BUFFALO – While team meeting stories almost always generate breathless discourse – both from fans and media – the vast majority of the time they’re completely irrelevant.
And Yankees general manager Brian Cashman indicated as much here late Tuesday afternoon shortly after gathering his sinking-fast club together before that night’s game against the Blue Jays.
“Talk is cheap and all that matters is the performance,” Cashman said before seeing the Yankees leave 10 men on base in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays that extended their skid to 5-15 in their last 20 games, plunging them 6 ½ games behind the Rays in the AL East, three games behind the Blue Jays for second place and into the eighth and final AL playoff spot.
Cashman said it’s something he “rarely” does, “but when necessary, you have to,” and this current stretch certainly qualified as necessary for the GM. Still, Cashman acknowledged the get-together’s primary beneficiary may well have been him.
“It's therapeutic, at the very least, for me as the leadership of baseball ops,” Cashman said. “But then separately, I think just making sure they know, remind them of where they’ve got to get back to and who they are. And by taking the opportunity to do that from time to time and see if it helps. Bottom line is we're working on our own. There's no help coming from anywhere and the challenge is to find a way to get through this storm and batten down the hatches and come out on the other end with clear skies and sunny days ahead.”
Cashman said he could not recall the last time he held such a meeting in-season.
There was, of course, a high-profile meeting he called during the World Series season of 2009 when Cashman, with the Yankees off to a sluggish 38-31 start, gathered everyone together before a June 23 game in Atlanta.
The meeting has taken on lore status for some, the narrative being the talk played a role in sparking the Yankees to winning 10 of their next 12 and sending them well on their way to title No. 28.
But the facts are, hours after Cashman’s talk, the Yankees went out and lost, 4-0, so one would have to accept Cashman’s inspirational words didn’t take hold for 24 hours.
It was, of course, more likely a case of the Yankees, who committed some $450 million that offseason in bringing in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, at last playing to their capabilities, something Cashman alluded to Tuesday when the topic of the Atlanta meeting was raised.
“In that case, the message was, this was a team that was better than the way they were playing for a three-week period,” Cashman said. “And reminding them of how good they were and what the opposing teams think of them. And in the offense’s case back then I remember I know, if I was a pitcher, I would have been scared to death to try to navigate that lineup.”
A lineup, as fans may remember was stacked with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada and Teixeira, among others. For the most part, that team was mostly healthy, their up-and-down play mostly a product of the lineup off to a collectively inconsistent start. That group kicking it into gear was inevitable.
“We've got a little different thing going on here because we have some big guns that are down now with injuries, but they're due to come back, [and] we certainly have guys capable of stepping up,” Cashman said. “And we certainly have players that are healthy, obviously, that haven't performed up to their abilities. And so that’s one aspect; one spoke in the wheel of many spokes that make up this team that's capable a lot. But right now, we've fallen short of that.”
And it won’t be one meeting, three meetings or 10 getting the Yankees back on track, if they do.