The Yankees’ 2018 season came to an end Tuesday night, much sooner than we had hoped. After venting about the ALDS yesterday, it’s time to turn our attention to the last Brian Cashman approval poll of the year. These usually run at the beginning of the month to poll PSA readers on the previous month. However, it seemed pointless to run one after September concluded without knowing how far the team would get into the playoffs. Not very far at all, regrettably.
The Yankees GM started the year with a boom, with an approval rating of 95% in the dead of the offseason. Fans mostly had good things to say about Cashman from January all the way to June. He lost some support after the trade deadline, and his approval rating dropped further in August. It’s no coincidence that the line graph resembles the Yankees’ odds of winning the division.
A couple of days ago, I wrote that the postseason illuminated the Yankees’ strengths and weaknesses. The bullpen was solid throughout, and the Bombers powered their way to victory in both the Wild Card Game and their lone win in the Division Series. However, they also struggled with the same things that brought them down all season long: mediocre starting pitching and an inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Those weaknesses (and maybe some managerial decisions) led to their downfall. Now did Cashman fail to set the team up for success, or did he do the best with what he had?
It makes sense to begin with starting pitching. It feels like this is always at the top of Cashman’s to-do list, but he hasn’t come through with a solid addition to the rotation in a long time. His only serious attempt to land a starter over the offseason (that we’re aware of) was Gerrit Cole. Cash wouldn’t give up the prospects that the Pirates wanted, and the Astros landed him instead.
In Cashman’s defense, there weren’t many options at the time. There was no way to predict that Jordan Montgomery would go down with Tommy John surgery, or that Sonny Gray would be completely ineffective. Their replacements (Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, etc.) didn’t fare much better. Sadly, there weren’t many external options available as the trade deadline approached, either. There weren’t any aces to be had, so the GM traded for J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn. The former was great, and the latter was okay. In the end, the Yankees felt that their best option was to start Happ in Game One opposite of perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale. It didn’t work out for them.
On the one hand, the rotation desperately needed help, and Cashman sought what was available. On the other hand, those improvements weren’t enough. Beyond Happ, both Luis Severino and CC Sabathia had poor outings versus the Red Sox. It’s tough to fault Cashman for not getting an ace when there weren’t any out there, though. Let’s also not forget that he was hamstrung by Hal Steinbrenner’s big plan to get under the luxury tax threshold. Ultimately, replacing Happ or Sabathia with a legitimate ace might not even have made a difference in the series.
As for the offense, hits were hard to come by for the entire lineup. Aaron Judge carried the team on his back, and Gary Sanchez had two big bombs in Game Two. Other than chasing David Price out of the game early, the offense was awful against the other Red Sox starters. The only times they looked awake in Games One and Four were when the Boston bullpen took over. The first game was perfectly winnable, too, if not for the team’s inability to hit with the bases loaded.
A lot of Yankees fans are upset with Giancarlo Stanton. He absolutely had some terrible at-bats during this series. You can’t argue that the Stanton trade didn’t improve the overall lineup, though. I know he didn’t put together another MVP-caliber season like he did in 2017, but he did carry the offense while Judge was injured, and he did so while nursing a hamstring injury. He was off his game in the ALDS, but does that mean the trade was bad or that Cashman should have focused his attention elsewhere last offseason?
Finally, it’s impossible to get through a recap of Cashman’s season without discussing Aaron Boone. The rookie manager led this team to 100 wins. At the time, it seemed like a strange decision to hire the one guy with zero experience. Cashman is the one who gets paid the big bucks, though, so most of us accepted that the GM knew best.
Whether you believe that Boone’s decisions in Game Three and Game Four cost the team either of those games, I think most of us agree that it was a bit of a head-scratcher that he didn’t have a quicker hook. At least in Tuesday’s do-or-die game. Boone later explained that they wanted Sabathia to get through the order twice, as though they absolutely weren’t going to deviate from that game plan no matter what actually transpired on the field. It’s one thing to have a game plan, but it strikes me as odd not to be open to changing that plan as the events unfold.
With that said, there’s almost no chance that the Yankees part ways with Boone. If you’re upset with the decisions he made, you’ll have to hope that he learns from them next year. Even if the team had somehow made it out of the ALDS alive, they weren’t long for the postseason with the rotation pitching like that and the offense struggling to hit.
We’ll start the approval poll back up again in January. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this question: Do you approve of the job that Cashman did as the Yankees GM this season? Vote in the poll below, and be sure to share your answer in the comment section.
Do you approve of Brian Cashman’s quality of work?
This poll is closed