The Yankees own a streak of 30 straight winning seasons since 1993. In the first year of their streak, they finished with a .279 batting average, and it began a run of 20 straight seasons where the yearly average was at least .260.
Since 2012, the Yankees have finished a season with averages under .250 seven times and are 71 games away from finishing under that clip for the fourth straight season.
Which is why after an uneven first half that over the last month was dominated by Aaron Judge’s torn ligament in his right big toe and the lack of production from the remaining names with track records ended Sunday, the Yankees did something more associated with the bombastic 1980s by firing hitting coach Dillon Lawson after 253 regular-season games and nine postseason games.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had consistently high levels of production [offensively],” Cashman said. “We’re not at that level right now we’re normally at. A lot of categories we’re pretty dominant in; this year’s been a completely different story. (It hasn’t been) that Yankee DNA we’re used to seeing.”
Last year the Yankees batted .241 after hitting .237 in the tedious 2021 season and .247 in the pandemic season. They fired Lawson with a .231 average, which currently is the fourth-worst single season average in team history. The three worst marks are .214 1968, .225 in 1967 and .229 in 1914 when those teams finished with 83, 72 and 70 wins respectively.
“I don’t make these decisions lightly,” Cashman said. “I’ve never not been willing to make a decision like this but with careful consideration, I decided as we move forward, we have a sprint here in the second half, I felt like this was necessary.
“Our offense has struggled mightily, more so than I can recall. The team that we have, in fairness to Dillon, we have had some injuries without a doubt but collectively we really have struggled, and we’re best served kind of changing of things up a little bit as we move into the second half.”
Cashman is right when he says he does not take personnel decisions lightly. He was the assistant general manager to Gene Michael on July 13, 1995 when the Yankees made their last in-season coaching change by replacing pitching coach Billy Connors with Nardi Contreras and he was promoted to farm director a month after Champ Summers was fired along with manager Bucky Dent, marking the Yankees last in-season managerial change and last in-season hitting coach change.
Whoever comes in will be tasked with getting Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo to live up to their track records and prevent DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson from seeing their batting averages fade further into oblivion.
Even with a respectable 11 RBIs over his past 10 games and a 447-foot homer off the third deck, Stanton is hitting .204 after hitting .211 last season while being derailed by two IL stints that limited him to 110 games.
Rizzo is down to .257 with no homers since May 20 and five extra-base hits since tweaking his neck on a pick off play with Fernando Tatis Jr. on May 28.
LeMahieu is hitting .220 and headed into the break with an average under .230 for the 12th straight day and has not been above .270 since May 16. Donaldson is hitting .152 with the oddity of having 10 of his 15 hits being home runs.
The quartet owns a combined 14 All-Star appearances and accounts for a combined $85 million on the payroll and are among the reasons for the Yankees scoring 117 runs since Judge was hurt.
Those are drastic numbers, and it seems like two drastically bad performances clinched it for Cashman, who said he decided on Saturday as the Yankees were enjoying Stanton’s two homers. Those came after the Yankees were hammered 14-1 Thursday to the exciting Orioles and held to two singles in a 3-0 loss to the Cubs.
“I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people watching our games play out here, especially in the more recent months that I definitely started to feel like I might be in position for the first time,” Cashman said.
Among the things Cashman watched was an offense hitting .218 since Judge crashed into the right field fence at Dodger Stadium. During that span, the Yankees scored two runs or fewer 12 times, putting their season total at 30.
“I wanted to give things a chance to work its way through, but I feel honestly at this point, it’s not going to improve — at least as it sits,” Cashman said. “It doesn’t mean the offense couldn’t have gotten better organically, but I feel like we’ll be better served with a new messenger.”
Sometimes drastically bad numbers prompt change in the middle of the season and by Saturday, Cashman had seen enough with the lack of results with the eighth hitting coach in his tenure and decided he could not wait any longer.
“I came up in an organization that made changes in-season constantly. It’s not something I’ve gravitated to in my tenure as general manager,” Cashman said. “But at the same time, when you feel like you have to do that, then you do it and you face it, full-bore.”