The 57th installment of Jake Schoeneberger’s opinions on the Yankees
Now that the Yankees have held their annual “Let’s Disappoint Our Fans” showcase in the ALCS, it’s time for Jacob Schoeneberger to look back on the season and figure out how they can actually win the big one in 2023. Big congrats to the ‘Stros and Phils for getting to what should be a thoroughly entertaining Fall Classic, the baseball world will definitely enjoy this fun matchup.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts in random order on the Yankees’ 2022 season and what comes next from Jacob Schoeneberger:
On Aaron Boone
As a fan, I first want to say I like Aaron Boone. He’s been around the game of baseball all his life, seems like a great all-around guy, and was a great player who had an all-time classic Yankee moment with his walk-off HR in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. He very much deserves to be on a baseball field coaching. The question is in what capacity at this point?
Jacob Schoeneberger doesn’t think he should keep his job as manager of the Yanks, for several reasons. When Cashman fired Girardi after he took a young team to Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, a year before they were scheduled to arrive as a real title threat, he claimed it was because Girardi was old-school and didn’t have the makeup to connect with the young players. I found that claim odd since he motivated them all the way to Game 7, but I went along with it. I think it had a lot more to do with how Girardi didn’t like one player in particular, Gary Sanchez, and how the organization insisted for years that Gary was the catcher to lead us to multiple championships. Yeah, we all saw how that turned out. (Though, in fairness, Girardi didn’t work out in Philly either and Rob Thomson came in and guided them to the Series. Huge congrats to Thomson, the guy is a class act and so deserves this.)
But the decision was made and in came Boone. Unfortunately, I don’t see how Boone in 5 years as the manager has connected with the players any better than Girardi had previously. The Yanks haven’t won 3 games of an ALCS since. The closest Boone came was bowing out in Game 6 of the ALCS in 2019. Close but no cigar. So if you fired a guy after making Game 7 of the ALCS, and you haven’t even gotten as close to a World Series as a 7th game of the ALCS since, you can’t call that move a success. And I would argue that Boone has had better rosters than Girardi had in his last few years as manager. Plus, Girardi did prove he could take a team all the way, so he had that going for him.
My second reason for thinking it’s time to move on from Boone is that dismal mid-summer collapse we all witnessed this year. After having by far the best record in baseball up to the All-Star Break, the team well and truly collapsed and played absolutely terrible baseball after. It was no exaggeration to say their performance for 6 full weeks was among the worst in baseball.
They had built a big enough lead in the division to still hold onto it, but it got hairy for a while there and Boone seemed to have no answers. He was snapping at reporters, clearly frustrated and grasping at straws to motivate his team. He had no idea why they were floundering, and it was a really bad look. Sure, there were a few injuries, but even if they had played .500 ball everything would have been fine. But they had an absolutely awful, unforgivable stretch. They finished with 99 wins, but it could have been so much better. And they had no real momentum heading into the playoffs.
They barely beat the upstart Guardians in the ALDS. I don’t want to take anything away from that Cleveland team, they played good, tough baseball. But Boone didn’t exactly have his team fired up and gunning in that series. It took everything they had just to squeak by. And then they were tired, defeated, and just plain weak when it came time for the ALCS. That sweep was thoroughly embarrassing.
I won’t criticize his on-field decisions. I know a lot of people do, but to me it’s more about the overall inability to inspire the team. He seemed to resort to arguing balls and strikes and constantly bickering and jawing at the umps. If that’s the best you’ve got to motivate your team it wears thin after a while. And that look definitely wore thin for me.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: A manager is more than just an on-field decision-maker; he’s the glue that holds the team together. It just seemed to me that there was no glue holding this team together way too often the second half of this season. I think it’s time to move on from Boone.
On Brian Cashman
To be perfectly clear, I think it’s time for the Yanks to move on from Brian Cashman as well. But I don’t think it will happen because of the lingering Judge negotiations and that decision about Boone. I think Hal will keep Cashman, but I wish the team could move on.
I don’t want to knock Cashman’s achievements, I really don’t. But I do think his accomplishments need to be considered in a realistic and truthful light. He was technically GM for the 98, 99, and 2000 championships. But let’s be real here, that team was already built, and he inherited it. Those championships were about just maintaining a juggernaut more than building one. And he didn’t exactly hold it together all that well in the early 2000’s. It might not be fun to think about, but remember all those heartbreaks and near-misses? Some of those could have been avoided with a few key decisions (letting Pettitte walk to Houston among them).
To his credit, he then built a champion in 2009 when he went out and got the big free agents that could make it happen. Since then he hasn’t really pulled the trigger on getting the guys that can take us all the way, and we’ve watched how Houston, Boston, and LA have created champions while the Yanks have just been also-rans.
For years, I’ve wondered how much of this mediocrity was fueled by Hal’s unwillingness to take those next steps. It seems to me that Hal is happy building a profitable team that can have a winning season but not necessarily win the title. And Cashman does a solid job of maintaining that profitability and delivering a winning season every time. Just enough to keep the fans engaged without breaking the bank. That fees like Hal’s motivation to me.
So knowing that, it’s probable he’ll keep Cashman as his GM. But year after year we see it’s the little decisions that haunt this team. Always willing to get so close but not get the guy that will take us over the hump. The Yankees’ streak of winning seasons is to be applauded, but the fans are tiring of all the near misses.
In fact, we’re starting to close in on some real milestones for this organization. It’s now been 13 years since the Yanks won a title. We know about their storied history and all, but the longest droughts they’ve endured have been the 14 years between 1962 and 1976, and the 17 years between 1978 and 1996. Make no mistake, these 13 years mean a lot to Yankee fans. Yes, we’re spoiled, that’s for sure. But baseball is a sport that is uneven in its fairness and a team that spends as much as the Yankees do will have fans that expect to win a title at least once a decade. That’s the nature of the beast here.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Your GM needs to have his finger on the pulse of the entire organization, top to bottom, and the league in general. Has this league passed Cashman by? Have the analytics he’s invested so much in paid off for him? Do the fans truly believe there isn’t a vast chasm of difference in the quality of this team vs. the Astros?
I don’t believe Cashman will be replaced, but I do think it’s time. Hopefully he can successfully navigate negotiations with one guy in particular.
On Aaron Judge
The Yankees would have been a lousy team in 2022 without Aaron Judge. The guy had an absolutely stellar year. He was the heart and soul of the franchise, and he fueled their success. He bet big on himself and he delivered big. Now it’s time for his payday.
He absolutely will be the highest paid player in the league in 2023. The only questions that remain are how long will his contract be and where will he sign? I think Hal will keep Cashman specifically for this negotiation. I doubt he really wants to bring a new GM in to handle this monumental deal.
And I think Cashman will essentially say to Judge go get your best offer and we’ll beat it. That was the old George Steinbrenner way. So it really should come down to where Judge wants to be. Does he want to be a career Yankee and get all the fanfare and history that surrounds that? Does he want to be the next Yankee captain and join that long list? Does he want to win a title in NY and become an immortal part of the franchise history? Does he want his own banner hanging in the Hall of Legends?
These things mean a lot to some guys and to others they really don’t. He’s already accomplished enough with the franchise to be considered a great, but the fans won’t forgive him walking out now. His record-breaking accomplishment will be sullied in the eyes of the fans, and his inability to bring home a crown will as well. Yankee fans are willing to forgive lifers like Mattingly for not getting a title, but you can’t walk and get the same regard. I mean, Judge carried the team to the playoffs, and for that he deserves a great deal of respect. But take a look at what Harper has done in these playoffs and you realize that performing in the postseason is how you truly become a legend.
This team needs Aaron Judge. They need a leader, they need a captain, they need what he brings to the table. They would have a lot of work to do to create a winner if he’s not in pinstripes next year.
But if he really does want to go home and play for his favorite team growing up you have to respect that. He grew up in the Bay Area and was a Giants fan. I’m sure the Giants will put up a huge offer for him. I expect LA will also because they’re in Cali and maybe they can lure him west. He’ll probably get several other offers as well. But I truly believe the Yanks will trump all other offers from a money standpoint to keep him. I think they have to.
The choice is really up to Judge where he wants to be. I sincerely hope the antics of the clowns who booed him don’t sway his decision. He really is beloved in NY and the fans want nothing more than to see him here for his entire career, lifting a few championship trophies in the process.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Great players don’t come around often, you have to fight to keep them and appreciate them when you have them. The Yankees need to give Aaron Judge unprecedented love. How often does a guy come within a couple hundredths of average points of winning a Triple Crown for your franchise? Do whatever it takes to keep him a Yankee. The fans are literally begging you.
About the Rest of the Team
What does it matter? You first have to get Judge then you can start considering other areas to improve. Whether you get Judge or not completely influences all other team decisions to be made.
The Jake Schoeneberger Random Yankees Thought of the Day
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Loving a baseball team is a year-long affair. I’m looking forward to what should be a fun Fall Classic, but once it’s over my thoughts will immediately go to the Yankees and what will transpire. Jacob Schoeneberger hopes Judge lands quickly and hopes it’s in pinstripes. Then we’ll think about what else can be done to become the last team standing next year.