The New York Yankees will have to wait another year to get a crack at their 28th World Series title.
For the second time in three years, the Yankees were eliminated by the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, falling in six games, and in gut-wrenching fashion, to boot.
So, as is usually the case whenever the Yanks fall short of a championship (gasp!), the blame game is already out in full force.
And for some reason, the man taking the most heat (or at least a significant amount of it) is general manager Brian Cashman.
You know, the guy who has been one of the best front-office executives in sports for two decades running and has assembled an outstanding team that has posted back-to-back 100-win seasons and is in position to contend for titles for the next five years, at least.
Look, I get it: you’re upset that you got Verlandered and Coled, but seriously: what could Cashman have done to prevent this?
The general theme right now is that Cashman failed to acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, but who could he have gotten?
Madison Bumgarner wasn’t available. Zack Greinke wanted no part of New York. Robbie Ray wouldn’t have even made the Yankees’ postseason rotation. You could argue Trevor Bauer, but the Cleveland Indians were still in playoff contention at the time and were looking to swap Bauer for an established bat. So you can then imagine what the Indians asked the league-rival Yankees for in trade talks.
Basically, there were no deals New York could have made that would have put it on Houston’s level as far as starting pitching is concerned. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are just too good, and to be perfectly honest, pitching wasn’t even the Yankees’ primary issue in the ALCS.
It was hitting.
Of course, Yankees fans will then pile on the injured Giancarlo Stanton, who was actually hitting very well in these playoffs before suffering the quad injury in Game 1 against the Astros.
Stanton is an easy target. He is a guy who didn’t come up in the Yankees system (what a sin) and is making big money. He bashed 59 home runs in his final season with the Miami Marlins in 2017, leading to an NL MVP award.
Naturally, New York fans are expecting the world from him, so when he strikes out once, he hears a chorus of boos. But when Aaron Judge posts a .681 OPS in the ALCS and strikes out countless times with men in scoring position and Gary Sanchez hits .130 with 12 strikeouts, that’s perfectly fine, right?
Not to mention the fact that Judge made an incredibly crucial baserunning error in Game 6, running past second base on a fly ball and getting doubled up as a result.
As for Sanchez? The man has struck out 40 times (forty) in 27 playoff games. He may as well dress up as a giant “K” for Halloween at this point.
But yet, Cashman is hearing it for not giving up the farm for a mediocre pitcher, and Stanton is getting railroaded for being injured (even though he had some terrific at-bats in limited action this postseason, including a home run in Game 1 of the ALCS).
Like so often, Yankees fans are missing the mark.
Sometimes, you just have to concede defeat to the better team. There was nothing the Yanks could have done in this series. The Astros were just that good, both in terms of pitching and their offense.
You don’t always have to single out executives and managers and players and place the mantle of responsibility on their shoulders for shortcomings, but I understand that type of mentality is embedded in the culture of the New York fanbase.
And as a native to the tri-state area, it’s embarrassing.
Cashman has done a phenomenal job building this team, and given the youth of the nucleus and how strong the farm system remains even at this stage, the Yankees are going to be very good for a very long time.
New York also has the luxury of having more capital than other franchises, so it should be able to retain most of its top players. Meanwhile, Houston may very well lose Cole this offseason, and it has a plethora of other guys to eventually pay.
There is literally nothing to worry about as far as the Yankees are concerned. They are clearly the class of the AL East, and they are probably the second-best team in baseball behind the Astros. They will be back next year.
Now, I will say that Cashman does need to address the starting pitching this offseason, because he will have an opportunity. Cole, Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg will all be free agents (assuming Strasburg opts out), and even if those three aces all sign back with their respective teams (which is a distinctive possibility), Cashman will have plenty of time to peruse the trade market to find another arm.
If you have to blame someone for the Yankees’ latest playoff loss, blame Judge for consistently failing to produce with men on base and for having a Little League-style brain freeze in Game 6. Blame Sanchez and Brett Gardner for striking out a million and one times. Heck, blame Aaron Boone for his strange lineup choices (why he had Gardner battling third in some games this postseason is beyond me).
But trying to crucify Cashman for not doing something that he didn’t even have the opportunity to do to begin with is just silly.