It’s a tale of two cities. Small market town versus big market behemoth. When we last left the scene in the Bronx, the Reds played a gutty series just after the All Star break, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal campaign, knitting together 3 solid games, taking 2 of 3—and coming oh so close to sweeping the Pinstripes in their mausoleum of a ballpark, the corporate and soulless Yankee Stadium.

Since then, New York has gone on its merry Fifth Avenue way, making its seventh postseason appearance in eight years, while the Reds embark on another rebuild.

Nevertheless, things are not coming up all roses for New York’s flagship franchise, as Steve Cohen has stolen the back pages of the New York tabloids with his private equity fortune and his middle finger response to MLB’s luxury tax.

Indeed, the questions are coming hard and fast for the Yankees as the season turns to June. Yankee announcer Michael Kay’s podcast highlights the problems beyond the reality of a Houston Astros juggernaut that has beaten the Bombers in every postseason meeting; a franchise that still feels the sting of Jose Altuvé’s home run off Aroldis Chapman and the ensuing sign stealing scandal that rocked baseball.

Despite the second highest payroll in the game behind the Mets, the Yankees are struggling due to injuries. With a $280M payroll, they have a whopping $133M on the IR.

Let’s go to Mike in Long Island.

“Mike, you’re on.”

“Who do you want to blame? Who do you want to be mad it? If there is a villain in this it’s got to be Cashman. He built this.”

There is second-guessing about the Reds’ ask for Luis Castillo last July. The Yankees could have had him for Anthony Volpe—and we might have been watching Volpe at SS instead of Matt McLain on Friday. But the Yankees saw Volpe as their SS of the future, the heir apparent to Jeter. So, they passed on Castillo, who they could desperately use now, and instead went after San Francisco free agent Carlos Rodón.

They invested a ton of money in Rodón and well… he can’t pitch. They need him to show up soon if they are going to make the postseason and beyond that, they’ll be paying him for the next 5 seasons. Getting Frankie Montas now looks like an awful move. Montas couldn’t pitch last year and now has shoulder issues. And the cost to get him was a lot of young pitchers the Yankees could use right about now.

RHP Luis Severino hasn’t been able to stay on the mound and is coming off a rehab assignment from a strained right lat as spring training ended. Reliever Lou Trivino is having TJ surgery. They traded away lefty Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader. Think they’d like to have him back now?

Then there’s the mystery of Clay Holmes. Last year you couldn’t hit him in the first half. Was an All Star. Hasn’t been the same since the Reds invaded the Bronx just after the break. Holmes still has terrific stuff, but his command has gone bye-bye.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Yankees have had a losing season. The question being asked now is are they going to give up on this season. Will the fans allow them to give up on this season and retool for next year or insist on giving up yet more assets in an attempt to overtake the Rays.

We probably know the answer to that.

But the train wreck that is Yankee pitching is only part of the equation, if a large one. Offense has been mediocre at best with—you guessed it—more big money contracts turning out to be suspect deals.

First and foremost there’s Giancarlo Stanton, who according to Kay only plays 60% of the games. Cashman is locked into paying Stanton for another 4 years. He grabbed Josh Donaldson from the Twins and took on $50M of Donaldson’s salary. Donaldson was disappointing last season and can’t get on the field this season. Then there’s the Aaron Hicks deal: 7 years/ $70M. Not working.

And then there’s Tampa Bay and what Kay refers to as the “secret sauce that the Yankees have not been able to copy.”

The Yankee model of just outspending everyone else has run into a snag, separate and apart from the presence of owner Cohen and the Mets. Tampa Bay has been smarter than New York (and all of baseball) and observers in the Bronx have come up with an interesting excuse:

“When you’re building a team from zero, from the ground up, you can build it the way you want. Tampa, there’s never any expectations. They’ve had so many bad years. When you’re trying to win it on the fly, when it’s all about winning a championship, you already have this payroll in place, you already have these contracts—it’s almost like trying to reconstruct the skyscraper—while other teams were able to build it from the ground up. The Yankees never have the luxury of starting over.”


Jerry Seinfeld Popcorn GIF by Sheets & Giggles - Find & Share on GIPHY

You hate to see it.

Meanwhile, Yankee fandom and it’s front office has a plan. It revolves around finding a team with a pitcher making $$$, who might not ask for much in prospects in return just to get salary off their books.

It’s the same old game. Take advantage of the Wounded and the Have Nots. Money be damned.

Even if this were the best of times for this Reds rebuild, Cincinnati would be at a disadvantage. But the learning curve continues for Hunter Greene and Graham Ashcraft. Nick Lodolo is sidelined and as the Yankees can tell you—pitching is hard to come by.

But as Charles Dickens wrote: “Nothing that we do is done in vain. I believe with all my soul that we shall see triumph.”

18 Responses

  1. LDS

    Dickens – school days flashbacks. No more a fan of his than I am the Yankees. Like to see a Reds sweep but winning one would be nice.

    • greenmtred

      It won’t surprise you to learn that I like Dickens a great deal more than I like the Yankees.

      • LDS

        @greenmtred – no, it wouldn’t surprise me. Although, I’ll note you said more than the Yankees and that’s not really that high a bar to get over. For the record, I’m not a Shakespeare fan either.

      • Harry Stoner

        This is not coming as any surprise.

  2. Mark Moore

    Good stuff, Richard.

    I’m a native Upstate NYer and was surrounded by D-Yankees fans growing up. That’s when I went the opposite way and sided with our Reds. Quite frankly, I always love to see NYY lose after throwing huge contracts into their own bottomless pit. I like and respect a few of the players, but the organizational approach isn’t one I’d want to align with.

    This weekend is a crapshoot from where I sit. Balls should fly out of the park, but who knows? I’ll be tuned in for the games in any case … unless things get so far out of hand I have to Clete to save my own BP from spiking.

    • Dennis Westrick

      Yankee hater since they beat our Redlegs in the 1961 World Series! Hoping to win 2 out of 3! As much as I detest walks, I’m OK with them walking Judge every AB!

    • Earmbrister

      Grew up in Northern Jersey and became a fan in the early 70s. I also had to run contrary to the Yankee loving masses, though if memory serves they weren’t all that good in the early 70s.

      Every team in MLB could use more pitching, but I like our immediate future as opposed to the NYYs and the Cards (the two teams I despise the most).

      Couldn’t help but laugh in response to the crying that the Yankees work at a disadvantage because they can’t do teardowns. I’ll light a candle for them the next time I go to church.

      Let’s take 2 of 3 like last year, or sweep them like in ‘76!

  3. Old-school

    Reds have some big time series coming up at home and I hope they win and sell tickets against the D”#%* yankees and cards and the brewers +

    Ces 3-3 tonight and its apparent AAA pitching is bad. Not so much anymore is CES ready for MLB but is AAA pitching so bad its hindering development

    AAA pitching is bad across a 6 game series against the same team . Might be time to bring guys up to acclimate to mlb as AAA pitching isnt close to MLB anymore . New schedule of 6 games in a row exposes pitching weaknesses across a AAA team. Unintended consequences

  4. BK

    Really nice read. My favorite quote is, “The Yankees never have the luxury of starting over.” Well, there you have it … Red’s fans have the “luxury” of living through rebuilds! We are truly a fortunate bunch.

    • David

      The expectations of the fan base, plus the TV network (is it still the YES network?) compel Yankees Top Men to play this money game every year.
      Their general minor league development is not that great. They have great PR, but their prospects are not that impressive.
      Anthony Volpe? I would rather have Matt McClain now, with EDLC in the wings. EDLC will likely be a “generational” type player, like Mike Trout or Ken Griffey Jr. And he probably won’t be with the Reds for his whole career, and actually may end up being a Yankee someday. Or a Dodger. Or something.
      Money, a lot of money, can fix a lot of things. The Yankees have won more World Series than any other team, and it was money that made that possible. But the game has changed, and player evaluations are more sophisticated now. And drafting demands that teams pay players per the allotted draft “slot” money. So some of the traditional Yankee advantages have been minimized.
      So sad! But outside of Greater NYC, a lot of America loathes the Yankees.

  5. Rednat

    I don’t know Richard. forget playoff and world series appearances. Let’s just look at regular season totals. Since 2000
    the yankees record is 2135- 1530 (58%)
    the reds record is 1721- 1946 (47%)
    that is a huge disparity over nearly a quarter of a century now. In my mind it calls into question the legitimacy of major league baseball right now. I mean, with the new scheduling we will play the Yankees 30 times in the next decade. what is the over under on reds win total for the decade? 3?…4? I mean this is bordering on absurdity. what role to teams like the reds play at this point. what is the purpose of us playing the yankees really?

    i live in Indiana and try to get to one game per series in Cincy during the year. But for this series , forget it. I don’t want to be outnumbered 3 to 1 by a bunch of ” new yawkers” yelling” LETS GO YANKEES”. THE FIRST time the yanks came to town it was cute to see all the Yankee fans down there. 15 years later it is just down right depressing

    • TR

      Play the games. A new day is coming for the Reds. For memories, I’ll remember 1976.

    • David

      The winning percentage disparity is a very interesting point.

      This is what MORE money can do. Give the Yankees a good enough team to have a winning year almost (?) every year. But it can’t guarantee they will catch lightening in a bottle and get into and win the World Series. Giancarlo Stanton is a great example. He had a couple of really impressive years with the Marlins, who gave him a big contract, which they could not afford. But the Yankees could. So they took him on.
      And now, he is not still the player that they thought he would always be.
      And…that happens a lot in baseball.

      If I had the Yankees resources, I would scour the country and the Latin American countries for the best potential young pitching talent, and stuff my minor leagues with as much young talent as possible, and see what develops. Pitching wins games.
      Home runs, etc., are exciting, but pitching wins. They paid Aaron Judge a huge amount of money, but they will come to regret that money spent, too, someday.

  6. Mike Adams

    No big deal. This isn’t the Yankees of old.
    Just another team the Reds need to win 2 out of 3 against.
    More interested in the Brewers and Cards games.
    I do hate visiting teams having more fans and cheering louder than Cincinnati.

    • Rednat

      yes. i hate this too. relatively new phenomenon. I don’t remember many visiting fans at riverfront or Crosley

  7. Mark Moore

    If any of you are AARP members, I highly recommend reading the article by Bob Costas from this month’s “Bulletin”. He talks about his first ever visit to the old Yankee Stadium (1959, 7-years-old, with his father) and shares some fantastic memories. The size of the playing field was immense. Really a great read and I’m pretty sure it will be made public after about another month as opposed to member-exclusive. He even gives a nod to Crosley Field.

  8. MIredfan

    Another fantastic column Richard. Very insightful, intelligent read.
    So wait, are you saying the Reds aren’t the only team with bad luck and questionable FO moves? Misery loves company. But I’d still rather be the Reds, who are least doing it on a budget. Its more admirable. Now if only they could repeat Tampa Bay’s success…….
    The NY spending sprees make them the ire of fans, and it’s always enjoyable when it blows up in their face. Ditto Mets and Padres.
    Keep up the great work Richard.