Welcome to YankeeAutopsy. An in depth look at what went wrong (and right) in 2008.
We begin at the top:
The Ownership. Hank and Hal came in this year taking over for Big George. The deal was that Hank would run the baseball end while Hal would run the business end of "Yankees Global Enterprises." It did not take long for Hank to expose himself as a man not knowledgeable about baseball. His statements this past week were over the top. The good part is it seems that Hal is taking a bigger role in the baseball side and maybe Hank will go back to his horses.
The General Manager. Once again Brian Cashman proved that he needs to stay out of the pitching department. Bringing in LaToya Hawkins was a huge mistake from day one. The names that have come through here boggle the mind. Jared Wright, Shawn Chacon, Scott Erickson, Carl Pavano and a long list of minor league journeymen. Yes, he caught lightening in a bottle with Aaron Small, overall, Cashman's record with pitching is terrible, but he is not totally to blame. However, he is the GM and he gets hit on it. I will never understand Wilson Betemit or Kyle Farnsworth.
On the good side, bringing in Xavier Nady was a good move. Ivan Rodriguez for Farnsworth was a wash. Cashman has proved that he can fortify the roster when needed.
My vote is to retain Cashman, but with an assistant GM under him with an expertise in pitching.
Scouting. I could go on forever on this one. These are the people who told Cashman that Kei Igawa could be a major league pitcher. These are the people who told Cashman that Ian Kennedy is a major league pitcher. These are the people who told Cashman that Chris Britton and Billy Traber could help the bullpen. Cashman can only go by the information given to him. I blame the scouting and player development team for not providing the big club with true prospects. When the organization needs to bring in 30+ guys like Chad Moeller (33) and Cody Ransom (32) to fortify the AAA roster, there is a problem! When a guy like Brett Gardner gets here and can't hit, that's a problem.
On the good side, they deserve credit for finding guys like Alfredo Aceves (Mexican League) and Dan Giese. However, their failures far out number their successes.
The Manager. Joe Girardi did a "good" job. I don't rate him much beyond that. Sure, the injuries were a big factor, but he failed to manage around the injuries. He stuck too long with Hawkins and Farnsworth. He saw things in Traber and Britton that just were not there. He didn't go with a set line up everyday until September, and by then, it was too late. There was a lack bunting, stealing and hit & run. The Yankees were horrible hitting with runners in scoring position and Girardi exacerbated that by playing too conservative. He waited too long to bench Robinson Cano and kept Jason Giambi in the 5 hole when it was clear he could not produce there.
His use of the bullpen was exceptional. With a team of 5 inning pitchers, his juggling of the middle relief crew kept the Yankees in the hunt. As much as I like Joe Torre, Girardi handled the pen much better than Torre did over the last few years.
Girardi was the right pick for manager and I believe that his managing of this team will improve. He's the right guy for the job, give him time.
The Coaches. I would start with the firing of Dave Eiland, Bobby Meacham and Kevin Long. Meacham is as good of a 3b coach as he was a shortstop, he stinks. Last season Eiland was given credit for developing Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy. Well, 2 of the 3 failed this year. Shouldn't he be given the same "credit"? He is also part of the flawed "Joba Rules" philosophy. He was a scrub pitcher and is a scrub pitching coach. There will be more of this in another part when I cover the pitching.
Long also got credit last year when the Yanks hit the cover off of the ball. This season their failure to hit with runners in scoring position is well noted. They scored approximately 200 LESS runs than last year. Cano never really got going, Giambi and Jeter hit under what they are capable of. If Long got the credit last year, he gets the hit this year.
I would move Tony Pena to third and bring in a new 1st base coach. Someone from the dynasty days, Scott Brosious, Tino Martinez or maybe Bernie Williams.
Coming in YankeeAutopsty - Part 2: Pitching