Should the Yankees consider firing Brian Cashman after a disappointing 2023 campaign? The answer is complicated.
The Brian Cashman Question
As of yesterday’s 2-0 loss to the Braves, the New York Yankees have made history for the century, not in a good way. At 60-61, this is the latest they have been below .500 in a season since 1995. For the first time in a while, their record breaking streak of 30 seasons staying above .500 is in jeopardy, and questions must be asked.
Fans have begun to turn their anger towards long tenured general manager Brian Cashman, with protests being organized at Yankee Stadium to call for his job. For a man with four World Series Championships and no losing seasons, questions might be asked about why fans are turning on him. But this has been a long time coming.
The 2022 Season
The New York Yankees went into 2023 coming off a 2022 season where they finished 99-63, won a difficult AL East division, and lost in the AL Championship series to the Houston Astros. On paper a good season, and Cashman and manager Aaron Boone were quick to call it a success after it ended.
But looking deeper, there were flaws. The 2022 team started out 52-18, guns blazing, with questions being asked about whether they could break the all time record for wins by the end of June. The lineup was hitting, starters were great, and the bullpen was nails as usual. Expectations were high.
However, after that especially hot start, the record shows that they went only 47-45 for the rest of the season. A barely above .500 team. The playoffs were supposed to test which side of the season was more accurate, and they did, falling down 2-1 to the Cleveland Guardians in the ALDS before a sweep to the Astros in which they were barely competitive. Although the team sustained injuries that were partly to blame for the failure, it was head scratching how a team that showed such promise fell to almost medium.
The 2023 Season
Coming off the disappointing end of 2022, the pressure was on for the Yankees to improve and retool the team to get back to the heights they started off at in April-June. They re-signed key free agents Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, a great start. However, after that, the team did almost nothing. Despite the lineup struggles in the playoffs, they did not add any hitters via free agency, only signing reliever Tommy Kahnle and starter Carlos Rodon to help out the pitching. These were good moves, but there remained a sense that something was missing.
At first everything looked fine, with the 2023 team starting out with a fine April, but since then they have basically faltered. Big contracts given out by Cashman such as DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, and Rodon unperformed. Star rookie Anthony Volpe has played like a below average player. Injuries piled up once again. At 60-61 after going 47-45 at the end of 2022, there is now a 200 game sample size of an almost below .500 team. With the second highest payroll in baseball this is unacceptable, so who built it?
Since late owner George Steinbrenner passed away, it has seemed like his son, Hal, has given Brian Cashman almost the entire control of baseball operations. He has been on the job since 1998, and such has made his mark on almost everything done by the Yankee organization. Every contract, every draft pick, every analytic decision made by the 2023 team has Cashman’s hands on it, or the hands of guys that he self-picked. So when the team hasn’t met expectations, or made a World Series since 2009, he is the one to blame.
This is not a recent trend, the Yankees have not been the serious team they were for most of their existence for the last ten years of Cashman’s tenure. Playoff appearances became the standard instead of championships, competing became more important than winning, and legendary high quality free agents like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Freddie Freeman were passed on for more “bargain bin” guys like LeMahieu, Stanton, and Rizzo. This stuff catches up to you, and they are just not great anymore.
So whether it’s Cashman leaving, or his analytic staff being fired, changes are needed to the philosophy in the Yankee building. They need to become more innovative, creative, and set the pace of the sport. It might not be the best idea to have a guy who has been with the organization since the first Bush was president leading that charge anymore.