NEW YORK — The message was received.
Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner made it clear the reason the team is middling just above .500 is not because of the general manager, the manager or the coaching staff. It’s the players who are underperforming.
Aaron Judge said that was heard in the clubhouse.
“It’s a big impact, because that’s ultimately what it comes down to,” the Yankees slugger said before Friday night’s Subway Series opener at Yankee Stadium. “No matter what anybody says it’s not a coach, it’s not a front office, it’s on the players. We’re the ones out there on the field. We’re the ones out there competing. I know the front office and other guys have their hands in it, putting players on the field, but ultimately it comes down to the work and the results you get on the field.”
And that work has not been good enough, as Judge knows. That is why he called another meeting of the players before Tuesday night’s game against the Angels.
“It was a good time for a lot of us to be honest with each other. Maybe say some things on our mind, some things that guys have been hearing, some things that guys have been thinking, and just kind of have the chance to open the floor for everybody,” Judge said. “When you’re in a clubhouse, we’re all brothers in there, we’re family. All the best teams I’ve been on, you’re able to say what you need to say to somebody and not let somebody’s feelings get hurt. It was a good meeting. There was a lot of emotion but I think overall it was great for the team.”
The meeting, which Judge said was emotional, resulted in a win on Tuesday night over the Angels, but as is their pattern of inconsistency this season, they lost brutally on Wednesday night, blowing a four-run lead in the ninth. Darren O’Day, a veteran who has seen teams struggle and pull themselves out said that the meeting showed how much the players care. He was one of the veterans that spoke out.
“There’s no secret to it, there’s no magic bullet really. All the guys that are in this locker room are here for a reason,” O’Day said. “It’s not because they’re bad baseball players, it’s because they’re very good. And sometimes we dwell on our failures a little bit too much. And it kind of locks us up from our proper level of performance. So you know, we have the talent in here, we just have to complete the job when the time comes. So really, it’s just getting kind of an aerial view of the whole thing and keeping in perspective and playing up to our abilities.”
Steinbrenner met with the media via Zoom on Thursday and gave manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman a vote of confidence.
“I’m appreciative of who I get to work with. One of the things I’ve talked about here for a long time is, this is a place I enjoy coming to work,” Boone said. “We’re obviously going through some tough times as a club. So while I appreciate that, we’re trying to get better and certainly I’m one of the main figures that needs to be accountable. I think ultimately, one of my most important jobs is to make sure of that. I’m part of getting the most out of each and every player and that I’m creating an environment and a culture where guys can thrive.
“So, for my part in that I need to be better at that and continue to kind of evaluate and drill down on things where we can make improvements and ultimately get the most out of people,” Boone continued. “That’s one area we need to be better at.”
One thing that should help the Yankees get better after the brutal loss on Wednesday is that Judge is back in the lineup. Boone gave him a day to rest on Wednesday, saying it was preventative to stop the normal wear and tear from turning into an injury.
Judge said he’s fine and taking the long view of the season.
“I think everyone’s dealing with something,” Judge said of the nicks and bruises players accumulate over a season. “It’s just about making sure I take the right steps to do what I need to do to stay on the field. And also, I got to take a day here or there. So I don’t miss a week or two weeks. I think that’s the smart course of action.”