New World Order
BY KEVIN KERNAN
April is not the cruelest month as T.S. Eliot once suggested.
No, as real baseball fans know, August is the cruelest month – because when your team is embarrassingly out of contention in August, even in Rob Manfred’s Everybody is a Playoff Contender world, hope is lost. It’s an empty feeling.
If your team falls apart in September, at least you had an interesting five months; and if your team finds October heartbreak, at least your team made it to October with something to play for day after day, and left you some memories.
The August collapse is the worst. If your team is bad from, say, May on, you learn to deal with it; you do other things and look forward to football season.
Your emotional investment is pennies on the dollar at that point.
August is a killer. Teams with dreams have been hit hard by reality.
The Yankees, Padres, and Mets lead the list for disappointments this season. The Mets pulled the cord on the parachute a bit early so Mets fans, who live in a constant delusional state of “better days are just ahead,” are already dreaming of big things in a couple years from Steve Cohen, in essence setting themselves up perfectly for another failure.
Some may want to throw the Angels into the August is the Cruelest Month category, but come on – the Angels are a joke with the owner they have and the hole they were put in by the past GM, who is now trying to climb out of the hole in Citi Field.
The Yankees have been a mirage team for quite a while, unless you’ve been reading BallNine. Then you know the truth. There is no there there anymore. The analytics invasion has taken full hold of the Yankees’ teaching methods and it is not working.
Just listen to this expert MLB talent evaluator who has deeply studied the Yankees organization for years.
“After the 2018 season the Yankees went with (analytics instructors) and good people got pushed out the door,’’ the evaluator told BallNine weeks ago, seeing the total collapse coming in real time. The people who work there know that is when the real decline started. It was bringing in the Driveline hitting and pitching people, pushing out long-time Yankee baseball men. Over that two-year period, going into that Covid year it was the perfect storm for the ruination of that organization because at the end of the ’18 season, they fired people, they brought the new people in, the direction changed, and then you had the ’19 season where you started to see some decline, then you had the missed season in 2020, and now this is what you get for it.’’
Brian Cashman was the architect behind those changes. And he was particularly brazen in his approach.
Now the Yankees seem to be in free fall, something that hasn’t been seen in decades. And there is only one way out. They need to get back to baseball.
Hal Steinbrenner needs to understand Cashman’s analytical all-in is not working. Aaron Boone is a vessel that carried the water for the over-analytical power brokers. He’s history.
Every week I talk to good people in the Yankee organization who are in a state of baseball shock. They could see all this coming because the new ways made no baseball sense; but it’s still shocking when it hits. Even though you see it coming, it’s still difficult to comprehend.
Look closely though and it’s easy to comprehend.
If Hal doesn’t want to make Willie manager, at least get him in the dugout and let him be the Yankees version of Atlanta’s Ron Washington, a smart taskmaster coach.
When you stop providing baseball instruction it all collapses eventually.
In November of 2019, in praise of the new wave of analytics instruction he brought into the organization, Cashman said the multitude of moves were made “so we can be fully transformative from top to bottom.’’
Yep, this was transformative – but not in the way Cashman believed it would be transformative.
It gets worse. Cashman also said this in 2019 about the new direction of the Yankee organization and this is the brazen part. He plainly said the goal was “to transition our minor league program into the new world order and make sure we are using every tool in the toolbox.”
Someone forgot to put the “baseball” tool in the tool box.
New World Order.
Here we are four years later and practically no one in the Yankees’ order can hit.
Again, these are Cashman’s own words about the changes he made as longtime baseball people were going, going, gone from the organization or marginalized, essentially told to go stand in the quiet corner. Some of those people still managed to make some good moves to keep the Yankees afloat for a bit; but the New World Order was eventually going to have its way.
One of those New World Order hirings was jettisoned this season in hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who first came on the scene as a hitting coordinator in the minor leagues, making big changes there, before becoming the Yankee hitting coach. Sean Casey took over at the major league level – but the hill is steep. The Yankees’ team batting average has dipped to .229; only the A’s are worse at .224.
Bronx Bombers to Bronx Pop-Ups.
Here is a statistic that is even more damning, and really is almost beyond belief.
AMBS is all about baseball. And one of the key statistics in baseball, no matter what the New World Order says, is runs batted in; RBIs are what the game is all about. You want to score more runs than the opposition and you want to have the hitters who can knock them in; RBIs are not lucky. There is ability involved in driving in runs. When you have the opportunity, you have to make the most of it.
Now, consider this. Going into Wednesday’s games, Matt Olson of the Braves led all of baseball with 108 RBIs. To find a Yankee on the list, believe it or not, you had to go all the way down to the 112th name on the list for runs batted in and that Yankee was rookie Anthony Volpe with 50 RBIs. That’s it. He led the Yankees. The next Yankee was Aaron Judge with 48, No. 120 on the list.
Let’s go over that again. As of Wednesday, there were 111 players in the majors who had more RBIs than any Yankee.
Hit Strikes Hard. Take Strikes Easy.
The New World Order also believes batting average is not important. Pure garbage. Base hits create action. Fans love action. Teammates love to feel part of moving the line along. It’s a staple of the game but if you only look at numbers, you have no heart to understand any of this – and that is the essence of Cashman’s New World order, a dead, lifeless team.
Interesting this week that the Midwest Cashmans were fired when White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf axed Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn. Williams had been with the White Sox for more than 30 years. Hahn had been with the White Sox for more than 20 years. Would Hal Steinbrenner do the same to Cashman? Boone is a goner. He will be back to ESPN before you know it, waiting for his next managerial job.
I’m not going to pretend to know what Hal will do or what influence Randy Levine has in the big picture, but here is the first thing the Yankees need to do whether Cashman stays or goes. As we all know, no one does history like the Yankees.
The Yankees need more baseball people in the organization. The first hire the Yankees should make for the 2024 Yankees is to bring Willie Randolph back into the dugout. I’d be all for making him manager after what he had to put up with the Mets. His 2006 Mets won 97 games with a starting rotation that included a 40-year-old Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Pedro Martinez on the down side, gutsy Orlando Hernandez, and John Maine.
If Hal doesn’t want to make Willie manager, at least get him in the dugout and let him be the Yankees version of Atlanta’s Ron Washington, a smart taskmaster coach. Randolph comes into spring training and works well every spring with the infielders because, and get this, it has nothing to do with New World Order, he teaches them baseball and holds them accountable.
That move alone will help the Yankees get somewhat in the right direction. This is an organization that has let a litany of baseball men, good instructors, Yankees, get away to opposing teams. Men like Kevin Long, who is again working magic with the Phillies, helping them to the wild card lead in the NL after their World Series visit last year and Rob Thomson, the Phillies manager, who once was a Yankee lifer. There’s hitting coach Pat Roessler who is with the Nationals, and another good hitting instructor I got to know years ago in Tom Slater, who is working for the Marlins.
Cashman went all in on Driveline and the Yankees are sitting at a .229 batting average.
How about this? How about getting instructors who teach hitters to hit line drives? Is that too much to ask?
A couple scouts I talked to this week were talking about some of the Yankee hitters and they noted to me that young shortstop Volpe really needs to get his swing right, it’s too much of a grooved swing and he has big trouble with spin. Volpe is a product of what the Yankees have been teaching and he is hitting .215. He is 22. The Nationals visited the Yankees with a young shortstop CJ Abrams this week and he beat them with a home run Tuesday night when Tommy Kahnle threw yet another predictable changeup. Abrams is 22. He is hitting .250. Roessler is one of his hitting coaches. He was the Yankees director of player development from 2005 until 2014. Just saying.
The culture of instruction must change with the Yankees whether the Yankees change GMs or not. When the Yankees were rolling up those 27 championships, the Old World Order seemed to work like a charm. Cashman’s New World Order is a .229, last-place dud this season and a philosophy of bringing in grooved power swings as in Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, and so many others, including a bunch of left-fielders I’ve never heard of that could not get the job done. That philosophy mysteriously concluded not to bring left-handed power to Yankee Stadium, a ballpark built for left-handed power – and that is really an arrogant philosophy.
New World Order must be replaced by a batting order that works together to score runs, to hit for average, and to drive in runs at an individual level at a better clip than 112th in all of the major leagues.
This is not rocket science. Cashman is proud to talk about the NASA-like brain trust he has spreadsheeting away on laptops somewhere. But this is baseball. These are baseball players who need and desire to be taught baseball mechanics.
On the pitching front, there has been some success from relievers but there are a variety of reasons for that; and the bullpen hasn’t been so hot lately. The starters can’t stay healthy, and health is also an overall issue with the Yankees even though Cashman changed that department in 2020, as well. Just look at the Anthony Rizzo situation.
The starters have been pretty much a disaster in Invisible Man Frankie Montas, Carlos Rodon, and the disappointing Luis Severino, just to name three. The New World Order that delivered that starting group is not working either; and will someone please tell Gerrit Cole to lean more on his fastball and changeup.
This whole New World Order philosophy of Spin It to Win It is just too much metrics, not enough baseball.
The Yankees starters are 23rd with a 4.77 ERA. Over the last 30 days the Yankees overall ERA is 25th at 4.98 – and one final hitting note: over the last 30 days the Yankees are hitting .221, the worst mark in the majors, even worse than the A’s.
I don’t think all that is the New World Order.
More like the Last World Order.