It is easy to say it’s been only two weeks of games, a bunch of them played in unseasonably cold and miserable conditions, after an abbreviated spring training. The only problem with that explanation for the Yankees’ hard-to-watch, inept hitting is that this isn’t just two weeks but rather an extension of what we witnessed all of last season.
Maybe this all turns around — heck, the Red Sox hitters are off to an even worse start, their .284 OBP after 13 games their worst since 1963 — but theirs is essentially the same lineup that finished third in the majors in runs and OPS last year and with nearly 100 fewer strikeouts than the Yankees. Going into the weekend, the Yankees’ 3.0 runs per game average was 25th in the majors, their average 3.69 runners left in scoring position 28th. With two outs and a runner on third base, the Yankees were 4-for-45 (.089), 26th worst according to the Elias Bureau. And they had scored more than five runs only once.
After similar maddening inconsistency last year, Brian Cashman chose to double down on analytics and hired not one but two analytics hitting instructors in Dillon Lawson and Casey Dykes, neither of whom ever played in the majors. But in looking at the composition of this Yankee team, it is fair to ask if Cashman’s obsession with analytics is not at the root of this now one year-plus hitting malaise.
Take Joey Gallo, who is totally lost at the plate. When the Yankees acquired him from Texas they knew what they were getting — a 40-homer guy who was going to strike out over 175 times, walk 75 times and do nothing in between. That didn’t bother the analytics folk who loved all the homers and walks and could live with the strikeouts. But as we all know, the one thing about a player that doesn’t show up in the stats or the metrics is makeup. Whenever Gene Michael was making a trade or considering signing a player, his No. 1 criteria was always: Can this player play in New York? Gallo is a nice guy and a good teammate in the clubhouse. He just can’t play in New York.
Then there’s Gleyber Torres who, until last year, Cashman had always touted as his all-time best trade acquisition. He, too, is lost at the plate and has been in steady decline since his 38-homer season in 2019. What’s clear is Torres is never going to be the player Cashman thought he was. What’s also clear is that while analytically-inspired multiple lineups may work for the Tampa Bay Rays because they have on-the-cheap platoon players at nearly every position, they are not applicable to the Yankees, who don’t have those kind of players. DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson need to be playing every day at second and third respectively, and while they’re at it, it’s time the Yankee brass finally conceded that Kyle Higashioka is not a good hitter, not a first-string catcher and start moving Jose Trevino into the No. 1 job.
Cashman’s contract is up at the end of this year and Hal Steinbrenner seems pretty much married to him as well as being all-in on the analytics. But if this becomes another season of exasperatingly unwatchable baseball in the Bronx, when does Steinbrenner start to ask: “How did I come to paying $245 million for this?”
IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD
The Hall of Fame’s restructuring of the Era Committees announced Friday looks to be a major boost for Lou Piniella, who missed election by one vote four years ago when his ballot last came up. Under the new restructuring, the era committees will be reduced from four (Today’s Game, Modern Baseball, Golden Days, Early Baseball) to two (Contemporary Baseball Era, post 1980; Classic Baseball Era, pre-1980) — with the Contemporary Era divided into two separate eight-person ballots, one for players and the second for managers, executives and umpires. Under the old system, the 10-person era committee ballots were all inclusive — players, managers, execs etc., all bunched into one, and with Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa all coming off the Baseball Writers Association ballot this year, and other recent Baseball Writers rejects like Fred McGriff and Kenny Lofton also likely to be added, a manager might not even have made the ballot this year. It was presumably for that reason the Hall decided to break up the ballots, giving deserving managers especially a better chance of being elected. That’s the good news for Piniella. The bad news is he’s going to have to wait another year as, under the new process, the ballots will be in a three-year cycle, with the Contemporary Era players-only ballot coming up for 2023, the managers/execs ballot in 2024 and the Classic Era ballot (which will be all-encompassing — players, managers, execs) — in 2025. Another notable beneficiary of the restructuring would seem to be Dick Allen, who missed by one vote in each of his last turns on the Golden Days Era ballot, but will now be on the pre-1980 Classic Era ballot as the clear standout candidate. …
There was much media hullabaloo last week at the announcement of A’s icon Dave Stewart heading up a group seeking to obtain an MLB expansion team for Nashville. Only problem is it’s never going to happen. MLB sources have told me that despite Commissioner Rob Manfred’s periodic whimsies about eventual expansion to 32 teams and two 16-team leagues with two eight-team divisions, there is no appetite for expansion among the owners. In addition, there is fierce opposition, led by the Reds and Braves, to Nashville ever getting a team, expansion or not. (Sorry Stu Sternberg). Even though Nashville is way beyond their territorial rights, it’s still just 273 miles from Cincinnati and 250 miles from Atlanta — and that’s what’s got the Braves and Reds fired up in opposition — and they are said to have plenty of support from the other clubs. …
Belated kudos to Steve Cohen and the Mets for naming the Citi Field press box after the venerable Jay Horwitz, who on his podcast, April 26, will interview Bill Parcells. In the podcast, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach reveals that baseball was actually his first love when he was a three-sport star at River Dell High School in Oradell, N.J. but shifted gears to football after his father refused to let him quit college and accept a bonus from the Phillies.