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Shoulda, Woulda - Ehhh: Thoughts on the Ending to the 2021 Yankees Season


I've waited to write this post. After all, it's been a tremendously emotional season...well, for the fan base that is. 

For me, everything about this year's Yankees playoff run - or exit - was expected. This team, was as complex and complicated of a team as we've seen in a long time. Bad? No, I wouldn't say that. And I know that may trigger some in the fan base - but bad teams just don't make the playoffs in baseball. However, this team was incredibly flawed - to a glaring fault. Rooted deep, deep, deep in a philosophy that currently drives the organization and has now proven to be fruitless - and even more so year after year. 

So no, I never expected this team to do much other than possibly surprise me with a deep playoff run. We've seen glimpses of this team's conflicting identity by running the bases, moving runners, getting timely hits, and looking somewhat threatening to the rest of the league. And yet, we've seen this team play terrible defense, make poor contact, run the bases with bewildering IQ, and look unathletic in various facets of the game. 

That's just the 2021 New York Yankees. Flawed. Confusing. Frustrating. Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. 

Just the year of, it is what it is. 

Here are a few various thoughts on the year: 


NONSENSICAL FANS

I wrote this Pondering 10 earlier this year because this was the year that exposed so many fans as well...clowns. Sorry, but it's true.

From the constant flip-flopping and the excessive complaining to the outright banter of calling for jobs (as if that fixes the issues at hand - smh) so much of it was more annoying than the product itself. 

I love the passion, but there is a subtle arrogance to the fanbase of no longer having an expectation to win, but now holding this right to go to the World Series. It comes across as delusional, and yes, spoiled. This "bad" team still won 92 games. 

And no, I'm not trying to glass-half-full the situation. However, perspective is indeed needed when looking at the process and the outcome. And also, the root problem. 

I just wanted to address that. 


PHILOSOPHY GOING FORWARD

I know many believe everything starts with whether Aaron Boone returns as manager, and if Brian Cashman is allowed to keep his job. 

Again, I find the problems to be much deeper. Boone can always be replaced by a like-minded individual who will continue to go in on the decision with the front office. Cashman can move on (maybe the Mets?), as the issue isn't about firing Cashman, but being confident you can replace him with someone who will get the job done. After all, who is that person? 

My take is deeper: the Yankees MUST figure out what the organizational philosophy is going forward. Looking at you Hal!  Even simpler, they must figure out why in a world of analytics that has leveled the competitive field, the team with one of the deepest pockets can't seem to crunch the numbers for maximum benefit? Why are other teams' analytic departments just better than ours? 

Going deeper, will there be a change in how the Yankees approach the game going into 2022? That question will determine if Cashman is capable (or even so, onboard) and if Boone (or someone that fits the new direction) is the head guy in the dugout. 

In my opinion, Boone knows the game. He's a lifer. If you think he's to blame, you're not paying attention.

Cashman? There is a point to be made there. He's the top dog to be held accountable. The roster was obviously flawed heading into the season. The pickups were shrewd and a nice way to fix those mistakes. But it wasn't enough. 

My second-biggest criticism of Cashman? The complete devaluing of Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar. We once were able to get serious returns for either of the two, possibly a special piece for the pair. Now, we'll just bring them back for mere depth. 

Regardless, running this back is the definition of insanity - and you know that definition. This would be it. 


ROSTER CONSTRUCTION - ROSTER OBSERVATION

My biggest criticism of Cashman (if you were wondering...) - I can wrap up in a question? 

For $207M, who are the players on the Yankees roster - besides Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton - who are absolute studs? Who are must-haves?!

The Yankees are made up of really solid players who are paid a higher salary for the things they do well that the organization values from its philosophy - walks and home runs. 

Very few studs.

Word of advice, if you really want to get upset, compare it to the Los Angeles Dodgers roster and team salary. 


UNSUNG HEROES

For years the fanbase collectively says "we need pitching!" 

Well, it's hard to sit here punching the keys and not give props to the job done by the Yankees pitching staff. 
  • Team ERA - 3.75 (4th in MLB)
  • Team WHIP - 1.210 (5th in MLB)
  • Team K/9 - 9.84 (4th in MLB)
  • Team H/9 - 7.78 (4th in MLB)
  • Team Bullpen WAR - 7.5 (3rd in MLB)
They were gooooooooood!!!!!

And oh yeah, there was a no-hitter in that mix as well. 

The offense? Well, that was 16th overall in MLB. 

Which brings me too...


CHANGE THE OFFENSE

Obvious, no? 

And this also leans into the philosophy approach discussed above. While analytics isn't bad (read that again for those who believe it's an evil curse upon the game), the Yankees' way of utilizing, weaponizing, and digesting them have been, well...interesting. 

The Rays, Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, among many, are HIGHLY driven by analytics. Another thing those teams have in common - they put the ball in play! 

This team acquired Joey Gallo, and for the tremendous defense he gives them, it added ANOTHER 200 strikeout guy in the lineup.

Between, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Joey Gallo - there are over 800 strikeouts per year in the lineup. This is not ideal. This is not sustainable. 

Also, the best this team played all year was during that 13-game winning streak. And during that streak, the Yankees were running all over their opponents. The offense needs athletic bodies back in the lineup. The kind that can force plays on the basepaths. 

I just can't see the high OBP and the expectation of home runs working next year - which seems like the current model player under the current philosophy. 

The Yankees were the truest definition of a three-outcome kind of team - BB-K-HR. 

But most importantly - mannnnn, they were so boring to watch!


WHO YA BRINGING BACK? 

Another great discussion to be had. And there are so many big questions. Do you pay Aaron Judge? What happens with Gary Sanchez? Can we find out what happened to Gleyber Torres? 

Again, you just HAVE to shake this team-up. If not a lot, by at least a little. Again, if you run it back, I'm not sure it gives you much more mileage than you got out of it this year. Also, the fan base may burn down the 4 train stop outside of the stadium. 

Here's what I expect (but not necessarily would do):
  • Joey Gallo stays (after exploration of moving him)
  • Gary Sanchez stays
  • Gio Urshela Moved
  • A shortstop stopgap is acquired until their prospects (who they really value) are ready to take over (meaning, no signing of any of the big free agent shortstops - they do explore Corey Seager)
  • Gleyber stays
  • Gardner finally leaves, but plays elsewhere  :( 
  • New centerfield is acquired, Hicks becomes 4th outfielder
  • Voit shopped and moved
  • Rizzo and Kluber are allowed to walk
  • DJ LeMahieu becomes every day 1st basemen
  • Chapman is NOT guaranteed the closer role heading into ST 
  • Aaron Judge is given a five-year extension
Who knows? I guess we'll see. 


GERRIT'S REVENGE

Look, I don't know if it was the hamstring, the stark evidence pointing back to when Spidertac-gate became a full-TSA search on the field, or just the happenstance of a bad start in the most important game of the season, but I do know this - Gerrit Cole will be back. 

If there is one thing we've learned about Cole is that the dude is a GAMER! I completely expect him to be motivated to prove the doubters wrong this off-season. 

Will that equate to results? We'll see. But Cole surely has internal motivation all Winter, all Spring, and heading into the 2022 season. He just seems like the kind of dude that becomes obsessed consumed with this kind of shortcoming. 


LET GARY BE GARY

I'm not a Gary Sanchez defender, but I really do think there is that guy we thought was possible still in there - somewhere. 

Gary looked like the best pure hitter among the new crop of Yankees at one time. 

Then the defense got bad, they obsessively focused him on framing pitches more so than his great throwing ability, and then he suddenly couldn't catch up to a fastball. 

Things just unraveled way too fast for me to believe it's not salvageable.

Yes, I'm probably nieve - but he's also really good in MLB The Show, so yah. Solid scouting report. 

One more...


CAN SOMEONE FIX GLEYBER TORRES?

I mentioned it above briefly, but this topic is not one to take lightly. After 2020, Gleyber Torres was considered one of the best young players under 25 in all of baseball. 

After this year, we're left wondering, thus far in his career, who IS the real version of Gleyber? 

In 2019, his age 22 season, Torress slashed .278/.337/.535 with 38 HRs and 90 RBI as a second baseman. 

I'm not sure what happened, but this guy's potential is not just a big part of the Yankees present, but a huge piece going forward. Can they fix him? Can he do it himself? If not, is he a salvageable asset on the market? 

They CANNOT afford for Torres to become an asset like Frazier and Andujar. 

--

Nonetheless, we all thought that the 2017 Yankees run was the opening of the window - four years later, and it looks like it was actually the peak. 

Just. Crazy. 

Give my Knicks season now, please. 

Oh, how things have changed. 

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