The Yankees are not their usual selves. COVID influenced or not, what’s happened to that spark that landed Gerrit Cole a year ago?
A year ago, the Yankees were the talk of New York and Major League Baseball. Having landed what Brian Cashman termed as his personal White Whale, headlines screamed of the news…
“Gerrit Cole agrees to historic $324 million deal with Yankees, reports say. According to reports, Gerrit Cole, the top free-agent pitcher on the market, is headed to the New York Yankees. Once official, Cole’s $324 million contract will be the fourth largest deal in MLB history.”
There was a buzz of excitement and enthusiasm in the air about the Yankees who, almost immediately, were installed as the co-favorites along with the Dodgers to compete in the 2020 World Series.
Fresh off two consecutive 100+ win seasons, this was the year, and with Cole on board, the die was finally cast.
Of course, no one at the time knew about a virus that, seeing its first life in China, and the ensuing devastating impact it eventually would have in America.
Slumbering Yankees Out Of Character
Fast forward to today, and the Yankees still have not added or subtracted from their current active roster.
What buzz exists is garnered around one player – DJ LeMahieu. Tired reports indicate the same thing. The Yankees and DJ like each other a lot, but no date for a wedding has been set.
Why? No one seems to know, except to say Hal Steinbrenner is not a fan of writing big checks for next season, even to the point of instructing Brian Cashman to keep the team under the luxury tax threshold, which MLB has set for 2021 at $210 million.
Yankees Cashman Sets A Strange Tone
Look, it’s not so much the fact the Yankees have not signed or traded for players to improve the team. It’s more the fact there is little talk about the Yankees, and when Brian Cashman does come alive, he has nothing but the same old mantra to offer.
Typically, Cashman’s press conference yesterday, as reported on by Dan Martin for the New York Post, was anything but uplifting to the Yankees fans.
Cashman lamented that the team is operating under the stress of long-standing contractual commitments, naming both Giancarlo Stanton‘s outstanding $218 million and the newly acquired balance of Gerrit Cole’s record-breaking $324 million deal.
It escapes no one, however, that it was Brian Cashman who answered Derek Jeter‘s frantic call announcing that “he’s (Stanton) yours if you want him,” the devil’s temptation Cashman could not resist.
“They showed last year they’re not going to rush into anything,’’ one agent said. “Even if it means seeing players, they may like go somewhere else.”
These are the New York Yankees, sounding like a small market team trying to keeps the banks away from their doors? Stand still, and we’ll figure it out later – reactive instead of proactive?
Or, are the Yankees lying in wait with Plan A still intact, and Cashman has laid the groundwork on deals and signings, waiting only for the opportune moment to strike?
“Let’s Go Mets” – Say What?
Nevertheless, the Yankees are barely mentioned if at all in reports about the status of top-tiered free-agents like Trevor Bauer, George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, James McCann, or even their own Masahiro Tanaka.
All that talk and precipitating action comes from across the Triboro Bridge in Queens and the newly rejuvenated New York Mets.
The Mets, New York’s patsy “other team,” is where the excitement lies this offseason – not in the Bronx, where reporters typically made their first stop to get the scoop on stories of interest to fans.
Do the Yankees hear the banging of the drums across the river? Do they even care that the stars of today (not yesterday) will be playing at Citi Field, not at Yankee Stadium?
Have the Yankees become so staid that a spot in the playoffs each year, three million fans in attendance, sold out jerseys in the Yankees Store, and a lucrative television contract satisfies the Steinbrenner family?
Has Brian Cashman himself become bored and tired after reaching a plateau as the longest-tenured general manager in the team’s history?
Yankees: Perception Is The Better Part Of Reality
These are questions for which I have no answer. But I feel safe knowing that perception is the better part of reality, and in this case, there is definitely something “off” about the Yankees this offseason.
They say that patience is the better part of valor, and although that may be true, the theory is incongruous to the Yankees’ “normal” manner of operating their business.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit gun-shy about having signed up to root for the Yankees this year, especially when that “other team’s star” is shining so brightly with enthusiasm and excitement.
To be continued…