The Yankees franchise run by Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman has lost its identity. A storied franchise no more; they’re just another team.
It’s not only that the Yankees are entering the 13th season without a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. It’s more than that because gifted athletes are spread across the baseball universe, and it’s become harder and harder to finish at the top.
No, the root of the Yankees’ failure to live up to a reputation as “The” most successful franchise in baseball is more profound than that.
The failure begins at the top with Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, and their cancer spreads throughout the entire Yankees organization.
Yankees: A Cancer Runs Deep
From the exorbitant salaries and contracts that put the Yankees on the edge of the Luxury Tax limit every year to the players who have forgotten the privilege to wear the pinstripes and the will to win, it’s all part of the mix.
The assumption that every year will bring a World Title and that teams will shudder when they see the Yankees on their schedule is all part of the transparency of a team that is within the pack and not above it.
Last Tuesday, when the skies fell, Aaron Boone hit it smack on its head with a single coherent observation.
The Yankees, said Boone, have been and still are being passed by teams who work hard to adapt on the fly to the ever-changing game of baseball.
Boone demured from naming those teams, but anyone who follows baseball recognizes Tampa Bay, the Dodgers, and Houston as organizations who outplay the Yankees on the field and off the field.
A slew of adjectives can be used to describe the Yankees today, but the one that comes to mind first, and the one that is so unsettling, is complacency.
Greed is up there, too, and it may be tied to complacency, but the stunning realization is that no one has heard a peep from Steinbrenner or Cashman since the Red Sox dismantled their season.
Aaron Boone felt it, and speaking for himself and his players, he used words like “cruel” to describe losing the WC game and “bummed” to express the emotions that gripped him at the moment.
By now, we are more than tired of the comparisons to George Steinbrenner, a man who would have been crying in the clubhouse with his players while cajoling them at the same time to do better next year – or else!
The Boss held the Yankees at his heart while son Hal holds them at a distance, where he remains safe from the fray and afraid to challenge the future.
The suspicion today is that Hal never wanted to inherit the Yankees. No, check that. He thrived on the inheritance and the fortune that came with it, but he never wanted to be the managing partner, a job that requires real work, commitment, and dedication to the hundreds that work for him.
Better to be a silent partner like Randy Levine or any of his siblings, having only to sit back and collect the annuity checks.
Sign the yearly stipend check he hands to Brian Cashman to run the team – wiping his hands, job done, and don’t bother me with your whining.
Yankees: A Money-Making Machine
It’s a given the Yankees are a money-making machine, and no one knows that better than Steinbrenner.
He can count on the greed and wish to “show themselves” of the Wall St. titans, real-estate developers, and junior partners in law firms to fill the coffers.
They’ll always be there to purchase boxes in the cushioned Blue Seats at Yankees Stadium while caring less if those seats show up empty on every pitch by YES cameras.
Nor do the cash registers slam shut there, either. While the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox often appear at the top of merchandise sales charts, they still fall behind 27-time World Series winners, the New York Yankees, who comfortably top the list.
It’s often said that success breeds success for quite a spell that was true with the Yankees. The best and the brightest ran the club on and off the field.
The franchised has been blessed with players like Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter. They whole-heartedly bought into what was then not only a marketing scheme but something real and prominently displayed in Monument Park and the flags that flew above the facade at the Stadium.
The rest are hired hands only, brought in to attract fans with big names like Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Aroldis Chapman, plus the hangers-on players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and Zack Britton. All of them recognize the gravy train when they see it coming.
With the Yankees, it’s all about yesterday and living on the laurels of past teams who earned the right to be categorized as great and not merely assumed to be such.
By and large, Yankees fans recognize no team can win every year, and they are willing to wait for the promise of groups like the Baby Bombers to come along with the potential of creating another dynasty.
But twelve years, going on thirteen? No, there is no forgiveness there.
Cashman: A Man Of Empty Words
As discussed in yesterday’s column, Brian Cashman can proclaim from the top of a skyscraper before he repels from it that the 2022 Yankees will look nothing like the current team and that the team will bounce back.
But those are empty words because Cashman is starting the offseason with one hand tied behind his back due to his previous roster moves.
Moves that leave the team with more than 80% of the payroll (allotted by Steinbrenner) already dedicated to players under contract and the output coming to arbitration-eligible players.
Cashman knows this, but he also knows there is no one in his way, except for the hollering screaming from the Yankees fan base, to alter anything he decides to do.
Yankees Players Begin To Bolt
In the end, players themselves will recognize their futility and bolt from the Yankees the first chance they get.
Even though it will be crushing for fans, it will be just desserts for Steinbrenner and Cashman (especially) if they do bolt, and perhaps an eruption from the few players who care is the only wake-up call we can hope to see.
Aaron Boone, who is likely to be dismissed, can hold his head high if he rides into the sunset. Too bad we can’t say the same about the top of the Yankees’ organization, and what’s worse is they hardly care what we think.