The State of Brian Cashman

Brian Cashman

We are almost at the “halfway point” of the season. But when the “first half” of the MLB season ends, the Yankees will only have 68 games or 42 percent of their season left. Time is ticking for the Yankees to start playing like the Yankees or at least start playing the way they were two weeks ago. Luckily, the AL East has become what the AL Central and NL West were for so long and even at 45-44, the Yankees are a strong finish in Cleveland and Baltimore this weekend from possibly being in first place.

Brian Cashman talked with Mike Francesa on WFAN and gave a sort of First Half State of the Yankees, so of course it’s time to give a State of Brian Cashman for the first time since Feb. 20. Back in February, Cashman crushed my confidence about the 2014 Yankees a full 40 days before the season started, but rightfully so apparently since they are one game over .500 after 89 games. However, it’s a little odd that the person responsible for building this team and this roster is the person who entered the season admitting that they weren’t going to be that good, and his feelings haven’t really changed.

On the big picture for the 2014 Yankees.

“Frustrating so far. We’ve had underperformance; we’ve had injuries, inconsistency. It’s been a frustrating first part and it’s obviously my job to find ways to improve on what we’ve got and to make some adjustments and we feel we have to do that. I feel I have to do that.”

I’m glad that Brian Cashman feels he has to make some adjustments to the one-game-over-.500 team he built coming off an win and postseason-less season. That’s very nice of him. What’s also nice is using the word “frustrating” to describe the 2014 Yankees. I would have gone a different route in my choice of word, but “frustrating” is a very nice way to put. It’s kind of like when the Yankees get seven hits in a game, all singles of course, and Joe Girardi claims they swung the bats “well.” So yes, the 2014 Yankees have been “frustrating.” How frustrating? Let’s look at the Yankees’ season by month.

April: 15-11
May: 14-14
June: 12-15
July: 4-4

The Yankees are one game over .500 right now. When they were six games over .500 at 39-33 two weeks ago, Suzyn Waldman was telling John Sterling how Joe Torre used to like to say you need to move above .500 in increments of five and how the Yankees’ next stop was 10 games over .500. Since then, the Yankees have gone 6-12, so about that 10 games over .500 …

On why he chose to designate Alfonso Soriano for assignment.

He struggled poorly against left handed and right handed pitching. We got him because we were struggling so badly last year against left-handed pitchers and that’s something he’s always been good at .. this year the defense hasn’t been there clearly, the offense against righties and lefties hasn’t been there and this is a bad defensive club already … We’re at the halfway point. I can’t keep waiting. I have to all of a sudden make some changes if we feel there might be some better options and so the play kind of played the way off the club I guess.”

We’re not at the halfway point. We’re at the “halfway point.” The halfway point was last week when the Yankees were busy losing 4-3 in 12 innings at home to the Rays, which was the third loss in a five-game HOME losing streak. Two nights before that during Game 79 of the season, Cashman was (to steal a line from Tim Wattley in The Campaign) “playing hee-haw with the eff-around gang” in a private booth, canoodling with Kenny Chesney while his half-billion offseason dollars went a combined 2-for-12 with four strikeouts and made one terrible pitch to Mike Napoli. (That was the most I will ever get on Masahiro Tanaka and I felt bad even typing that sentence, but it went with the whole half-billion dollars thing, so I had to bring Tanaka into it. Sorry, Masahiro. Please don’t let your MRI come back with bad news.)

I said everything I had to say about Alfonso Soriano on Wednesday and Cashman only helped my argument by saying that Soriano believed he needed to be a full-time player to get on track, which he clearly did need. And Soriano was supposed to be an everyday player on Opening Day when he was going to be the full-time DH for the 2014 Yankees before Mr. The Knees Beltran needed to become a DH and Soriano became an outfield platoon with Ichiro.

On CC Sabathia.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

CC Sabathia needs to see Dr. James Andrews, but according to Cashman, Andrews is at a convention in Seattle with every other big-time surgeon where I imagine they are all getting absolutely hammered and watching the ticker on ESPN hoping to see news about athletes that were injured and will need to undergo season-ending surgery. “Bronson Arroyo needs Tommy John! Next round’s on Jim!”

There are rumors that Sabathia might never pitch again because of the possibility of microfracture surgery, but until then, I can only hope that Sabathia does come back this year to bolster the back of the rotation. (That’s right, I said back of the rotation for the $700,000-per-start “ace.” No big deal.)

On the trade between the A’s and Cubs.

“We had a lot of conversations clearly with the Cubs about Samardzija as well as Hammel as well as both at the same time and I think that the Cubs liked a lot of the pieces that we had. I think we were certainly in the arena. The fact that Theo was engaging me as much as he was, I know he likes our players. I know that there were packages that had interest to him for one or both combined that could have worked.”

I had to really hold back the tears when I heard this because what Cashman basically said was,” Hey Yankees fans, I was right there to completely fix the rotation, get us two frontend starters and make us the favorite in the division, but I didn’t! But I was close! I was really close!”

I’m not sure what the Yankees would have had to give up to get the duo, considering what the A’s gave up to get them, but if the Yankees had gotten both of them, this would have been their rotation:

Masahiro Tanaka
Jeff Samardzija
Jason Hammel
Hiroki Kuroda
Brandon McCarthy

Instead it’s:

Masahiro Tanaka
Hiroki Kuroda
Brandon McCarthy
David Phelps
Shane Greene

I’m guessing if Cashman was looking to get both then that’s not good news for hoping that Michael Pineda will be back soon or in 2014, but now with the starting pitching market as thin as it is and the Top 2 starting pitchers on the market both gone, Pineda has to come back in August and be as good as he was in April.

I would have rather had Cashman tell Francesa he didn’t even know Samardzija and Hammel were available or that Theo Epstein recently got a new cell number and he only had his old number. But hearing him say the Yankees “were in the arena” makes me feel the way I did when Cliff Lee was about to become a Yankee before the Phillies ruined everything. (Cue the Cliff Lee Sad Songs Playlist.) I’m just going to pretend that Theo was stringing him along with his buddy Jed Hoyer and they were sitting in a room talking to Cashman on speaker phone all seven times, pressing the “mute” button anytime Cashman was talking and screaming with laughter like Larry David and Jeff Garlin looking at the “Freak Book” at Ted Danson’s birthday party making Cashman think he really had a chance to land either or both of the starters.

On Carlos Beltran.

“I think Beltran looks like he’s starting to come through it a little bit on the elbow. I think his swings definitely look healthier, but obviously we have to deal with the knees too that he’s had now for a number of years … We have to deal with protecting Carlos.”

I love that Cashman says Beltran has been dealing with “the knees” (not one knee, but both) for a number of years now. There’s nothing like signing a 37-year-old outfielder to a three-year deal (he currently can’t actually play in the outfield) when you know he’s been dealing with “the knees” for a number of years and then needing to “protect him” in the first one-sixth of his deal.

Beltran is hitting .216/.271/.401 and the whole idea of getting Beltran was because of his postseason success (51 games, 16 home runs, 40 RBIs, .333/.445/.683), but you have to get to the postseason to get Postseason Beltran. So far his regular season has been more Postseason Nick Swisher and his health and ability to play through injury has been Regular-Season Mark Teixeira. So far the Yankees have been like Beltran: an underachieving disappointment.