The 2021 Yankees made clear to me what many others already knew, and which I certainly suspected. Most winners in sports have soul, it’s more than a mere business, and leadership starts, … well; that’s a good question. Since the end of the Georgian era in Yankees baseball the Yankees have been led through a lowest common denominator leadership style, one where rather than use subjective factors to make decisions (instincts, hunches, a sense of fairness), only objective criteria matter, objective in the sense that decisions are pretty much automatic. No extensions, self-imposed spending caps, and analytics, even if those charged with using them don’t really understand them.
While the Yankees in the post Georgian era have been full of stars on the field, or at least former stars, management has sought to shift the spotlight unto its own, principally onto near-do-well general manager Brian Cashman, a man who apparently seeks to steal the spotlight while micromanaging Yankees coaches, Yankees coaches top to bottom whose primary attribute is obedience; yes men for the most part. And it renders on the field talent less than potent, it ruins intriguing talent arriving from the minor leagues. The mania for waiting out opposing pitchers by taking pitches is maddening, disheartening, depressing and de-energizing.
Cashman’s strategy, supported whole heartedly by a managing general partner too timid to do anything but count beans, seems to be to field a team almost good enough to succeed, one that can be defended in the media so that memorabilia and brand products continue to sell, but not one with real heart. Not that another World Series pennant wouldn’t be welcome, only that notwithstanding the slogans, it is not really the ultimate goal, at least for the team’s administrators. And that attitude breaks and demoralizes the players, who, frustrated by the absence of real leadership, underperform.
Cashman is the antithesis of George Steinbrenner and Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neil and David Cone and Jorge Posada and Andy Pettit and Mariano River, etc., the men Gorge led to championship after championship. And son Hal, who deprecates his father’s style, is the poster boy for happy mediocrity. Failure doesn’t really bother him and it certainly doesn’t bother Brian. Aaron Boone is their ideal manager. But the Yankees, to many of us, are much more than this team, much more than the mediocre product of the Hal and Brian era. They are a long chain akin to the long grey lines at the Citadel and VMI and West Point, where pride and tradition and a special ethic keep generating a very special product.
They represent a spirit we love where Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle and Berra and Ford and so many, many others watch over their successors demanding that once pinstripes are donned, the best the players wearing ever had becomes the norm. But Hal and Brian and now Aaron Boone have managed to dampen that energy for every year in this millennium but one. And apparently, given Hal’s indifference, there’s nothing to be done.
What a shame!!! But then, shame has no impact on them, only beans count.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.