All Summer and Autumn Yankees fans have been clamoring for change. The focus of most of that noise was aimed at Damon Oppenheimer and Mark Newman. For a while I got caught up in the mentality of making some changes for the sake of making some changes, but I am seeing things a bit more clearly now. It’s easy for anyone to look at Oppenheimer and Newman and blame them for the injuries and ineffectiveness that the Yankees farm has endured for a few years now.
If nothing else, maybe their philosophies are not compatible with this system or the group of players that happen to be playing in it. Or maybe they are in fact doing something wrong that we as fans cannot put our fingers on because we are not aware of the day to day operations of the development system the Yankees have in place. So the natural response from a fan with little knowledge of the behind the scenes action would be to say that these men should lose their jobs because we’re not seeing the results fans wish for.
All of that makes sense… if you are willing to throw all logic out the window and fire people based on anecdotal data and injuries which are for the most part out of their control. It would also make more sense if Oppenheimer and Newman were stubborn men who weren’t willing to alter their philosophies. With the recent shift in organizational thinking, and adjustments to policies by upper management, it would be foolish to think that these two were hired despite being opposed to these new interventions. They are human beings and they are capable of doing things differently when asked to.
Picture yourself as a car salesman. You work for Hyundai. Would it be fair for your boss to fire you because 10 people got into car accidents while taking test drives with vehicles you were trying to sell them? Would it be fair for your boss to fire you because the Toyota salesman across the street was outselling you even though they clearly have a better product to sell? The correct response is “life isn’t fair,” however it’s not even about what is fair, it’s about what is smart.
In the Yankees case this analogy applies perfectly. Toyota, aka almost every other team in the majors, is dealing with a superior product. They have better draft picks year in and year out. People love to bring up Boston, but the fact is Boston has had higher draft picks every year than the Yankees. In addition to that their ownership has been thrifty enough to stockpile first round draft picks, something the Yankees hadn’t done at all until 2013. If some of the people who are so quick to criticize Brian Cashman for keeping these two on looked at the statistics, they would quickly realize that where the Yankees draft in the first round every year, there is an incredibly low probability of success.
It has been more than six years without a successful first round pick, but the fact is there is about a 1/6 chance that any first round pick where the Yankees draft will turn into a solid major league player. It’s safe to say at this point that Jeremy Bleich and Dante Bichette are failures. It’s still way too early to call Slade Heathcott, Cito Culver, Ty Hensley, and the three picks from 2013 failures.
The analogy also applies to injuries. As the salesman you cannot control what happens to a car during a test drive. Damon Oppenheimer and Mark Newman have no control over injuries occurring with Yankees farmhands. In point of fact, the Yankees hired Gil Patterson to help out with pitching development and try to avoid injuries this year. The guy is a proven whiz and yet the injury bug was far worse than 2012. They also fired the strength and conditioning coach, a move that suggests they may have found a potential source for some of the injuries.
The dozens of editorials out there criticizing the Yankees for re-hiring Damon Oppenheimer and Mark Newman are basing their assessments off nothing more than reactionary emotion. The data they are using to back up their opinions is flawed, and completely insufficient. The numbers they are citing do not begin to approach statistical significance. Personally, I feel it is irresponsible to call for another man’s job when you have no proof that they deserve to be fired.
Just remember, these guys aren’t getting paid like A-Rod, or even Brett Gardner. They are well paid members of the Yankees organization, however they are much more like everyday Americans than your average baseball player. They go to work everyday and work hard to try to reach their goals. Unless I have legitimate proof that these guys are doing something different than the rest of the MLB and are refusing to change their ways, I don’t see any justification for moving on.
Come back to me when you can show me some legitimate objective data. Then I will listen.