Sport

Yankees are MLB’s best team and not a one-trick pony

Brian Cashman had retired in recent weeks, a stance he usually takes when his team is playing well. And the Yankees have distinguished themselves.

But his Yankees were home to about 10,000 Bronx students Wednesday, and Cashman went out to represent the team. That meant passing a group of reporters, and suddenly the Yankees’ general manager was at one point, answering questions that had been piling up for weeks.

He maintained an embargo on discussing anything related to Aaron Judge’s contract situation and expressed confidence that Joey Gallo will make a positive impact on the Yankees. But one twist in particular resonated when it came to discussing the topic du jour – the club’s early success in 2022:

“You don’t want to be a one-trick pony,” Cashman said.

It resonated because Cashman had allowed recent rosters to become one-dimensional. He lusted for power — pitching and batting — like a Kardashian chasing attention. There have been many victories in this philosophy of reaching a critical mass of the genre. But the redundancy of talent also created greater game inconsistency and made it harder to win playoff rounds. Disconnect the power and you’ve defused the Yankees – and better enemies might do just that.

Antony Rizzo, left, celebrates the Yankees' win over the Blue Jays with Gleyber Torres.
Antony Rizzo, left, celebrates the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays with Gleyber Torres.
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

When asked over the past few years why he kept adding brutal right-handed bats after another, Cashman replied that they were the best person available and he didn’t want to snag an inferior player just for variety. But the lack of diversity left the Yankees areas where they were terrible and therefore vulnerable. The 2022 Yankees have a less menacing overall roster but a better overall team: offense, defense, pitching, baserunning, and health. Don’t ignore the last one. Clint Frazier and Luke Voit have both clocked up injured list times elsewhere and Gary Sanchez has suffered a few notches. The Yankees have used the IL once so far this season – for Tim Locastro.

Cashman stocks a lot of good players and getting them onto the field again and again has helped them build an MLB-best 22-8 record after a 5-3 matinee win over Toronto on Wednesday. The Yankees have won at least 22 of their first 30 games eight times before, and they’ve competed in the World Series each time, the last time being in 2003 (the only time of those eight times they didn’t win).

“Up to this point in the season, we’ve won a lot of different ways,” said manager Aaron Boone, who hit the Yankees’ pennant-winning homer against the Red Sox in 2003. “It was pitching and defense, maybe a base running game some days. … It was nice that it comes in a lot of different ways. I think that built a lot of confidence in that room, that we know we don’t have to lean on one thing on any given night. We have many different ways to beat you.”

The Yankees improved to 6-3 against Toronto despite their defense struggling on a rare day — notably the left side of infield from Isiah Kiner-Falefa and DJ LeMahieu. But in general the central defense and catching were great. Strikeout rate has remained high, but ability to convert outs has improved. This reflects Cashman’s switch to more nuance when he took over Kiner-Falefa, who not only rose briefly but produced a better all-around version of Torres in second place (Torres rode in all five heats on Wednesday). Sanchez was replaced with a drama-free and tension-free catch.

Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman
Getty Images

And Cashman’s baseball operations division has continued to win trades at a rapid rate. Think of the two made with the lowly pirates last year. Full Pittsburgh results are not fully known due to prospects. But the early reading is, Edge Yankees.

Jameson Taillon, acquired for four prospects after the 2020 season, had ankle surgery and was not scheduled to serve even the first month this year. But he never missed a start and has a 2.77 ERA. On Wednesday, he loaded bases with no out and used 17 pitches to open the game. The Yankees will field Luis Gil in Chicago on Thursday, so the need for innings was critical. Taillon settled to give the Yankees 5 ¹/₃ against two runs.

Clay Holmes, won for two marginal prospect at-bats, was the back-up version of Nestor Cortes, who went on the rotation in late July and has been the Yankees’ top starter ever since. Acquired around the same time, Holmes has been the team’s most consistent aide.

He gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead in the seventh and prompted Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to a double play as the tie went up. No surprise. Holmes threw what Boone described as a “bowling ball” and started Wednesday with an 81.1 percent groundball rate — by far the best in the majors. Even with a goalless eight, the ball never left the infield. Holmes has allowed one run in 16 ²/₃ innings this year. Since becoming a Yankee in 2022, he has hit just two walks and just two homers in 44¹/₃ innings of the regular season.

He’s among the most diverse talents the Yankees have had in recent seasons. That’s reflected in the majors’ best record five weeks into the season.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/11/yankees-are-mlbs-best-team-instead-of-a-one-trick-pony/ Yankees are MLB’s best team and not a one-trick pony

JOE HERNANDEZ

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