October 14, 2020 | 6:22pm | Updated October 14, 2020 | 6:21pm
After another October ended in disappointment, the Yankees on Wednesday defended their decision-making process and stressed manager Aaron Boone wasn’t simply a “puppet” of the front office and its analytics department.
“There’s that narrative about the manager being a puppet, none of that is true,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday. “I’ve never ordered a manager to do anything. … People want to believe whatever they want to believe. I just know we have a healthy, strong process and one that we’re proud of.”
It’s one that got the Yankees back to the playoffs, but ended in another defeat, this time to the Rays in the ALDS.
And it comes at a time in baseball when there’s never been more collaboration between front offices and managers in the dugout.
That came to a head after the Yankees dropped Game 2 of the ALDS, when they started 21-year-old Deivi Garcia and backed him up with left-hander J.A. Happ, who entered to open the second inning. Neither pitched well, and the Yankees have been forced to continue to defend the move — and what led up to it.
The 37-year-old Happ made it clear following Game 2 he would have preferred to have started, but Cashman noted that of his 15 postseason appearances, only four have been starts.
“I’m a little surprised, to be honest, at the constant current dialogue about analytics involvement as you see a number of really successful operations currently playing out in the postseason who are used to being there on a year-in and year-out basis that deploy the exact same methodology that we do,’’ Cashman said. “Yet we’re being questioned on it, but it’s OK for them to do it. It’s just a weapon to deploy to make sure we’re maximizing all our advantages. That’s all we’ve done. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of the fact we use all the tools in the toolbox. It’s made us better and allowed us to be a consistent contender.”
Cashman also pushed back on the notion he or his staff runs games from the front office.
“In terms of lineup cards and in-game strategies, those [decisions] are the manager’s,’’ Cashman said. “It always has been, and as long as I’m the general manager, it never will be different.”
Boone called it a “collective effort,” adding, “When it comes down to what happens on the field and the decisions, that’s me and our coaching staff.”
The strategies may stay the same, but the team will no doubt look different going forward, from questions regarding the rotation to Gary Sanchez’s disappearing act, among other issues.
Both Boone and Cashman pointed out they lost a tight Game 5 to the Rays, who were the best team in the American League throughout the season, and said they believe they are close to getting to their goal of winning a 28th title.
“You realize how close you are to being a championship team and we just haven’t been able to get over the hump yet,’’ Boone said. “That eats at you and motivates you. It’s something we’ve got to live with.”
In the coming weeks, the Yankees will begin their organizational meetings to discuss free agency, player development and how the economic hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the game will shape future decisions.
As Cashman said, the fact the Yankees and Boone were in the position they were in during the ALDS, when they had to rely on a rookie with very little major league experience and Happ, who was often ineffective against right-handed hitters, was his responsibility.
“Ultimately, if I can get better players and a deeper roster — which is on me — maybe we have a chance of a better outcome,’’ Cashman said. “If we had maintained the health of our current starters or acquired [starting pitchers midseason], then those [Game 2] decisions don’t have to be made.”