Anyone looking for a sign that the Yankees are going to change direction in any way after they were swept by the Astros in the ALCS will be sorely disappointed by the end-of-season news conference held on Friday at Yankee Stadium by Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman.
“Back to the drawing board,” Cashman said.
Except it’s going to be the same board, the same people, the same piece of chalk and, probably, the same outcome next October.
Cashman, the man wielding the chalk apparently in perpetuity, started off by clarifying his own contract status. He doesn’t have one. It expired on Halloween.
But unlike Aaron Judge, who will become a true free agent after the World Series, Cashman isn’t considering other opportunities (“no, no, no,” he said when asked if he had been contacted by other teams), and Hal Steinbrenner isn’t looking for anyone else to run his baseball operation.
Expect a new Cashman contract to be finalized and quietly announced soon. Cashman certainly spoke like someone who expects to be leading the Yankees for years to come and said he is unconcerned about working to shape the 2023 roster without a signed deal.
Cashman’s baseball operations department hasn’t won a World Series since 2009, but the franchise continues to make the postseason nearly every season and continues to bring in oodles of cash, the latter of which is the great unacknowledged victory of the 2022 Yankees.
If Steinbrenner was irate after the Yankees were bounced by the Astros, and if for a fleeting moment Son of George thought of overhauling his front office, someone could soothingly show him the financial bottom line:
— The Judge home run chase generated interest and ticket sales and massive TV ratings for the YES Network;
— The Yankees drew 3.13 million fans at home (third in MLB) during the regular season and hosted four postseason games (losing three). Postseason games mean big bucks to teams, as anyone who attended them can attest, and there are no refunds after defeats.
So, in that aspect, the 2022 Yankees were a tremendous success.
Cashman and Boone genuinely burn to hoist franchise World Series trophy No. 28. Don’t ever doubt that.
But Boone was ready seconds after the season ended to advance a narrative about why it didn’t happen. Cashman echoed these points on Friday. The GM said:
— The Astros were the better team (true).
— The Yankees were missing several key injured players in the postseason (DJ LeMahieu, Andrew Benintendi, Scott Effross, Ron Marinaccio, Michael King, Chad Green) and had others who were at least compromised by recent injuries during the playoffs, including Matt Carpenter, Clay Holmes and Giancarlo Stanton (also true, but it's October; everyone's banged up).
— The Yankees improved from 2021, when they lost to the Red Sox in the wild-card game, to 2022, when they made it to the ALCS and lost to the team that is one win away from a World Series title (true, but irrelevant if your goal is to be the last team standing).
— Boone did “a great job” (perhaps true during the 99-win, AL East-capturing regular season, not true at all during the playoffs, when he made several questionable moves with his relievers and played “shortstop for a day” with his lineup in the ALCS).
You have to wonder if Cashman threw that last line out with a mischievous wink as red meat to his demanding fan base, who called for Boone’s head before the season ended and wanted Cashman gone, too, after the ALCS debacle.
If you’re in that “fire everyone” camp, you will get nothing and have to like it. Josh Donaldson? Aaron Hicks? Isiah Kiner-Falefa? Every unpopular Yankee was talked up by Boone and/or Cashman, and if you took their words at face value, all three players will be back next year, too.
Of course, the biggest question for the offseason remains the biggest man, Judge, whom Cashman threw nothing but bouquets at on Friday.
Whatever drawing board the Yankees have for 2023 can’t possibly be scribbled on until Judge decides where he is going to play.
If he signs elsewhere — which is what I think is going to happen and have thought since the sides didn’t come to an agreement by Opening Day — then Cashman and Boone can erase everything on that drawing board. It'll be time to get a whole new one.