Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks to reporters during a...

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks to reporters during a baseball spring training media day Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla.  Credit: Charlie Neibergall

TAMPA, Fla. – A rival American League executive, not prone to praising the Yankees, gave an audible sigh.

“To channel Cash, they could be pretty [expletive] good,” he said this week.

It was a reference to comments from last November’s general managers’ meetings in Scottsdale when, during an hour-plus press conference, a loaded-for-bear Brian Cashman said, among many other things: “I think we’re pretty [expletive] good.”

In the rush to post on X (formerly Twitter),  too many cherry-picked the line without providing context.

Cashman wasn’t speaking of the 2023 season that saw his club go 82-80 and miss the playoffs. Rather, he was talking collectively of the people under his charge – from the club’s analytics wing, to the pro and amateur scouting departments, to player development and dugout staff.

By and large, all true.

There was plenty to criticize Cashman for from that media session – stating the Yankees have the “smallest” analytics department in the AL East caused a fair number of guffaws in his own organization and in analytics departments and dugouts across the sport.

But his comment about being pretty good wasn’t one of those things because it wasn’t a head-in-the-sand, throwaway line regarding the organizational work needing to be done, to the roster especially.

And the current roster is shaping up as a good one, regardless of whether free agent pitcher Blake Snell is acquired (which remains unlikely).

Come spring, the cliches come in an unrelenting parade, fast and furious.

Players are in “the best shape” they’ve ever been (players themselves privately make fun of that one), the 29 teams not winning the previous World Series are “hungry” to put whatever level of disappointment they experienced behind them. Every prospect is a future big-leaguer because he has “all the tools,” “our depth has never been better,” and “if we can just stay healthy” all are frequent hits on spring training’s Bingo card.

The Yankees have not been immune from uttering any of the above.

Yet…

Conversations early this spring with a cross-section of opposing team executives, talent evaluators and dugout personnel have yielded similar responses.

“That lineup,” one NL bench coach said by phone, “is scary good if everyone stays on the field.”

The addition of the dynamic Juan Soto is the primary reason for the plaudits, but there’s also the left-handed hitting Alex Verdugo and the under-the-radar Trent Grisham, a strong defender and another lefty bat. Marcus Stroman has been described by more than a few as a “perfect fit” for a rotation that has question marks but shapes up far better top to bottom than most teams’.

Inside the clubhouse, the dialogue has been what it usually is in February. Expectations are to contend for the AL East title and, ultimately, get to the World Series, where the club hasn’t been since winning title No. 27 in 2009. It was the same last year, and the year before, and the year before that.

But under the surface there is a palpable something extra, too. A determination and resoluteness from just about everyone in uniform, fueled not only by the embarrassment of 2023 but also an optimism of the necessary talent being added.

There are indications, as well, of a slight organizational shift. There is a behind-the-scenes sense that some recalibration has taken place in terms of decision-making; that the answers aren’t always in the numbers. Former general managers Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya,  boots-on-the-ground scouts at heart, are a constant presence around the club.

The hiring of hitting coach James Rowson, twice previously with the club as the minor league hitting coordinator and already with an established relationship with Aaron Judge, not only was well-received by players, but also outside of the clubhouse. As was the addition of the seen-it-all-twice Pat Roessler, who knows Judge from a 10-year stint as director of player development, as an assistant hitting coach.

And Aaron Leanhardt, hired to the coaching staff as an analyst, has played to standout reviews so far. Leanhardt’s role, though not a public one, is still critical because of his constant interaction with players. They want information.  Some want more of it than others - which Leanhardt inherently seems to get – but they also want someone with a modicum of people skills. There are no internal club numbers to measure those, but it’s been a past issue with some analysts, causing its share of clubhouse irritation.

The regular season will determine what any of it means. And only time will tell (another one for the spring training Bingo card) if the “balance” between analytics and everyone else (something that owner Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman have claimed for years exists) is reached.

But signs are at least pointing positively in that direction.

As they are also pointing to a rebound on the field, meaning a chance for Cashman to say next November that they're really good and to have meant between the lines.

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