The New York Yankees came into the season with the expectation that is set before them every year, to win a world series. Yet, a mountain of injuries to the roster should have put them in trouble. Losing the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorious can hurt your lineup quite a bit. The Yankees have not only exceeded the new expectations after all of the injuries, but they are sitting on top of the AL East division. The two biggest reasons for that are two people, Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman.
At the end of the last season it took Yankee fans (myself included) a lot to remind ourselves that Aaron Boone was just a first-year manager. Watching another first-year manager on the rival Red Sox seemingly have every move he made turn to gold was a driving force behind fans frustration as well. Yet, the Yankees ownership and front office said to remain patient. They had confidence in Boone being able to adapt and learn from his mistakes. The Yankees skipper has done that and so much more.
Boone’s biggest fault last year was bullpen management. This could be leaving starters in too long or not bringing in the right guy in the right situation. Boone has more weapons this year than he did last which helps but even without that, Boone has made the right call on when to leave guys in and when to pull them. He’s learned from his mistakes and isn’t afraid to go to Adam Ottavino or Tommy Kahnle when he’s in trouble. Both have responded with each having sub 2 ERA’s and getting big outs in tight spots. Yet, he’s also turned to Luis Cessa in tight spots and he’s delivered too. Last year going to Cessa would be seen as risky and foolish. Now Boone brings in anybody out of the pen and fans can have confidence they’ll get the job done.
The Yankees manager has also found a way to balance the lineup and offense while getting players rest. Luke Voit has been the main contributor to this Yankees team and he has come up big throughout the year while also seeing rest. The rise of Urshela has given DJ LeMahieu needed off time and both are high contact hitter who have a knack for coming through with runners in scoring position. Balancing time between Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier hasn’t been easy with both streaking at different times yet he’s been able to do so. The improvements Boone has made as a manager should put him in the forefront of the conversation for Manager of the Year.
The other person is Brian Cashman. The steady hand behind the Yankees for the last 20 years is once again proving to the baseball world why he is one of the greatest general managers of all time. In the off-season, Cashman cleared through the noise and made the moves he wanted to make. The biggest being acquire James Paxton and sign Adam Ottavino. The pressure to sign both Harper and Machado was being frequently discussed on MLB Network, the Michael Kay show, and from the fans on twitter. Cashman never budged, made offers to Machado and Patrick Corbin that worked best for the team. He quietly built depth and relied on his farm system that he had built.
His faith in the farm system has worked well for the Yankees. Domingo German has emerged as one of the best starters in the AL right now and could see an all-star bid. Thairo Estrada has done well in his utility role off the bench with solid offensive work and defensive work as well. Clint Frazier has double digit home runs and was slugging over .600 for a few weeks. Cashman knew what they had, and he knew that he had the depth to survive anything that came their way. He showed restraint and knew exactly what he was looking for and it worked out. Billy Beane in a recent piece in the Athletic described dealing with Cashman as a “pain in the ass” because he operates with a small market mentality and finds value in players where others don’t look.
Guys like Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez, Domingo German, Tommy Kahnle, and Aroldis Chapman have been major contributors. But without the moves both Boone and Cashman have made. The Yankees aren’t sitting at the top of the division.