When the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, I was exhausted. The Yankees had consumed every waking hour of my life for the 23 consecutive days, and with late start times, long games and crowded train rides home, nearly every hour of those 23 days was a waking hour.
The Yankees had an opportunity to win one of two games in Houston to advance to the World Series, and they didn’t. Four seasons and four-and-a-half calendar year later, that’s the closest these Yankees have gotten to getting the franchise back to the World Series, let alone winning the World Series. Or so I have thought. Brian Cashman tells me and all Yankees fans that the Yankees didn’t actually lose to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS, and the organization’s World Series drought isn’t going on 13 years in 2022.
“The only thing that stopped [us] was something that was so illegal and horrific,” Cashman told The Athletic. “So I get offended when I start hearing we haven’t been to the World Series since ’09. Because I’m like, ‘Well, I think we actually did it the right way.’ Pulled it down, brought it back up. Drafted well, traded well, developed well, signed well. The only thing that derailed us was a cheating circumstance that threw us off.”
Spoken like a true loser. When Cashman inherited the general manager position, the Yankees won a record 114 regular-season games and then went 11-2 in the postseason to win their second championship in three seasons and what would eventually amount to four championships in five seasons. Since the 2000 World Series win over the Mets, the Yankees have won once in 21 years.
Yes, the Astros cheated by illegally stealing signs during the 2017 season. I don’t know how that explains the Yankees scoring one run in Game 1, one run in Game 2, one run in Game 6 and no runs in Game 7. I don’t know how winning the American League means the Yankees would have beaten the Dodgers.
“It does bother me when people say we haven’t been to the World Series since ’09,” Cashman said. “We did it all right, by building it to a certain level that could have gotten us to a World Series — if not for something else. But hey! We’re back at it. Every year, we’re still back at it. We’ve been qualifying for the postseason, and we’re going to take this team as far as we can get it, and hopefully we can push through.”
How dare anyone criticize the Yankees’ lack of championships since 2000! They have qualified for the postseason! They’re taking this team as a far it can go (which is a humiliating ALDS loss to the Red Sox, another ALCS loss to the Astros, an ALDS loss to the 28th-highest payroll Rays and a degrading wild-card game loss to the Red Sox)!
“People are like ‘Oh, we haven’t been to a World Series … and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that’s as true a statement as it could be,'” Cashman said. “We had a World Series team. And either you get it done or you don’t. People don’t want to hear that. I get it. But that’s real to me. I think it’s real to all of us.”
If “having a World Series team” is good enough for Cashman and not actually needing to win the World Series then it explains the team’s decisions post-2017. Since losing Games 6 and 7 in Houston and coming within one win of the World Series with a young, inexpensive core, the Yankees moved on from Joe Girardi for the inexperienced and idiotic Aaron Boone, cut payroll by more than $30 million for the following season, and for the last four offseasons have passed on every single star position player available on the free-agent market. All while boasting the same payroll in 2021 they had in 2005 despite exponential growth in revenues during that 17-year period.
“The fans, they’re fanatics for a reason,” Cashman said. “They don’t really care about how it all adds up. They just want to be the last team standing. As do we. But my job, and our front office’s job, is to find a way within the current restrictions that we have, and the options that are available: ‘OK, what can we come up with that solves these problems, as fast as possible?'”
There should be no “restrictions” when it comes to the Yankees. They’re the Yankees! Back in October, Cashman spoke about how the 2021 Yankees were “unwatchable” and needed “upgrades” and how there were many “legitimate options” to add to the roster. He signed zero free agents, traded for an all-glove shortstop and a 36-year-old former superstar, constructed the worst starting catching situation in the league and re-signed a first baseman whose stock is coming off the worst year of his career since his rookie season nine years prior. Problems solved!
“We believe if we get there, we’re good enough to run the table,” Cashman said. “The Braves showed it last year. All due respect. They’re world champs. But were they the odds-on favorite? Or the second? Or the third? Or whatever, entering that process. And the answer was ‘No.'”
Last season, the Yankees were the odds-on favorite to win the AL and finally get back to the World Series. As the odds-on favorite, they finished fifth in the AL and third in their own division, and their postseason only lasted nine innings. (It really only last lasted four batters into the bottom of the first of those nine innings.) The Yankees’ financial position allows them to be able to to put together the best possible roster to win a championship each season. They shouldn’t have to settle for “getting hot” in October or having a miraculous month like the Braves did.
“I’m past it now,” Cashman said. “But it does bother me when it comes up. We built something that — I can’t tell you we would have won. I can’t tell you we would have beat the Dodgers. But I do feel pretty confident that that team [the Astros] wasn’t stopping us, if it wasn’t for those advantages. That’s all.”
‘I’m past it now, but I’m going to reference it over and over in an on-the-record conversation with a prominent media outlet. But I’m totally over it. Really, I am. And I can’t tell you we would have won, but we definitely would have won. In fact, we did win. So no, there’s no World Series ‘drought‘ for the New York Yankees.
That’s how that last answer from Cashman read. What an embarrassing interview to give, especially for someone who has experienced real success in the league, even if the majority of that success came more than 20 years ago.
I’m embarrassed for Cashman. These statements were the lowest point of his tenure as general manager of the Yankees, and he once traded Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver, traded Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo, signed Kei Igawa, chose Nick Johnson over Hideki Matsui, traded for Javier Vazquez twice, let his belief in Eduardo Nunez prevent him from acquiring Cliff Lee, gave Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million, hired Aaron Boone and extended Aaron Boone.
I’m embarrassed for Hal Steinbrenner because if Cashman believes what he told The Athletic then he has undoubtedly sold that steaming pile of crap to Steinbrenner, who can’t be sold on signing 26-year-old superstars, but can be sold on extending Boone and can be easily persuaded to believe the team is better than they are, like he was last year.
The Yankees’ lack of creating new franchise memories for the last two decades has forced the team to give just about everyone from the ’90s dynasty a plaque in Monument Park. It has now even led to Paul O’Neill getting his No. 21 retired. (I love O’Neill as much as anyone, but he shouldn’t be getting his number retired. He was a good, even great Yankee. He wasn’t a legendary, iconic Yankee, which should be the measuring stick for such an honor.) The Yankees couldn’t have been happier when Derek Jeter recently left his position with the Marlins, as earlier this week the team already began promoting a night at the Stadium to honor Jeter’s Hall of Fame induction (he was elected two years ago and inducted nearly a year ago) with No. 2 throwing out the first pitch. I can hear Paul Olden’s voice on a promo between innings this season:
Fans, come out to the Stadium on Sept. 9 and remember when the Yankees actually won championships and didn’t have to make them up as the team honors Derek Jeter as the Yankees celebrate his Hall of Fame induction with the Captain throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
When will it end? Will No. 24 come out of circulation for a Tino Martinez number retirement ceremony in 2023? If you’re retiring 21 for O’Neill, how can you not retire 36 for David Cone? Does Scott Brosius get a plaque behind the center-field wall? Does David Wells? When does A.J. Burnett get his day?
Now that the Yankees have pushed the limit on Monument Park additions and because they have failed to successfully field a championship team (and not just a championship-caliber team) since 2009, winning just once in 21 years, they have resorted to making up championship seasons, like Cashman did for 2017. I look forward to when they start having promotional nights to honor the 2017 “championship” team. For these Yankees, it might be the closest they ever get to actually winning.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!