It’s hard to imagine feeling shaky going into a four-game series against the Red Sox when the Yankees are ten games up, but I think that’s exactly how the fans are feeling.
A little nervous.
A little doubtful.
A little bit of high blood pressure.
This is very poor timing for these Sox series. Well, when is it ever a good time to have a heart attack?
The last time the Yankees faced the Red Sox, fans were salivating over the upcoming trade deadline. This was the year Cashman would cash in his chips, find the ace in Trevor Bauer or Madison Bumgarner, and leave behind a questionable off-season of non-signings. Excitement and optimism filled the air, even after Minnesota scored a billion runs against the Yankees, because, rest assured, we won the series and, rest assured, Cashman might fix this. There was still time.
Then they went to Fenway Park, where the starting pitching staff capped off one of its worst weeks in the history of this storied franchise (and there’s a lot of history). Humiliated by a team they couldn’t seem to get out, the fans’ rest was anything but assured. Cashman MUST fix this. There was no time.
Time. That was about the only thing to pass through that Yankee clubhouse come 4PM on July 31st, not the new pitcher everyone thought it’d be, unless you count a twenty-year-old Alfredo Garcia in Single-A. Cashman seemed as though he was creating a pasta menu (Alfredo, Jonathan Loaisiga, aka Lasagna) rather than a pitching staff.
But perhaps now time is the only thing to pass in order to heal the broken hearts of Yankee fans. It’s been two days since the deadline and no newly-acquired pitcher is walking through those doors. Heartache still lingers, but there are still games to be played. Fans must move forward with a pitching staff that they tried to leave behind. Fans must put their trust in players deemed untrustworthy. Fans must see now that the only deals Cashman can make are the ones he’s already made.
The pitchers on this roster are capable of greatness, and now is the time for them to look themselves in the mirror – not just to peer at the new baseball grip that they’ve learned, but to peer into their souls. Now is the time to step up, show up, and silence the critics who called the trade deadline a disaster.
After losing three out of four to the Red Sox, a historically bad stretch of pitching, inactivity at the trade deadline, and the acquisition of an ace by the Astros, you can’t blame the critics for their “F” grade for Cashman and the Yankees. This stretch has not been a good one, even the Yankees will admit that — but because it’s all crumpled together, perhaps panic has ensued unnecessarily. Perhaps it looks worse than it is. The shoe is certainly falling, yes, but the Yankees still have a chance to catch it. They’ve had a great season of baseball, due in part to timely hitting and great offense along with facing bad teams, all without penciling in their fully-loaded lineup yet this season.
Maybe Cashman doesn’t have the best track record with signing pitchers, but he’s also been a victim of good signings turned bad. When the Yankees signed Tanaka after 2013, it was praised. When the Yankees traded for Sonny Gray two years ago, it was praised. When the Yankees traded for J.A. Happ mid-season last year, it was praised. And when the Yankees traded for James Paxton in the off-season, it was praised.
Sonny Gray was an all-star this year, as was Masahiro Tanaka. J.A. Happ was an all-star last year, and James Paxton has shown flashes of greatness throughout his early career in Seattle. Gray is now on the Cincinnati Reds, but the others are still here, and if they pitched to their abilities, Cashman, again, would be praised.
Masahiro Tanaka‘s career ERA is 3.75. This year, it’s 4.78. J.A. Happ’s career ERA is 3.98. This year, it’s 5.19. James Paxton’s career ERA is 3.59. This year, it’s 4.72. ERA is not always the most informative stat anymore with advanced metrics on the rise, but it does give us a glimpse at how these pitchers could and should be performing.
This doesn’t mean Cashman isn’t to blame, either. It’s hard to stand by the old Yankee fan cliche, In Cashman we trust, when we’ve seen guys like Patrick Corbin, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Dallas Keuchel go to other teams whose pants have pockets that their hands aren’t afraid to reach into. There have been some massive misses, and now the Yankees are paying the price — by not paying at all. This left Cashman with some urgency at the deadline, and other teams knew it.
We don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but what we can surmise from the information given is that other teams charge a “Yankee tax” – the Yankees face a higher asking price than most teams do. In order to find the ace to move the needle, the Yankees would have had to give up the farm and then some (Gleyber Torres), something Cashman was not willing to do, and for good reason. From the outside looking in, it seems as though Cashman and the Yanks were getting the shaft. Their hands were tied, and it wasn’t worth losing great prospects for a middle-of-the-pack starter. No Marcus Stroman, no Bauer, no Bumgarner? No dice. The Yankees shared that they weren’t really even close, and they had to move on.
And so we have to move on too.
There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and now the fans’ hopes are in these current starters, for better or worse, along with hopes of Luis Severino and Dellin Betances giving us something, anything, in September. The good news is that August and September are two of the better months statistically for many Yankee pitchers. The bad new is that the playoffs don’t begin until October.
And only one thing will tell if they’re ready for October.