On Tuesday evening at the GM meetings in Arizona, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was surrounded by reporters on all sides. Behind him, shots came on his bad track record with recent trades. To his left, barbs on the team’s player development program. To his right, inquiries on why rookie Anthony Volpedeveloped an uppercut swing leading to a poor offensive season. In front of him, a question on if he was suggesting injuries and underperformance were the only reasons he believes the Yankees misfired in 2023.
The usually calm and collected veteran GM chose a different tactic this time around. He passionately defended the Yankees against their critics from the first moment he spoke. He dropped F-bombs and challenged anyone who dared him to speak about the failings of his organization.
An interesting defense tactic to take coming off the Yankees worst season in 30 plus years, a mediocre 82-80 and a 4th place finish in the division. Nonetheless that is the route Cashman went. It was as if Cashman read twitter and heard the fans boos all season long and let out the pent up frustration all at once in his epic rant to reporters.
“To say we are guided by analytics as a driver, it’s a lie,” Cashman said. “But that’s what people want to say. I know I can’t change that narrative. All I can continue to do is say, ‘Bull—-, not true.’”
Cashman claimed the Yankees have the smallest analytics department in the American League East. Reporting from The Athletic in 2018 showed the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers had the biggest analytics departments in the sport at the time.
It’s ultimately not the size of the analytics department that makes a good group, but it’s obvious one of Cashman’s talking points on his agenda was to slam against those who believe the Yankees make their roster and in-game decisions based on numbers and algorithms spat out by computers.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s not accurate that’s floating around about analytics took us offline,” Cashman said. “It’s the same people, same analytics group. One thing that we have is a very consistent, successful operation. Last year, obviously is the first year in a long time we took a dip, and it happens, but the same people that were responsible for us having a lot of success are somehow being focused as the blame game for the reason the 2023 season went south.”
It’s the same messaging Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave Tuesday morning when he also vehemently defended the team’s analytics and specifically took aim at people claiming manager Aaron Boone solely makes his decisions by whatever the analytics say.
“Analytics has taken a lot of heat,” Steinbrenner said. “Not justified in my opinion. I think one of the misconceptions that’s out there, because I hear it from a lot of people, is that Boone makes every decision in the dugout during a game based on analytics. That’s just not true.”
After three days of internal meetings held at the team’s player development complex in Tampa shortly after the season ended, Cashman said one of the priorities was to “separate what was real versus what was bull—-.” What was “bull—-,” he landed on, was the unfair arrows aimed at the team’s analysts.
“People talk about we’re analytically driven, right? Do you know we have the smallest analytics department in the American League East? Is that a shocker to you guys?” Cashman said. “We have the largest pro scouting department in all of baseball. Is that a shocker to everybody? Shouldn’t be, but no one’s doing their deep dives. They’re just throwing ammunition and bull—- and accusing us of being run analytically. Analytics is an important spoke in our wheel but it should be in everybody’s wheel and it really is. It’s an important spoke in every operation that’s having success. There’s not one team that’s not using it. We’re no different.”
Cashman’s most defiant moment on Tuesday came in a heated back-and-forth with a reporter about why the team has struggled to have its young players perform well immediately on the major league level when other teams, namely the Baltimore Orioles, have had more success with their rookies. He squashed the verbal boxing match by saying whatever he, Steinbrenner or Boone said didn’t matter.
“Whatever we say will be replayed and used as a weaponization if you can find a way to do it,” Cashman said.
Usually, Cashman is much more measured and composed than how he came across Tuesday. It was clear Cashman had built up anger that needed to be released. In his first media session of the offseason, Cashman unloaded the chamber in a way not seen from him in years.
“I think we’re pretty f—ing good, personally, and I’m proud of our people,” Cashman said. “And I’m also looking forward to ’24 being a better year than ’23.”
That might have been the most offensive of all the comments Cashman uttered. To stand there after your worst season ever, after years of underwhelming postseason runs, to say “we’re pretty fucking good,” is a spit in the face to the fans. It was as if he can do no wrong and doesn’t want to answer to the fair criticism coming his way. He wiffed on Joey Gallo, Sonny Gray, Frankie Montas, Harrison Bader, Josh Donaldson, Hicks, IKF. The list goes on and on. He doesn’t develop pitching, and everyday players have never reached their full potential with the exception of Judge. Cashman is on a longtime losing streak and doesn’t seem open to change.
This could get uglier before it gets better. Unless he pulls off a 2008-09 type offseason, the fanbase will be calling for his head until they ultimately get championship 28.