When I was writing my coverage of the New York Yankees in Spring Training and April, I mentioned that this team looked like it could be an echo of the team that represented the Bronx Bombers in 1989.
(see for example my article “And on the Eighth day the Yankees did nothing” https://twilightdawning.com/2016/03/04/the-new-york-yankees-off-season-update-january-february-2016-and-on-the-eighth-day-the-yankees-did-nothing/ )
Little did I realise how much…
One of the defining factors of 1989 was not just the weak team that the Yankees entered the season with but the way they gave up before the trading deadline. This time it went down to the wire – in 1989, it was still June when the Yankees gave up Rickey Henderson (who was approaching free agency) for Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia. Now no disrespect to the likes of Mr Cadaret but none of those three were headed for the Hall of Fame as Henderson was. And Oakland who signed Rickey won the world series, ended up with the best record in baseball and were led by Henderson who had an outstanding 2nd half.
The Yankees, by contrast, finished 71-90 and would struggle for the next five years.
Now in 2016, the Yankees still had an outside chance of a wild card spot but this didn’t stop them giving up the likes of Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Mmm… The farm system is now well-stocked but prospects don’t always develop the way you had it planned and the Yankees gave up too much in the short term for the hope of the long term. Let’s see what was happening in the run up to that trading deadline…
|New York Yankees – Batting – Month – July|
The catcher’s slot continued to be filled by Brian McCann and Austin Romine but there were strong rumours that Gary Sanchez was to arrive in August. There were even whispers that McCann might be leaving with Atlanta interested in regaining him but his no-trade clause made that very tenuous. Both regulars improved on their June figures and McCann had 5 extra base hits and Romine 4.
Mark Teixeira showed a little improvement on his performance on the previous month. He shared first base duties with Rob Refsnyder, McCann and Romine. All played well defensively but no-one in this group is producing at the plate.
As well as time at right field and the 7 appearances at first base, Refsnyder saw a couple of outings at 2b, but this remains almost exclusively Starlin Castro‘s territory and indeed, whilst Castro hasn’t set the world alight this season, he has been a solid presence and his power hitting took an upswing this month with 8 doubles compared to only 2 in June.
Castro did play one game at shortstop but on the other days Didi Gregorius continues to be excellent in that role and perhaps more than the Yankees could ever expected when they chose him as Derek Jeter‘s successor. This month he led the team in extra base hits and whilst the Yankees have been looking to shore up their middle infield players within the farm system, there is no reason to think that Gregorius isn’t there for the longhaul.
Chase Headley had a nightmare April but has since seemed much more the player the Yankees thought they were signing. This doesn’t mean that they won’t still be having pause for thought about signing him right through 2018 but for the time being he will do. This month, he led the team in homers which for someone who didn’t hit an extra base hit for the first several weeks of the season must come as a considerable relief.
Ronald Torreyes only had 11 at-bats in June and he might have been expecting an improvement on that situation or his release papers, especially with Refsnyder taking more and more of the utility role. In reality, nothing really changed. He’s still around with only 13 at-bats in July and with most of his very little time in the field spent at third base, spotting Headley. His batting figures improved but on such a small sample, this really means nothing.
Carlos Beltran was the best outfielder offensively for the Yankees in the first half. He filled in for the drooping Alex Rodriguez who became more and more a benchwarmer. He wasn’t great in the field but he was perhaps better than the Yankees expected. And still this didn’t stop the Yankees trading him right at the deadline. Offensively, this was the death of the club for 2016 and a clear sign that the junior generation of Steinbrenners have a very different philosophy than their father. There was a real need for the Yankees to restock the farm system and make the team younger but by trading for virtually no-one who is major league ready than the New York team have rather put all their eggs in one basket. Also in trading players like Beltran and Miller to rival American League teams, they have simply made their task for the rest of the season harder.
Neither Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury had a great month in July and there will come a time when the team will decide it can’t carry two such similar players and bring in someone with more power – especially now Beltran is gone. Aaron Hicks gained more playing time as A-Rod contributed less and less and Beltran was needed more and more at Designated Hitter. Hicks, though, continues to struggle massively at the plate and it will be interesting whether he continues to be the first choice right fielder now that the trades have been made. Unfortunately, Refsnyder has not maintained the batting form he showed when he was first promoted and there is some head scratching to be done.
Alex Rodriguez appeared in only 9 games in July and his .135 batting average with 1 home run, served only to make others look good. Beltran took over the majority of the time but when you have someone as lightweight with the bat as Ronald Torreyes making three appearances at DH, you know how far back the Yankees have stripped this team.