Brian Cashman sat in the chair where Aaron Boone’s California cool evaporated some 48 hours earlier, the Yankees manager’s frustration boiling over as he smacked his right palm on the table, crying out for his club to take advantage of the opportunities he saw “right in front of us.”
Cashman watched that press conference and the dozens preceding it over the past few weeks, a window into the daily temperature of a club that once seemed primed to challenge the franchise record of 118 wins. The Yankees will not get there; even 100 victories could be a tough ask now. Yet the general manager said his faith in Boone and the roster remains strong, sensing they can steer out of this skid.
“I certainly acknowledge that this has been a tough stretch, and we certainly take that seriously, but this group has got my belief,” Cashman said. “I believe strongly in them. I think they’re still capable of everything we ever hoped and dreamed. We have to weather the storm.”
The Yankees’ division lead stood at 15 1/2 games on July 8, but the club has now lost six consecutive series, most recently dropping three of four to the visiting Blue Jays as an appetizer for this week’s Subway Series. Entering play Monday, the Bombers had not won successive games in August; they’ve done so once since the All-Star break (three straight victories over the Royals in late July).
Despite the slide, Cashman said he believes Boone has “done a great job” with this club overall. New York entered play Monday with a 74-48 record, eight games up in the American League East.
“He manages extremely well,” Cashman said. “I think he manages his players extremely well. I think he manages [media] engagement on a daily basis pre- and postgame, which is extremely difficult. You have to be a unique person to handle that type of interaction over time and keep your calm on a consistent basis. He’s even-keeled, and that’s important for our players to see that.”
While Aaron Judge remains on an MVP track, injuries have hit the Yankees hard over the last several weeks, following a first half that Cashman described as “probably the best run of non-injuries that I’ve ever experienced.”
The recent losses of pitchers Miguel Castro, Scott Effross, Clay Holmes and Michael King have taxed the club’s bullpen, while the lineup has felt thin without outfielder/DH Giancarlo Stanton, who may return as soon as Thursday at Oakland. Infielders DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo have also missed some time of late.
“Then you throw on top of that some slumps that happened at the same time,” Cashman said. “Then you’ve got Judge and it allows opposing pitchers to pitch more carefully to him because the lineup’s not as lengthy as it had been. It’s a little bit of all that. We know what we are and what we’re capable of.
“We can produce a lot of runs when everything’s in alignment. Right now, it got out of alignment. We’re looking forward to getting that back online sooner rather than later, but it’s easier said than done. This is a very difficult game to play, and it’s even harder when you’re not performing up to your standards.”
Cashman said he would not second-guess the Yankees’ activity before the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. New York acquired pitchers Frankie Montas, Lou Trivino and Effross, plus outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Harrison Bader. Montas has pitched to a 9.00 ERA through three starts as a Yankee, while Jordan Montgomery (traded for the injured Bader) is 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA for the Cardinals.
“Montas, we think highly of, but we haven’t been able to see that just yet,” Cashman said. “I think we have the personnel here to get him back online.”
During Sunday’s ceremonies to retire Paul O’Neill’s uniform No. 21, boos rained down from the Yankee Stadium crowd when O’Neill mentioned Cashman in his remarks. The Yanks’ GM since 1998, Cashman said criticism comes with the territory. He understands that the quickest solution is finding a way to return to winning baseball.
“The bouquets come your way when things are flying high, and you get the slings and arrows when things aren’t going well,” Cashman said. “That’s just the nature of the beast. There is no in-between. … It’s our job to find a way to be flying high and make sure the product out there is something that everybody is excited about.”