Let’s start with just saying it; Brian Cashman’s not wrong. Winning the division and bowing out in the ALCS isn’t a bad season, especially if you believe the bit about losing to the team that eventually wins it all. There is a certain element of randomness to the postseason — in the last ten years, the best team in the regular season has won the World Series just three times, and you’re as likely to be bounced in the first round as one of the league’s top seeds (2022 Dodgers, 2017 Cleveland) as you are to take the pennant.
“We were four games short of the World Series”
Still though, I can understand the logic of assessing team success while also being deeply annoyed by the above quote. Yes, the 2022 Yankees were four games from the World Series, but what a chasm four games can be when you’re handled as easily as the Astros handled New York.
The latest interview Cashman gave, on the Score in Chicago, was full of things like this. Brian Cashman is very good at his job, has had a strong offseason bringing back Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo as well as signing Carlos Rodón and Tommy Kahnle. Brian Cashman has also left some holes, especially in left field and a potential question mark at shortstop, again. Brian Cashman knows more about baseball than I do, but I might contend that I understand communicating better than he does.
This has been a recurring issue with the Yankee higher ups. Lonn Trost said a very dumb thing about ticket providers six years ago and it’s still pretty much the only thing I know about him, Randy Levine’s vocal missteps have been well-documented over the years, and Cashman’s stepped in it as well. I don’t want to say that he was straight lying about Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s performance last season but he was giving the most generous appraisal of IKF’s year, just as he was giving the org — and by extension himself — the most generous appraisal of the total outcome of the 2022 campaign.
Yankee fans are spoiled, we have been spoiled by the history of the franchise. As fans we’ve also had to reconcile that spoiled behavior with the changes in baseball in the 21st century — not just watching the Red Sox win the World Series four times in the last 20 years, but the addition of playoff teams introducing more randomness to the postseason and a shift away from the early-2000s Steinbrenner-style of spending. We can’t act like this is the Yankees of the 40s and 50s anymore, because they’re not. They’re not even the Yankees of the 90s, that era is over.
Yet this adjustment would be easier if the guys in charge of the club understood how their comments would sound. No team, no fanbase, would be thrilled with being told “we were four games from the World Series!” even in seasons when an ALCS appearance was a surprise or a step forward in a rebuild. Even if you’re right, that’s just not how you communicate it.
“We had a really successful season, winning the division and being one of the final four teams in the postseason. We’re not going to look at that as a failure, especially a process failure, but at the same time we understand that we keep stumbling at the same spot every season, and we need to figure out why that keeps happening”.
There you go Brian, just say that next time. You’re still correct about the big picture success of the club without the outright contempt for your fanbase, it’s not that difficult.
In so many ways, Brian Cashman is the face of the New York Yankees, every bit as much as Aaron Judge and Derek Jeter before him. By the time all three find themselves in Monument Park, Cashman’s career will have outlived both by a good measure. He’s not wrong about the 2022 season and he understands the direction of this franchise. I just wish he was a little less arrogant about it.