Brian Cashman Admits Rays Are Better Franchise Than Yankees

The general manager was as honest as always in his end-of-the-season press conference

Brian Cashman is always honest. Usually, he’s brutally honest, even when he doesn’t have to be. His honesty isn’t always accurate, but he’s willing to share how he feels about a player, pitcher or topic when it comes to the team he oversees. His end-of-the-season press conference was no different.

Cashman has been through this before. As Yankees general manager he has now faced the media 19 times following a season which didn’t end with a championship. Nineteen times in 23 seasons he has had to answer questions about why the team he built wasn’t good enough to win the last game of the major league season, and he did this again this week.

On the Yankees’ roster.
“I think we had a championship-caliber team.”

The Yankees were a championship-caliber team … in February. They were a championship-caliber team before Luis Severino needed Tommy John surgery and James Paxton needed back surgery. Had the 2020 season been 162 games, the Yankees would have been without Severino for the entire season, Paxton to open the season (and then again when his elbow gave out like it did in the 60-game season), Aaron Judge for half the season, Aaron Hicks for the half the season and Giancarlo Stanton for half the season. Given the fall off in production from the Replacement Yankees, the Yankees likely would have missed the postseason in a 162-game season and five-team format. They barely made it in the postseason with an eight-team format. The Yankees might have also been a championship-caliber team if they had done a single thing to upgrade their roster at the trade deadline, but they didn’t.

Now the Yankees go into 2021 without Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and to a much lesser (and better) degree, J.A. Happ. Their rotation is in shambles, and their right-handed heavy lineup proved once again incapable of consistently hitting right-handed pitching in the postseason.

The Yankees had a championship-caliber team in February, but by October they didn’t. They are far away from having one right now for 2021.

On the Rays being better all season.
“Ultimately, we ran up against a team that was better … They proved in the marathon of 60 games they were better and then they proved in the sprint of the division series that they were better.”

The Yankees went 2-8 against the Rays in the regular season and many Yankees fans thought it was fluky because of the Yankees’ injuries, as if the Rays didn’t have to deal with any injuries. It wasn’t fluky.

On Apr. 19, 2019, I wrote Yankees Fans Should Be Worried About the Rays This Season, Not the Red Sox. (A lot of Red Sox fans took exception to it.) The Rays nearly made the playoffs in 2018. They made it in 2019, won the wild-card game over a very good A’s team and then took the Astros to five games in the ALDS. The Rays have been coming for some time and they are now here.

The Rays were the best team in the American League over the 60-game season, and to no surprise, they were the best team in the AL in the postseason.

On the state of the Rays and Yankees.
“They are a better franchise right now than we are.”

It takes a lot for the general manager of the team with the highest payroll in baseball to admit the team he built with baseball’s best financial resources isn’t as good as the team with the 29th payroll in the league. Cashman disregarded payroll as if it means nothing, citing the Rays’ ability to create a plan and stick with it over the last five or six seasons being more meaningful than money. Only the general manager of the most prestigious team in baseball with the deepest pockets would try to say money doesn’t matter when his team isn’t as good as the one with limited money.

Can you imagine how good the Rays would be if they had the brains they do coupled with the Yankees’ finances? It’s essentially what the Dodgers are, and it’s what the Yankees have failed to be for so many years now. The Yankees want to have the Dodgers’ ability to successfully draft and develop players and then use their money to fill holes along the way. But the Yankees aren’t very good at drafting or developing players. They are good at turning other teams’ trash into treasure like they did with Luke Voit and Gio Urshela, but not their own players.

On Aaron Boone saying no to analytics.
“Does he push back? The answer is yes. Not every manager has agreed with suggestions made, but every manager was allowed to plot their own course. I think there is a healthy debate that transpires and an all-in commitment once that decision is ultimately made. In terms of the lineup and in-game strategies, those are the manager’s. It always has been and as long as I’m the general manager, it never will be different.”

Maybe it’s time you stop letting him push back. There are thousands of people who can manage the Yankees and manage them as poorly as Boone. If Cashman wants his staff to tell Boone what to do, what is Boone going to do? Threaten to quit? Oh no! What would the Yankees ever do?!

It’s good to know Aaron Boone is the one who writes out the lineup card and makes in-game pitching decisions. It’s not good that I’m now thinking back to every horrible move he has made over three years and realizing it was his decision all along.

On the front office telling Boone what to do.
“I know there’s that narrative about the manager being a puppet and none of that’s true. I’ve never ordered a manager to do anything specifically and Aaron would be able to testify to that as well as Joe Girardi and Joe Torre. They’ve never been directed at any time by me or our front office to do something they didn’t want to do.”

Boone should be a puppet. Because three years of watching him create lineups with Brett Gardner batting third, Mike Tauchman batting fourth and Gleyber Torres batting eighth coupled with him bringing Jonathan Holder into high-leverage situations, letting Luis Avilan try to close out games against the Rays and continuing to use Michael King as an opener have proven he can’t handle the lineup or in-game strategies. Let Boone be the “manager” of the Yankees. Let him talk to the media and be everyone’s friend in the clubhouse. But take away the lineup card from him and take away the in-game decisions since those are what’s preventing this team from realizing its potential and actually winning a championship.

I think Cashman wanted to make it clear that Boone’s idiotic decisions are his and not the front office’s. That clears Cashman and his team’s name from the inexplicable decisions Boone has made in three years. Though it doesn’t reflect well on Cashman for hiring Boone and continuing to employ him.

On the ALDS Game 2 pitching strategy.
“We didn’t ask Deivi Garcia to do something he wasn’t used to. He was asked to start, right? And we were not going to have a long rope with him, obviously at this stage of his career. It doesn’t mean he could not have pitched well, but again, we were trying to exploit the current roster going into that series. We felt this was the best strategy. We didn’t ask J.A. Happ to do something he wasn’t used to doing. And what do I mean by that? I know he’s a starter, but he’s had 15 career postseason appear in his entire career. You know how many starts he’s had in the postseason? He’s had four. So his whole postseason career is coming out of the pen typically, including last year.”

Why couldn’t Garcia have a long rope at this stage of his career? Anyone watch the NLCS? The Braves’ Ian Anderson had exactly as much major league experience (six starts) as Garcia and look what he did in the postseason. The Astros used a bullpen of nearly all rookies, and look where it got them. I don’t think any Yankees fan needs to be reminded of what Jaret Wright at age 21 did to the Yankees in 1997 or what Josh Beckett at age 21 did to the Yankees in 2003. Garcia gave the Yankees the best chance to win Game 2 and Cashman let Boone utilize a plan which sunk the Yankees’ season.

On using J.A. Happ in Game 2 of the ALDS.
“We tried to put J.A. Happ in the best position he possibly could be in to find a way to navigate what I call that Swiss Army knife lineup, so that Kevin Cash would take some right-handers out of that lineup, so when Happ came in he had better lanes to try to navigate. Didn’t work. It didn’t work. 

No, it didn’t. But it was obvious it wouldn’t work the second Garcia threw a pitch in the game and Happ began warming up. It was a move that was first-guessed and not second-guessed after Happ inevitably pooped his pants on the Petco Park mound by allowing nine baserunners, four earned runs, two home runs and three walks, while also hitting a batter and committing an error in his 2 2/3 innings of work. The best position possible for Happ would have been to not have pitched in the game. 

On if the team’s lost revenue will hinder them in free agency.
“I haven’t had conversations directly with Hal Steinbrenner about how it affects our decision making moving forward.”

I don’t think the Yankees will re-sign DJ LeMahieu. I can see them crying poor and then letting Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada be the everyday second baseman in 2021. The Yankees are already planting the seeds for this excuse the way Hal Steinbrenner talked about the Yankees losing more money than any other team last week, and the way Cashman has avoided the question which he knows the answer to.

On if Giancarlo Stanton can play the outfield.
“Given the injuries that we’ve experienced with him thus far, I think a safe bet would be to focus with him at the DH level.”

The Giancarlo Stanton contract is a disaster. At the time, it was a great move. The Yankees had come within one win of the World Series and were young and inexpensive and they were adding the NL MVP at a discounted price. But three years later, the Yankees haven’t won anything, Stanton has been hurt nearly the entire time and now he’s only a DH on a team full of players who would be better suited as only being the DH. It’s nice that Stanton hit a bunch of home runs in a postseason in which the Yankees were eliminated in the division series for the second time in three years, but Stanton will be 31 for the 2021 season, and he’s not going to get healthier or better at baseball as his contract progresses.

On what he’s learned from Boone in his three seasons as Yankees manager.
“I think he’s honored who he is every step of the way. I think he’s a real approachable person that connects well with his players, connects well with his co-workers … He’s a very patient, very approachable, very open-mined individual, extremely intelligent, that is willing to put the work in to try to decipher the next move and the best position to be sitting in. And then look at the results for better or for worse. All I continue to see from Aaron Boone the person is everything that I thought I felt from that interview process … he’s made that real. He’s exactly who he is with you in the media, he is with us, and that’s a tremendous skill.”

If I didn’t see these words come out of Cashman’s mouth and just read them, I would think a member of Boone’s family was asked how they feel about Boone. Boone helped ruin three seasons of a championship window and helped eliminate three teams Cashman built, all of which Cashman believes could have won the World Series. If you feel as strongly as Cashman doe that the Yankees had championship-caliber teams for the last three years and then watched the manager you hired make the moves he did over the last three regular seasons and postseason, how can you still say these things about him?

“Willing to put the work in to try to decipher the next move and the best position to be sitting in?” Are we sure Cashman knows who Boone is?

On how hard it is to continue to give this type of end-of-the-season press conference.
“I’d rather be doing this than not making the playoffs first and foremost. We’re playing meaningful games in October, and I’m not going to shy away from how important that is in the very least. Just because we’re here doesn’t guarantee anything. Just because we have the highest payroll doesn’t guarantee us anything.”

Several times Cashman talked about how the Yankees earned their postseason berth. Eight of the AL’s 15 teams got in. When 53 percent of the league goes to the postseason, it’s hard to feel good about your accomplishment, especially when you wouldn’t have reached the postseason under the usual format. The Yankees shouldn’t be proud about making the postseason in 2020.

On the future of the Yankees.
“Ultimately, we have a championship-contending roster. I believe that is a fact. We’re not going to be able to call ourselves champions. That is also a fact.”

It’s a fact that the Yankees won’t be able to call themselves champions for the 11th straight season. (They haven’t even been able to call themselves American League champions in that time.) I don’t necessarily believe they have a championship-contending roster either. They have a good roster. They have a roster capable of beating up on the Orioles and Red Sox and crappy rotations and bullpens over 162 games. They don’t have a roster that can handle elite pitching or a rotation that can handle the league’s top lineups in October.

Here will be the ages of the Yankees currently under contract (who will be counted on) in April 2021:

Zack Britton: 33
Aroldis Chapman: 33
Aaron Hicks: 31
Giancarlo Stanton: 31
Kyle Higashioka: 31
Gerrit Cole: 30
Luke Voit: 30
Chad Green: 29
Aaron Judge: 29
Gio Urshela: 29
Gary Sanchez: 28
Luis Severino: 27
Clint Frazier: 26
Gleyber Torres: 24
Deivi Garcia: 21

(I’m sure they will re-sign Gardner again and he will be 37.)

Three years ago, the young, inexpensive Baby Bombers came within a game of the World Series and the future was as bright as it had been in a long time for the Yankees. Three years later, and they have two ALDS exits, one ALCS exit, and they’re no longer babies, no longer inexpensive and seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

“Championship-contending roster?” Not as it’s currently constructed.


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