At the end of last season, after the Yankees lost in the playoffs to the Astros for the umpteenth time, I detailed an approach that ownership should go with as a way of keeping another Yankee team from disappointing everyone. I suggested they bring the kids up, let the big contracts leave, play small-ball with what they had, and farm the talent intrinsically rather than overpaying 30 year olds.
Evidently the ownership did not listen to me, and neither did Cashman. Re-signing Judge was one thing, but packing the lineup with contracts like Carlos Rodon instead of focusing on farming young players to become great led to our doom. We put all this time and effort into building a great team, then everybody got hurt and the people who didn't burned out. That Aaron Judge hit 30 home runs while missing 55 games is a miracle in itself. That Gerrit Cole is likely on his way to a Cy Young is inevitability speaking. That Anthony Volpe proved himself, for the most part, as a rookie is a promising perk.
But there are so many people on this team that were poised for greatness this year and did not deliver. Some we cut already and are already doing better in other markets, like Aaron Hicks, Harrison Bader and Josh Donaldson. Some we've shut down and have likely played their last game as a Yankee, like Luis Severino and Domingo German. Some concussed midyear and were told to keep playing like nothing's wrong, like Anthony Rizzo; there's a reason we fired our hitting coach and brought in The Mayor. And some were amazing for 8 games then immediately got injured, as if some deity was playing a cruel joke on us all.
Ultimately, the Yankees' biggest strength in 2023 was its bullpen. You can name so many great bullpen performances from this year. Yes, the usual suspects like Holmes, Peralta and, in between IL stints, Loiasiga, but newcomers like Ian Hamilton, Keynan Middleton, Nick Ramirez and the returning Tommy Kahnle helped at least strengthen things after the subpar starter got off. One of the smartest things the Yankees do this year was let longman Michael King start some games, and he's been one of our best non-Cole pitchers. In 87 innings he has a 2.77 ERA and 108 Ks, and has been sharp in his last few starts. King could be an option for us going forward if our rotations continue to be snakebitten.
The goal for 2024 is to ensure that we don't bottom out like this again. There needs to be even more depth options in case of injury, and they need to be tested, reliable options and not the usual circle of 5 rookies that cannot hit in the majors. If we can have enough contingency plans and not get caught with our pants down again, we could be a lot better in 2024, and not have to play the 'well we have to wait for x to get back' game.
The best thing about the Yankees in 2023? We swept the Astros in 3 games. We could never do that while competitive.
Coming Tomorrow- A longtime relief option for a low-market team finally having some success in the ninth.