Yankees ‘going for it’ after trades put them in prime position

Brian Cashman didn’t make all those moves at the trade deadline to get himself one roll of the dice in a Wild Card game. He made all those moves because he clearly thought the Yankees could win the American League East this season, and maybe more than that.

This isn’t about how he brought in two starting pitchers and two relief pitchers and a third baseman and managed to do that without giving up any of his three very best prized prospects, because good for him on all that. This isn’t about how Cashman tried to get Jay Bruce away from the Mets to give the Yankees one more left-handed bat, a brief drama that somehow had everybody in Yankee Universe acting insulted that the Mets apparently didn’t understand how important it is that the Yankees make a run this season.

No. This is about the Yankees going all-in at the trade deadline as much as anybody in baseball. Nothing has changed since then, starting with expectations. Cashman didn’t make all these plays because he had a burning desire to be first runner-up in the AL East.

“We’re going for it,” a Yankee fan I know said the other day. “Now we’re going to find out if this was the year we should have gone for it.”

Cashman has been properly and righteously praised for all the moves he has made over the last 13 months, starting with the trade deadline of 2016. He has replenished the Yankee farm system, he dealt Aroldis Chapman away and got him back as a free agent. Now, in the last couple of weeks, he has brought in David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray. If you are keeping score at home, that is a fifth of a baseball team.

And Cashman, in his own words, explained why he did what he did and how he did it and what he gave up to do it with an explanation that resonated with Yankee fans, and the Yankee media, which is often as excitable as the fan base:

We did it because we’re the Yankees.

So now they’re supposed to turn things around in the American League East and win the American League East from the Red Sox, with whom they have seven more games in the regular season starting on Sunday night. The Yankees haven’t won the AL East in five years. They haven’t won a playoff game in five years. The last time they played a postseason game was a Wild Card game at home against the Houston Astros two years ago. Dallas Keuchel shut them out, 3-0. The last playoff game they won was Game 5 of a division series against the Orioles in 2012, before they got themselves good and swept by the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.

The Yankees never fall apart, and deserve all praise for that. They haven’t had a losing season in a quarter-century. This isn’t the period between losing the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers and not making the playoffs again until 1995 against the Mariners (though they were on their way to the ’94 Series under Buck Showalter before the season got cancelled in August). This isn’t the lost years of Stump and Bucky. But five years without points on the board in October, the only place on the baseball map that has ever truly mattered around here, feels like a lifetime.

Brian Cashman has put the Yankees in great position to win the AL East.

Brian Cashman has put the Yankees in great position to win the AL East.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

It is why for all the bright talk about a bright future for the Yankees, and all the big talk about Bryce Harper ending up at the Stadium someday, the Yankees of the summer of ’17 have been built to do more than just get themselves to a one-game season against the Rays or Royals or Twins or Angels or whomever gets the second Wild Card in the American League. The Yankees have gotten younger. They’ve built a deeper farm system, even if Cashman did give up Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian and Dustin Fowler to get Gray. Cashman does seem to have set his team up for years to come. And they sure are fun to watch again.

But this has become a this-year team, for Cashman, and for Joe Girardi. There is no other way to measure things at the Stadium. Cashman made these moves because he absolutely decided the Yankees could take the Red Sox this year, and take back the AL East. I still believe the Yankees won the trade deadline as much as the Dodgers did with Yu Darvish. That was such a big, stirring win for the Yankees on Friday night, five in the eighth, as big a comeback win as they have had in a season that has seen so many “Late Show” comebacks.

I still believe that the Yankees can be a nightmare, because of offense, and because of relief pitching, in a short series. But here’s the deal, after all the deals:

The Yankees have to get to a short series.

They have had issues with starting pitching all along. Michael Pineda is long gone, and now CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are hurt at the same time. No one is going to cry the Yankees a river. David Price is hurt again for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello is 6-14.

For a couple of weeks, through the first weekend in September, this is a Yankee-Red Sox summer again. It is the two of them fighting it out for the AL East. But Cashman didn’t build this team to make a good fight of things in the division. He built this team to win the division, and play the Indians in the first round of the playoffs.

There was all this general giddiness that the baseball world was once again properly spinning on its axis when Cash did make his moves; that somehow balance had finally been restored in baseball because the Yankees were buying again in July and not selling.

But even in a world where the Yankees have won one World Series since 2000 and last won a Series eight years ago, balance is officially restored when they win something more than a Wild Card. Starting with, like, winning their division. Like, now.

Cashman traded Chapman last season only to then bring him back in free agency.

Cashman traded Chapman last season only to then bring him back in free agency.

(Phil Long/AP)

Got much Yankees-Sox? Jerry’s denial & Melo drama . . .

– You know what would be kind of nice one of these days?

It would be kind of nice if the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t end up on Sunday Night Baseball so often you start to get the idea that you can find them there on Sunday nights as often as you can find “Game of Thrones.”

This is another way of saying that a Sunday afternoon game between the two teams, here or at Fenway — we actually get one at Fenway next Sunday — shouldn’t feel as rare as somebody hitting for the cycle.

– It is rather appropriate that new NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Jones has shown this kind of Hall of Fame denial about Ezekiel Elliott, and domestic violence, and the six-game suspension that Elliott just got from his league over what happened between him and a young woman in Columbus a year ago.

There is no word yet on whether Elliott will appeal the league’s decision.

All indications are that he will.

Elliott said on social media Friday night that he strongly disagrees with the league’s decision.

But you can imagine how strongly his ex-girlfriend must have disagreed with getting bounced around by Elliott, which the NFL clearly believes she was.

The Yankees have a chance to catch the Red Sox thanks to Cashman's deadline moves.

The Yankees have a chance to catch the Red Sox thanks to Cashman’s deadline moves.

(Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

Elliott clearly doesn’t want to go away for six games, and has every right to appeal.

It means that everybody ought to settle in for a long legal and procedural fight.

Maybe even like Deflategate.

Except this is actually about a real crime, whether Elliott got charged in Columbus or not.

– You now hear the same kind of yearning from golf announcers for Jordan Spieth to get into contention that you used to hear with Tiger Woods.

I’m not the first to ask this question but – seriously? – how is Jerry Jones in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Robert Kraft is not?

Michael Conforto continues to have a wonderful season, in a lost season, for the New York Mets.

No kidding, I really love the idea that the Mets didn’t seem to understand that it was practically their civic duty to help the Yankees out on Jay Bruce.


The Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the A’s at the trade deadline.

(Fred Thornhill/AP)

Do you sometimes get the idea that we’re going to see Namath back under center for a regular-season Jets game before Christian Hackenberg?

– Every time I think I can call off the prayer vigil on getting Melo to the Rockets, there seems to be some new roadblock.

And I have to go light another candle.

All in the name of No. 7 just being happy.

I wonder how Jennifer Lopez’s boyfriend feels about Boss Jeter becoming the boss in his hometown.

Wait, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell aren’t going to be a buddy movie?

All the Patriots have had going for them, for this entire football century, is one of the great owners in all NFL history, the greatest coach in NFL history, and the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

The Cubs need to pick up the pace a little, right?

Even around here, it was kind of neat watching all the hand-wringing about the Yankees’ recent slump after we were supposed to be convinced they were halfway to the Canyon of Heroes.

No kidding, who’s better at trash talk — our president and the little nut from North Korea, or McGregor and Mayweather?

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