Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman. Credit: Corey Sipkin; AP photo/Matt York

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Sounds like the Yankees are officially done apologizing for their epic failure of 2023. Instead of another round of mea culpas, what we got Tuesday was a good cop/bad cop routine from Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman, the latter wielding the verbal baton.

Steinbrenner’s midday Zoom conference was like 30 minutes of Zen compared with Cashman’s tour de force in the Omni resort courtyard, an otherwise tranquil locale shattered by the GM’s rising decibel levels. While neither would disclose any specific details from last month’s overhyped Tampa summit, Cashman did say it was an attempt to separate the Yankees’ “real” problems from the — let’s say garbage — that he insists piled up around the team, shoveled by the media’s narratives.

“We’ve got good people,” Cashman said. “I’m proud of our people and I’m proud of our process. It doesn’t mean we’re firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t mean we’re the best in class. But I think we’re pretty [expletive] good, personally.”

Cashman evidently convinced Steinbrenner, who chose to keep both his GM and manager Aaron Boone, despite spending $293 million for an 82-win season that was much uglier than the record conveys. So, as of Tuesday, nothing had materially changed with the Yankees, other than Cashman’s tone.

He ripped into critics that demonized the team’s analytics department, insisting that his staff was the smallest in the AL East and the Yankees are not driven solely by data. He blasted supposed whistle-blowers who trumpeted flaws in their minor-league development. He fumed at the suggestion his trades for Joey Gallo, Frankie Montas and Sonny Gray were horrible decisions rather than merely moves that didn’t work out.

But for all the daggers flung at the dozens of reporters that surrounded him, Cashman has been around too long not to understand the fundamental truth of his situation. This is a result-oriented business, and in New York, you can multiply that by 100. Cashman’s 25-year track record is the thing that’s keeping him afloat at the moment, and that decades-long relationship with Steinbrenner won’t be a life preserver forever.

“It doesn’t matter what I say — it matters what it plays like next year,” Cashman said. “Words mean nothing. Actions are going to be everything. The wins coming through are what’s going to make everything better, and until such time, it doesn’t matter. The rest of it’s going to be noise.

“No one’s going to buy what I say. It’s not selling — I’m telling you my facts and the world I’m living in. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the end result: are you going to have a team that’s believed to have a chance to win a World Series?”

Cashman vehemently maintains that he’s still the guy to get the Yankees there, despite going 0-for-13 in that October pursuit since the team’s 27th title. And evidently, Steinbrenner thinks that, too. As for the owner, he basically has two primary duties when it comes to building a championship team.

The first is to make sure the right people — ranging from the minds upstairs in the front office down to the dugout steps — are in place to make the baseball decisions. As for the second, that’s the less complicated part. Spend whatever it takes to reduce the margin of error that exists with the aforementioned group.

But after Steinbrenner’s Zoom conference Tuesday, sort of the warm-up act to Cashman’s mic drop, it was difficult to feel very confident about category No. 1, mainly because the owner provided zero concrete evidence that anything had been remedied or upgraded about the Yankees’ baseball operations.

Actually, it was much worse. Not only is the organization’s decision-making structure still intact, the same crew that dumped them in this season’s “unacceptable” fourth-place hole, Steinbrenner kept digging himself a larger crater.

As for those “heated” Tampa sessions? Steinbrenner declined to provide any intel — corporate secrets, you know — but did mention 40 pages of notes from those meetings. When pushed to give a hint, Hal told us about a back-and-forth with Boone on the growing significance of “bunting” in today’s game and how the Yankees need to improve in that area.

He wasn’t kidding. And that was the only morsel of information Steinbrenner chose to divulge, all these weeks later, to a fan base foaming at the mouth for real, substantive change. Probably safe to say this is only going to make the Yankees Universe angrier than ever.

It’s worth noting that Steinbrenner is under no obligation to hold these regular media briefings. Most baseball owners rarely speak publicly at all, so Hal obviously feels it important to talk to the fans by proxy, through these sessions. Tuesday’s Zoom chat, frankly, didn’t come close to satisfying the expectations of those paying customers.

Nobody was offered up as a blood sacrifice (yet) and Steinbrenner didn’t map out a new direction for the front office. But Hal does have a path to salvation here — through his checkbook, if he can count on this current braintrust to use his finances wisely this winter. They’ll also need to find ways to dump some past costly mistakes in order to create a more productive and flexible roster.

But, as the defiant Cashman reminded us, talk is cheap, even with the volume cranked up.   


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