Frustrated by the unimpressive results beamed through his high-definition television screen, Brian Cashman placed an urgent call to traveling security Ben Tuliebitz, requesting a plane ticket to meet his Yankees on the road. Once there, the veteran general manager addressed the club in his usual peppy monotone, reminding them of who they were supposed to be.
That was 2009, and Cashman’s midseason address at Atlanta’s Turner Field would come to be viewed by players as a turning point in the chase for a 27th World Series championship. As Cashman spoke to his foundering roster on Tuesday at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., his message was largely the same -- the players are better than this, and now they must prove it.
“I wanted to remind them, first and foremost, that I believe in them,” Cashman said. “I put this club together with my staff, and everybody in that room is here for a reason. They were all acquired to come together as a group, as a team, with high expectations. I’m reminding them of who they are.”
Cashman typically prefers to leave such actions to his manager and coaches, believing that the clubhouse should be their domain, speaking to players in group settings sparingly since 2009. Cashman said that he planned to address the team prior to Monday's 12-7 loss to the Blue Jays, but the windy conditions in the team’s tented right-field clubhouse made it difficult to hear.
“I thought it was a really good message,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Hopefully it’s one that continues to make us unified, understanding that better days are ahead for us because of the people we have in that room and the confidence we have in the people in that room. That's been a message we've tried to get out there quite a bit this last week.”
As they listened to the GM on Tuesday, the Yankees had lost 14 of 19 games, erasing the fruits of a torrid 16-6 start to the campaign while being pushed to the edge of postseason contention. Entering play Tuesday, the Yankees were the No. 8 seed in the AL, set to face the Rays in the Wild Card Series. New York lost eight of 10 meetings with Tampa Bay this season.
“We haven’t played well now for quite some time, and we all know we’re capable of significantly more, both individually and collectively,” Cashman said. “That responsibility starts with me and it filters all the way down through them and our staff.”
Except for outfielder Brett Gardner, the faces on the roster have completely changed from the June 2009 afternoon on which Cashman spoke in Atlanta. That meant the content was received by a fresh audience, like rookie right-hander Deivi García, who said that Cashman delivered “a positive message with a lot of encouraging words.”
“The challenge is to find a way to get through this storm, batten down the hatches and come out on the other end with clear skies and sunny days ahead,” Cashman said.
Despite the Yankees’ underwhelming recent performance, Cashman said that he believes it was correct to stand pat prior to the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline. Had the club completed trades for their top targets, they may have had to part with present contributors like outfielder Clint Frazier, infielder/outfielder Miguel Andújar or right-hander Clarke Schmidt.
“The price tags would have taken away some people that are positively impacting the team as we speak right now,” Cashman said. “It wasn’t just a singular, it was multiples. If I did those deals, I actually think we’d be worse off, despite how we’re playing right now.”
Tighten this up
Boone’s “savages in the box” rant was one of the most replayed moments of the 2019 season, as the Yankees manager lambasted rookie home-plate umpire Brennan Miller for an inconsistent strike zone in an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium. Boone was ejected from that July 18 contest, only to discover that his commentary had been picked up by the microphones near the dugouts.
With Miller behind the plate for Tuesday’s contest in Buffalo, N.Y., Boone revealed that he placed a phone call, apologizing to Miller the day after that ejection. Boone said that he thought it was a good conversation.
“I never wanted to disparage anyone,” Boone said. “Those things usually aren’t personal for me. It was a little bit of a product of a hot mic that made it a big deal. I know how you can construe it as talking down (to the umpire), and I just wanted to be clear that I wasn’t doing that and that I respected him.”
Back in action
Gary Sánchez returned to the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday, having been benched for two games following an 0-for-4, four-strikeout performance on Saturday in Baltimore. Sánchez said that he used the time to focus on staying inside the ball with his swing and to be more ready in an "attack" position.
“One of the things that I've been working on is staying more middle on the ball, and trying to hit the ball the other way,” Sánchez said through a translator. “It’s about putting the ball in play. I’m not using it as excuse for the tough stretch I’ve been going through. I have to find a way to be consistent at the plate.”
This date in Yankees history
Sept. 8, 1940: Joe Gordon hit for the cycle in a 9-4 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Gordon reached base in all six trips to home plate, adding two walks to a 4-for-4 day. It was the 10th cycle in franchise history.