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In last place in the AL East, Yankees GM Brian Cashman confident team will turn it around

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge reacts after striking out

Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 2021. Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Jason Szenes

Better days are ahead.

Boiled down to its essence, that was the campaign bumper sticker message to take from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s nearly 45-minute Zoom news conference Monday as he addressed his team’s 5-10 start to the 2021 season.

"We know we’re better than this," he said. "We are going to get it corrected."

He later added: "It’s 15 games. It’s 15 games I’d like to forget.’’

The start is dreadful even when compared with some other Yankees teams of the past 20-plus years that have kicked things off unimpressively before rebounding to win their usual 90-plus games. The most recent examples are 2019, when the Yankees began 6-9 and finished 103-59, and 2018, Aaron Boone’s first season, when they were 9-9 before going 100-62.

The Yankees, off on Monday before starting a two-game series against Atlanta on Tuesday night, have been outscored 30-14 during their current five-game skid. That includes a three-game sweep by the Rays this past weekend in which they scored seven runs and had 11 hits.

"Right now, we would be a team that an opponent would want to play because we’re not firing on all cylinders," Cashman said. "Our strengths are not showing themselves right now. Typically, it’s a very tough lineup to face, to navigate. Typically, it’s a lineup that controls the strike zone and punishes strikes and wears you out and usually gets a starter out early and gets into the pen and continues that damage. Right now, that’s not happening."

But as Cashman acknowledged, it isn’t just the offense that has been underwhelming. To go along with the slumbering bats, the Yankees haven’t had consistent starting pitching — outside of Gerrit Cole, who even in striking out 10 in 6 1⁄3 innings Sunday could not get enough help to stop the losing — and have played terrible defense, the triple crown of a different sort giving them the worst record in the American League.

From Cashman’s perspective, there are no major fixes needed. He reminded that the core of this team is basically the same one that has "wreaked havoc" offensively on plenty of good teams the last couple of years, one that was the slimmest of margins from ousting the Rays in the ALDS last October (the Yankees lost by one run in the fifth and deciding game of the series).

"I don’t think there’s anything wrong with how we go about our business," Cashman said of his roster construction, which has been criticized for having lineups that are too righthanded-heavy and are overly reliant on the long ball, among other things.

For the moment, all indications are Hal Steinbrenner agrees with how the organization is going about its business, though the managing general partner is "disappointed," Cashman said, in how his franchise has staggered out of the gate.

Steinbrenner for the most part has been spared Yankees fans’ wrath when it comes to whom they blame, with Cashman and Boone taking the vast majority of that heat.

"I think we’re all in the same boat with performance. Our record is reflective of our organization. Obviously, Aaron is a piece of that, as am I," Cashman said, later adding that he has full confidence in Boone, now in his fourth season, and the rest of the coaching staff to turn things around.

"He’s doing everything he needs to do, and most importantly, supporting these guys,’’ Cashman said. "Because we trust our players. And we trust their abilities. And we trust over the course of time that will, as it normally does, correct itself with a lot more games under the belt. I think Aaron Boone is doing everything he can do within his power currently."

While Cashman understands the fans’ anger, he did not sympathize with those who contributed to the ugly scene that took place at the Stadium on Friday during the 8-2 loss to the Rays, when numerous baseballs were thrown onto the field in the eighth inning.

"First and foremost, if somebody wants to throw something on the field, they better expect to be arrested . . . It’s against the law," Cashman said. "That’s to protect other fans, protect the players on the field, the integrity of the game, and there’s just no place for that."

New York Sports