New York Yankees Emphasize Process As Discomfort Fuels Urgency

The postmortem press conference held by the New York Yankees assessing the ball club’s 2022 season will not be remembered for its illuminating commentaries or bold proclamations given their dismal demise at the hands of the Houston Astros for the fourth time in the postseason since the 2015 American League Wild Card ball game. The Yankees did announce they will pick up right-handed pitcher Luis Severino’s $15 million club option instead of paying him a $2.75 million buyout. Manager Aaron Boone and Senior Vice President, General Manager Brian Cashman answered a myriad of questions regarding the next steps for the Yankees as it is safe to say the franchise’s leadership is deeply committed to a process oriented approach to management instead of one solely driven by results or emotion. As the Astros hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy over their heads once again after a 4-1 Game Six victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the 118th World Series, it is imperative for the Yankees to use discomfort as a fuel for urgency when it comes to offseason planning.

Cashman’s contract had expired on October 31st and is essentially working for free until he and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner can iron out the details on a new agreement. He just completed a five-year, $25 million contract according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. In a quarter century as general manager, Cashman has won six American League pennants and four world championships all but assuring himself a bronze plaque in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A preeminent and well respected baseball executive, Cashman has been in the crosshairs of irate fans as some believe analytics has adversely affected the Yankees’ aggressiveness in free agency.

Given a World Series drought that has now reached 13 years in length and concerns regarding roster construction, many are left to wonder are employees in the analytics department held to a different set of standards than coaches throughout the organization. A fair and honest question given the results in recent years, but not an indictment against analytics. It is healthy to assess all methods of management as ball clubs are constantly looking for competitive advantages and being early adopters of innovative ideas. Accountability cannot solely rest on the shoulders of the ball players and coaching staff if analytics are an integral part of the organization’s culture.

The Yankees are emphasizing the importance of process when it comes to discussions regarding results. Curiosity and sound reasoning are just as important as the ability to adapt and grow in a fast paced, results driven environment. They have little patience for employees who are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments and have become stagnant both in thought and action. Trust is evident if the Yankees are seeing employees demonstrate a high aptitude for modern baseball management while carefully explaining decisions in a manner that makes logical sense given the situation. This thought process was evident in Cashman’s remarks when it came to discussing high-contact hitters such as DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi as their injuries adversely affected the postseason roster.

It will not make the least of difference to fans if the Yankees part ways with a data scientist or two if they cannot recapture the essence of their past with a forward-thinking mentality. Intangibles have always played an integral role in cultivating the Yankees’ championship DNA. They have thrived when the clubhouse culture was a perfect blend of intensity and urgency with a splash of confidence. An endearing aspect of the most recent Yankees’ dynasty was how catcher Jorge Posada’s fiery personality fit perfectly with the quiet confidence exuded by Derek Jeter.

The Yankees must ask themselves what a championship DNA looks like in 2023 with or without free agent outfielder Aaron Judge. The reality is they will not commit over $600 million to two ball players in long-term contracts with one of them being Judge this offseason. Dreams of pairing Judge with the likes of free agent shortstops Carlos Correa or Trea Turner will stay safely in the imaginations of fans. Don’t expect a present day version of the winter prior to the 2009 season where the Yankees had invested $423.5 million into pitchers CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett along with first baseman Mark Teixeira. Besides winning their 27th world championship, the Yankees paid a $25.69 million penalty on a $226.2 million payroll for Competitive Balance Tax purposes according to the Associated Press.

With Judge being priority number one, the Yankees must thrive on the discomfort that accompanies urgency and get creative when it comes to addressing deficiencies. They also must reflect on an important question: do the Yankees need a dramatic shift by overhauling their roster or is it a series of careful tweaks at certain positions? Given the changes next season regarding the limitations on defensive shifts, the Yankees need to evolve from being dangerous to excellent hitters as they ranked 21st in Major League Baseball with a 75.8 percent contact percentage according to FanGraphs.

Removing emotions and impatience, the Yankees have traditionally delivered on four key objectives: a top five payroll in Major League Baseball, 90 or more victories in a season, home attendance exceeding 3 million, and qualifying for the postseason. However, they are light years behind the Astros when it comes to the amateur draft, international scouting, free agency, payroll efficiency, avoiding the Competitive Balance Tax, high impact trades, and managerial experience. The Yankees have struggled to adjust when it comes to the big moments in the postseason, especially against the Astros.

Contrary to the sentiments expressed by Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman, the New York Yankees are still a distance away from achieving World Series glory. The gap has widened between them and the Houston Astros after seeing their current nemesis celebrate a second world championship in six years. The Yankees have amassed a plethora of cutting edge resources and talent but have yet to find the best way to develop a checks and balance system that works well for the franchise. In some instances, they must get out of their own way and stop overthinking matters by finding the glue that binds everything together. The Yankees must use the discomfort of urgency as a motivating factor this offseason and pay close attention to the Astros’ blueprint for success.