it will work. It was a terrible baseball decision.

The acquisition of Anthony Rizzo saved the Yankees from themselves, but it was just a matter of time before even Rizzo could not stop the avalanche. Rizzo did offer on-field leadership the Yankees needed as well so that was a good acquisition. He is a free agent now.

In times of trouble Cashman brought Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo to the rescue as left-handed hitters. Two hitters who don’t make a lot of contact. As broadcasters love to say when a great play is made on the field, are you kidding me?

As a Yankee, Gallo struck out 88 times in 188 at-bats and hit .160. I pointed out in an earlier column Gallo has had two sacrifice flies for his career while he owns 885 strikeouts. Odor was put out to pasture by the pathetic Rangers. Gallo is a novelty act. Gallo popped up after Judge was out at home. End of threat as the Yankees went on to waste a big day from Giancarlo Stanton, who went into a home run trot in the first inning so his ball off the Green Monster was only a single.

Just another small mistake that can mean a lot in a crucial game, mistakes that are tolerated time and again by Boone.

Everything the Yankees don’t do in October they used to do in the 1996-2001 October runs and of course the 1978 team, the team that actually beat the Red Sox in Fenway in a one-game crucible, but not these Yankees under Boone.

These Yankees, under Cashman and Boone, have failed once again to make any October magic. Their system and style of play continues to be lapped by other teams.

The Yankees once owned October. Now they own only October excuses. Yankee fans are the ones sick to their stomachs.

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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