NEW YORK — It was a scene traditionally reserved for October. Brian Cashman sat at one end of the news conference room at Yankee Stadium. On the other end were more than a dozen reporters, TV cameras and photographers. It’s become known by media members as the “postmortem” — a time when the general manager of the New York Yankees dissects and examines the ups and downs of the season and the priorities of the upcoming offseason.
But despite a full month of regular-season baseball still to be played in the Bronx, Cashman spent 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon fielding questions about a season gone awry. Sure, the Yankees would go on later that night to snap a nine-game losing streak with a 9-1 win over the Washington Nationals. But that wouldn’t change much.
“It’s been a disaster this season,” Cashman said. “Definitely shocked.”
“It’s been a disaster, this season. It’s definitely a shock. Certainly, I don’t think anybody on our side of the fence, from our player group, from our coaches, our manager, or even outside the organization, would’ve predicted this.”
Brian Cashman on the Yankees’ losing streak: pic.twitter.com/Wgl5noTY4p
— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) August 23, 2023
The 61-65 Yankees are still in last place in the American League East and 9 1/2 games out of the third and final wild-card spot.
For the first time since 2016, they won’t make the playoffs. Though they’re not mathematically eliminated, it would take a Hollywood comeback for manager Aaron Boone’s squad to even put itself within striking distance.
Brian Cashman responds to angry fans, questions of job security
And the Yankees are in danger of becoming the first team of Cashman’s 25-year tenure as GM to finish below .500. A Yankees team hasn’t had a losing record since 1992.
Clad in a light blue polo shirt and glasses, Cashman faced questions about fans angry with him, his job security, Boone’s future, star prospect Jasson Dominguez and more. Here are our biggest takeaways.
The heat is on Hal Steinbrenner
Cashman, who received a four-year contract extension in the winter, cited his “pretty good track record” when asked why he should be counted on to turn around a Yankees team that so badly underperformed this season and projects to have serious questions surrounding next year’s roster, too. Add to that he’s been in the organization since the mid-1980s and enjoys a close relationship with owner Hal Steinbrenner, and there’s little chance Cashman’s job will be in immediate jeopardy.
Still, in a radio appearance in late June, Steinbrenner said he would be asking “tough questions” if the Yankees foundered the rest of the season. They have, and now it’s up to Steinbrenner to put his vast amounts of money where his mouth is. If Cashman won’t be fired, how will Steinbrenner evaluate Cashman and will he demand that the longtime executive make significant changes? At the trade deadline, the Yankees’ front office operated under the guidance that it wasn’t expected to add significant payroll or trade upper-level prospects for upgrades, considering the state of the team. Considering the Yankees operated with the second-largest payroll in MLB this season, will Steinbrenner spend more to make up for the roster’s deficiencies or will he tell Cashman that it’s on him to figure it out with the money he’s already spent?
“You’re going to look at every aspect of the operation because that’s what you have to do under these circumstances,” Cashman said, “and then that takes us where it takes us.”
But that starts with Steinbrenner, who will have to set a new tone for what he’s willing to accept.
No assurances for Aaron Boone
Asked whether Boone’s job status would be something he has to consider in the offseason, Cashman didn’t say the 50-year-old manager’s job was safe. Boone still has another year on his contract, which also includes a team option. Instead, Cashman deflected.
“I think we’re all going to be evaluated,” Cashman said. “Including myself.”
Rather than evaluating Boone’s performance this season, Cashman said that he’s “doing everything he possibly can do, just like all of us.” That’s a far cry from guaranteeing someone’s occupational security. Cashman also noted how when Boone called a team meeting Friday following a loss to the Boston Red Sox, “that didn’t help.” Cashman finished by saying Boone has been “pulling all his levers.” It was a chance to throw his weight behind Boone. He didn’t.
‘The numbers haven’t changed’
Cashman acknowledged the Yankees offense hasn’t gotten better under new hitting coach Sean Casey despite the firing of ex-hitting coach Dillon Lawson. When the Yankees dumped Lawson, they were 19th in runs scored at 400 and their .711 OPS was 21st. Since then? The Yankees are 23rd in runs scored with 119 and their OPS is .681 — also 23rd.
Still, Cashman justified the move, saying he believes Casey is “connecting” with hitters in a way that Lawson wasn’t.
Casey is “connecting with these guys,” Cashman said. “Dillon did everything he could to try to connect and obviously drive through the success on the offense, and Sean Casey is doing the same. The only difference is, I think there is some connection going on with Sean, and hopefully we can get some better results.”
So far, the connections haven’t paid off.
Don’t expect to see Jasson Dominguez
No shocker here, but Cashman talked around whether the team could promote outfield prospect Jasson Dominguez to the majors before the end of the season. The Yankees moved Dominguez, nicknamed “The Martian,” to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday after about a month of bashing pitching for Double-A Somerset. But Dominguez is just 20 years old, and Cashman didn’t sound ready to rush the switch hitter who received a franchise-record $5.1 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.
“I can’t give you (an answer) one way or the other, whether that’s realistic or not,” Cashman said. “But he’s obviously doing what he’s doing, and pushing his way closer to the big leagues is a good thing. And he’s doing it at a very young age. So we’re excited about that.”
“It’s definitely an energy that was infectious to this team.”
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 23, 2023
The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked Dominguez as the No. 27 prospect in the game in his midseason update.
Not giving up yet?
Cashman said the Yankees’ promotions of prospects Everson Pereira, an outfielder, and Oswald Peraza, an infielder, on Tuesday weren’t indications that they were finished trying to win this season and simply looking ahead to 2024.
“I think you can develop and win at the same time,” Cashman said. “We’re trying to do both. I would say that Pereira and Peraza both have earned the right to come up and try their wares based in conjunction with the failure that’s going on up here. It may help us, it may not, but we’re going to find out.”
Law ranked Pereira as the Yankees’ fourth-best prospect going into the season and at No. 51 in the game in his midseason update. Law had Peraza as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect going into the season.
Lots of questions
Cashman said the Yankees would look at several areas to figure out what went wrong. He mentioned the “injury bucket” — the Yankees have used 23 IL stints, sixth most in the majors. He also cited the “unexpected poor performance bucket,” which likely includes a mix of DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, Harrison Bader, Luis Severino and others. And then Cashman said the Yankees would look at “everything else, whether it’s evaluations, assessments, developments, analytics, performance science, whatever.”
It might be wise for the Yankees to start their own postmortem early before this year’s problems carry into 2024.
(Photo: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)