General manager Brian Cashman held a team meeting Tuesday afternoon, a day after the New York Yankees were embarrassed in a 12-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, and the message was clear: "Talk is cheap and all that matters is the performance."
Cashman, who does not often travel with the Yankees, showed up in Buffalo to witness one of the worst losses his team has had this season. In a game they led 6-2, the Yankees' bullpen imploded and gave up 10 runs in the sixth inning for their sixth loss in seven games, prompting the GM to speak to the team collectively.
"[I wanted] to just remind them, first and foremost, that I believe in them. They all were acquired for various reasons, to come together as a group as a team for high expectations. And so reminding them of who they are," Cashman said. "Remind them of where they've got to get back to and who they are, and by taking the opportunity to do that from time to time and see if it helps."
The Yankees lost again on Tuesday, this time falling to the Blue Jays 2-1 to extend their losing streak to five games.
Before the start of this madcap coronavirus-shortened season, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the Yankees would be one of the two top teams in the American League East. The Yankees were flying high after a 16-6 start, but after losing 15 of their past 20 games, they are now barely holding onto the eighth and last AL playoff spot.
"It's not something that we're accustomed to, having a slide like this," Cashman said. "We're used to better baseball than this, our fans deserve better baseball than this."
The Yankees' 5-14 record in the 19 games heading into Tuesday's game matches their worst 19-game span over the past 20 seasons. The 'Bombers' are hitting .204 as a team over their past 20 games, their worst batting average over a 20-game span since 2014.
Over those 20 games, nine of the Yankees' 16 hitters have an average below .200, with Mike Ford (3-35, .086) and Gary Sánchez being the worst. Sánchez was benched for two games amid a 5-for-40 slide, hitting .130, with an inordinate 48 strikeouts in 32 games.
But Cashman, as well as manager Aaron Boone, have stressed that the Yankees' slide doesn't have a sole culprit, including their numerous injured stars. The Yankees have had 10 players on the injured list this season, an All-Star group that includes Aaron Judge (calf strain), Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring strain), DJ LeMahieu (thumb sprain) and Gleyber Torres (hamstring and quadriceps strain).
While LeMahieu and Torres are active, Judge's and Stanton's return remains unknown. Boone said both players have resumed baseball activities but would not commit to a timeline beyond "before the playoffs."
Cashman also reiterated that bringing in new players by trade was an impossibility because of the high asking price, and that the Yankees need to turn things around with the present roster. He said they shouldn't count on Stanton or Judge, though he stressed both are expected to be back before the end of the regular season.
"Bottom line is we're working on our own. There's no help coming from anywhere and the challenge is to find a way to get through this storm," Cashman said. "Obviously, the work's got to be done now while the storm is upon us, and clearly we all know the storm is upon us. We haven't played well now for quite some time and we all know we're capable of more, significantly more, both individually and collectively and that responsibility starts obviously with me."
He added: "I don't think that's ever crept into any of our player's or staff's minds of, 'Oh, you know, those guys are coming down the line and they'll be riding in with a white hat on.' No, that's not, you know, that's not what we're looking for. We're dealing with they're due back at some point. And it'd be nice, obviously, if it was today, but it's not. Our complete focus is on what we have here that's available to us."