Imagine Brian Cashman in a hot dog costume.
(Yankees owner Hal) Steinbrenner’s comments hit home inside Mike Fishman’s extensive analytics department, which has gradually accrued almost absolute power over all facets of the franchise the last five to 10 years — everything from player acquisitions to player health to player development. That has contributed to the marginalization, or outright jettisoning from the organization, of those at all levels who have had the audacity to question the group’s methods and/or decisions.
The group, which in the words of one club member is collectively “scared to death” by Steinbrenner’s comments, likely had those feelings amplified upon hearing about Aaron Judge’s comments on Sunday.
For years, words such as “arrogant” and “condescending” have received a healthy workout inside the organization, including in the clubhouse, in describing interactions with many — though not all — who have decision-making sway in the analytics department.
As one club insider put it to Newsday in August: “They’re never wrong. Never. It’s always someone else’s fault.”
Here’s the thing: The analytics department only becomes all-powerful if people in authority positions allow it to amass such great influence. And we are looking at you, Cashman and Steinbrenner.
The nerds did not seize control of the franchise. Their algorithms are not nuclear weapons. Even if you want to pin the Bombers’ many failings in recent years on poor application of analytics, Cashman (and those above him) still had the ability to veto. Or to instruct their subordinates to alter the approach. That they may only grasp this after Steinbrenner commissions some shadowy third-party audit is mind-blowing.
It would be a good thing if the Yankees can shake their analytics dependency. Or at least stop using them in a wildly ineffective manner. But let’s be clear: The geeks did not drive the organization into the ground. Cashman has. And it is comical the Yankees are out here pretending they are trying to find the guys who did this.