Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman spoke to the media Tuesday ahead of a crucial offseason for the Yankees. Usually, these press conferences are an opportunity to set priorities and give a general statement on where the team is going in the future. However, Steinbrenner and Cashman only exposed themselves and how the Bronx Bombers have fallen behind the modern age of baseball.
It’s no secret that baseball is becoming more analytics-driven by the day. It’s the way small-market teams can gain an edge on big-market clubs. Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs have invested in their analytics department to gain a competitive advantage over opponents. Cashman and the Yankees have gone a different direction,
“We have the smallest analytics department in the AL East,” he said.
In a division where both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are some of the most analytically driven teams in baseball and saw more success than the Yankees this year, this is a surprising statement from Cashman. The Orioles were 29th out of 30 in terms of payroll this year while the Rays were 27th.
How do these teams get the edge on big market teams with nearly three times their payroll? The analytics department.
The statement from Cashman, seemingly a brag, is a much greater sign that the Yankees have fallen behind the modern age of baseball and refuse to adapt.
“We got the largest pro scouting department in all of baseball,” he began. ” Is that a shocker to you guys?”
Given this statement, the question then becomes why haven’t the Yankees been able to translate minor league talent to the major league roster?
Players like Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Oswald Peraza were expected to be key contributors to the Bronx Bombers this year. Instead, they fell flat and were a big reason why the Yankees underachieved this year. With just the eye test of the scouts and not relying on the analytics department as Cashman said, the Yankees are not maximizing the potential of their young stars.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Bronx Bombers are teetering on the edge of insanity. In the past couple seasons, the Yankees have sold low on struggling players who were supposed to be the next World Series piece.
“Since Joey Gallo’s left us, who’s picked him up? Two playoff teams,” he said. “Sonny Gray, he’s currently in the competition for a Cy Young Award.”
If elite teams are interested in Gallo and Gray has become a Cy Young candidate, why are the Yankees not looking internally as to how they could have better maximized their talent?
This is where analytics can play a key role in seeing where a player struggles, especially pitchers. The Dodgers have one of the top analytics departments in the sport that has served as a place where broken pitchers go to get fixed. They’re a perfect example as to why it does not have to be either/or for the Yankees, but instead it should be the large payroll utilizing analytics to find how they can best maximize their talent.
“I think it’s a stupid discussion we’re having,” Cashman said. “All that matters from my end to you is that I think our player development system does a great job… the proof will be in the pudding.”
Given how the common struggle between the Yankees prospects this year was at the plate, it is inconceivable as to why there would not be an analysis of the player development system to see where it can be improved. Instead of acknowledging there could be a problem with the system itself, Cashman disregards the statement entirely and backs the system currently in place.
While the Yankees say they are committed to winning in the future, “we had a winning record — that’s not an accomplishment, that’s a requirement, as far as I’m concerned,” said Steinbrenner, they are not taking the necessary steps. Instead of a fluid system that is constantly adjusting, the Yankees are stuck in the approach they have taken for decades which is to utilize their large payroll and bring in big names.
There is certainly still a place for that in MLB given how the Texas Rangers won the World Series this year. However, as other teams have gained the same spending power as the Yankees, the Bronx Bombers must find their new edge. Instead, they are stuck in purgatory with a roster that has championship aspirations yet none of the resources to get there. In order to be successful, a large payroll must be paired with a sharp and dynamic analytics department that can maximize talent.
“I don’t like losing. I don’t like not making the playoffs,” Cashman said. “Our fans deserve better, our owner deserves better. So we’re back at it trying to figure it out.”
If the Yankees truly believe their fans deserve better, it’s time for them to take the proper steps in building a contender and changing their approach that has not yielded a World Series in over a decade.