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Mudville: July 22, 2024 5:01 am PDT

Pretty, Pretty F-ing Good

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, please give Bill Parcells a call.

You can Zoom if you like, Hal, since that seems to be the way you prefer to engage.

“You are what your record says you are.’’

That is the classic line from Coach Parcells. He was talking about the NFL; but Parcells, a big baseball fan, could have been talking about Major League Baseball as well.

He knows something about being a coach and a GM, reality and accountability.

The monster payroll Yankees could not even make the watered down, 12-team Manfred Postseason Tournament this past season with their 82-80 record; yet Cashman and Steinbrenner act like they were world beaters, and who are you to question them. If it weren’t for injuries, they’d be on top of the world. “Made it Ma! Top of the world!”

In the process of tooting their own horns, they essentially told Yankee fans, the most loyal and dedicated fans in all of sports, “don’t believe what your eyes are telling you about the un-athletic, often injured, Michael Fishman analytics-driven Yankees.”

Fishman is the Yankees assistant GM and he wields a lot of power.

“I think we’re pretty f-ing good, personally, and I’m proud of our people,’’ said Rah-Rah Cashman, Tuesday in Arizona at the GM meetings, of the Yankees’ way of doing business.

Clearly Cashman is trying to rally the troops for 2024 with his “it’s us against the world,” chip on his shoulder remarks.

Angry, no accountability Cashman may be my favorite Cashman.

Since the second half of the 2022 season the Yankees are 117-115, and I’m not counting being swept by the Astros in that ALDS – when they batted .162.

Cashman’s “pretty f-ing good” Yankees followed up that offensive explosion by hitting .227 this past season; only the minor league A’s, home to Cashman’s front office idol Billy Beane, were worse. Dillon Lawson, analytics-oriented hitting coach, was fired by Cashman; but that doesn’t matter – the Yankees hitters were “pretty f-ing good.’’

Talk about lowering the bar, often a subject here at BallNine about what the Lords of Baseball have been doing to the game.

Hey, those 12 teams that made the playoffs were “pretty f-ing good,’’ too.

And that Bruce Bochy guy, he’s no Aaron Boone, but he can manage. And Chris Young, who actually held his players accountable, is “pretty f-ing good,’’ too, just like the Yankees people are, according to Cashman. Bochy winning his fourth World Series, and turning the Rangers – who lost 196 games the previous two seasons – into World Champions for their first time in their history, is quite the feat.

The Yankees last won a World Series in 2009, and since 2003 the billionaire Yankees have won as many World Series as the constantly financially strapped Marlins: one.

That’s “pretty f-ing good,’’ though, just ask Cashman and Big Changes Hal – and the nearly $300 million that was spent to build the AL East, fourth-place Yankees.

Yet, health is always Cashman’s fallback reason when the Yankees have a – in his own words –  “disaster’’ of a season. It’s not the GM’s decisions, it’s health.

George Steinbrenner isn’t around anymore, so you can’t ask him. Cashman also made it clear that “we have the smallest analytics department in the American League East.’’

They may be a bit smaller in numbers than people thought but the Yankees analytics department carries a lot of weight in the team’s decision-making, make no mistake about that – no matter how Cashman tries to portray it.

At least that other major league team in town isn’t showing up the Yankees; the Mets are heading toward the 40th  anniversary of the last time they won a World Series. But really, if you look at it, and considering the size of the Mets analytical department and everything else, that’s “pretty f-ing good.’’

Cashman is right that the Mets wanted the Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza to manage. I like Mendoza, he’s a worker who gets it, and the Yankees will miss him; but can he manage?

As for doing that deep dive into the Yankees’ analytical department, what else do you really need to know? The Yankees want to hit strikes hard. They thought Joey Gallo was a star. As for Frankie Montas, don’t pay any attention to that road ERA over 5.00 when the Yankees traded for him, and his proneness to injury – something I brought up at the time, and my analytics department is much smaller than the Yankees’.

Other teams making the same terrible mistake about Joey Gallo is supposed to be a good thing, according to Cashman. Gallo hit .177 for the Twins this past season and did not have a postseason at-bat.

That’s not good.

The Yankees Little Engine That Could analytics department was certain Montas would do well with the Yankees and bounce back and remain healthy. Then there is Carlos Rodon. Don’t forget the huge extensions to Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino and the “lightning bat speed’’ of Clint Frazier.

Josh Donaldson (.142) over Gio Urshela or other young Yankee infielders was another dandy.

The same for Giancarlo Stanton, way back when. He’s not getting older, he’s only getting better we were told. Health won’t be an issue.

Yet, health is always Cashman’s fallback reason when the Yankees have a – in his own words –  “disaster’’ of a season. It’s not the GM’s decisions, it’s health.

Who needed Bryce Harper when you have the outfielders the Yankees had, including Big G and some of the pinstripe heroes of 2023 like Jake Bauers? Stanton is coming off another injury-plagued season where he batted .191 and put up a .275 on base percentage; but those aren’t important numbers – the Yankees’ analytics, led by assistant GM Fishman, have better ways of judging talent. They’re smart.

At the end of the season, Aaron Judge, to his credit, told the Yankee brass that numbers like batting average and RBIs are important and needed to be taken into account, numbers that have been staples of the game forever.

The names of Yankee misses could go on and on, including Rangers postseason hero lefty Jordan Montgomery. The Yankees decided Big Jordan was not built to pitch in the postseason. Why bother? But at the risk of upsetting Cashman, let me point out that Montgomery is now 3-1 in the postseason with a 2.63 ERA over eight games.

And did you know the Yankees have more scouts than anyone? That’s a fact. “We have the largest pro scouting department in all of baseball,’’ in-your-face Cashman said on Tuesday. “Is that a shocker to everybody? It shouldn’t be but no one is doing their deep dives, they’re just throwing ammunition and bullshit, accusing us of being run analytically.’’

But here is the rub.

Do Cashman and his small, merry band of analytical cohorts listen to the scouts? Hmm, not from what I’ve been hearing the last couple of years. But supposedly all that got hammered out in their recent meeting about where changes will be made, Big Changes Hal assured us; and the outside analytics firm is looking deeply into the Yankees analytics (for a price), and also a bunch of other AL East teams (for a price), so this will be quite the advantage for Cashman’s Yankees – they’re “pretty f-ing good,’’ this analytics group doing the deep dive audit.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the “pretty f-ing good’’ t-shirts have already been ordered and you will see Yankees players wearing them come spring training in Tampa.

You know who else is “pretty f-ing good?’’ The Yankees player development people who took over a few years ago, and also the training group that Cashman went out and hired to keep the Yankees on the field. Except all that is not working out.

But why listen to me, what do I know?

I put in a call to a top talent evaluator on Wednesday who knows the Yankees organization inside and out and this is what he had to say, it’s “pretty f-ing good.’’

Actually, the Yankees should get Larry David to cut a commercial for 2024. Larry can say the Yankees are going to be “pretty, pretty f-ing good.’’

But first let’s hear from the evaluator who has no skin in the Yankee game and is just talking about what he has seen happen in the organization over the years, as an outside observer, a keen, knowledgeable observer.

I know I’m supposed to just sit here and take Cashman at his word, but I want to dive deeper, and as for all those scouts, “Yeah,’’ the evaluator said, “they have a lot of scouts, but you don’t listen to them.’’

That’s interesting information.

Oh, you mean we have to listen to them, too? They are not just window dressing while the small analytics group makes all the big decisions?

Regarding the Cashman comment that other teams are calling for the Yankees analytics wizards, the evaluator said, “You don’t have anybody calling for your minor league managers, or your pitching and hitting coordinators; has anybody called for your strength and conditioning guy you hired?

“How about you put together a list and here are all your failures; you are in f-ing denial, that’s what you are in,’’ the evaluator said, telling it like it is. “Your farm director is failing. Oswald Peraza (.191) is not hitting, Anthony Volpe (.209) is not hitting, look at the numbers of the other kids. Look at the numbers (Jasson) Dominguez had.’’

In 109 games at AA Somerset, Dominguez hit only .254. After some impressive at-bats with the Yankees, he got hurt and has to undergo Tommy John surgery. Injuries again.

This is the bottom line, the evaluator said: “Your development system is failing. The outfielders, Estevan Florial, pitchers Deivi Garcia, you have a whole list of guys who were in the top 10 prospects in baseball who you failed on … Your pitchers have become predictable. It took Gerrit Cole to help Clarke Schmidt get deeper into games, it wasn’t taught to them by anybody in their system.’’

The evaluator then made this point about Rangers head of baseball operations Chris Young, a former major league pitcher.

“Look at the World Series and the people Chris Young had in his booth: Dayton Moore (former Royals GM), Michael Young, all with him every night. You never see Cashman with (Brian) Sabean and Jim Hendry and Tim Naehring. Those guys aren’t there as supporters, you really don’t care what those guys have to say. A few years ago it was Danny Borrell who was developing your pitchers and doing a good job – but then you brought in the Driveline people and Danny left and went to Georgia Tech.’’

Don’t get mad at me Cash, that’s just the word on the street.

It’s interesting to note that former major league catcher A.J. Pierszynski said of the Cashman press conference on his podcast, “He sounded like the kid, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong, no matter what you say.’ ’’

The message to the Yankee fans from the Yankees seems to be, “we are not in this together. We are smarter than you, don’t question us, just buy your tickets, and buy food and drink and all the different streaming services. Just keep coming to the games at the current pace of 3,269,016 this past season. And don’t forget to pay top price for parking.”

Another weird thing the Yankees and Hal did was going to the players to ask about Aaron Boone in deciding his fate. That’s putting players over the manager – it can’t happen. And former players, too, who really aren’t around the clubhouse that much.

Here is my real-time suggestion: Maybe Cashman and the Yankees can bring in some high-priced talent and maybe then become “pretty f-ing good.’’ Improve the lineup, improve the defense, make the team more athletic and younger. Don’t try to hit every ball out of Yankee Stadium. Use the short porch to your advantage by acquiring real left-handed power. Steal bases, put the ball in play. Hit some home runs. Pitch.

Sure worked for the “pretty, pretty f-ing good’’ Rangers.

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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