John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It was past midnight, Wednesday p.m. into Thursday a.m., and the Yankees hadn't begun their comeback in Anaheim yet that would lift them to a sixth straight victory, as they are defying all odds with a lineup that GM Brian Cashman calls "our 'B' Bombers."
Not as in Baby Bombers, of course, but rather Plan B.
In truth, however, Plan B came and went several transactions ago as this relentless storm of injuries continues to rain down on the Yankees, the latest casualty being Clint Frazier, who was only in the big leagues as a replacement in the first place.
As a result, Cashman has had to resort to, as he said to me over the phone on Thursday afternoon, "my Statue of Liberty play."
Statue of Liberty?
"Yeah," said Cashman, "like the plaque on the statue says: 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…"
The Yankee GM managed a tired laugh.
"I haven't used that line since 2005. That's the only other time I've seen anything like this."
That was the year of Aaron Small, you may remember, the minor-league journeyman pitcher who had a miracle 10-0 season filling in for an injury-plagued Yankees' starting rotation, along with the likes of Tim Redding, Darrell May, Shawn Chacon, Sean Henn, and an aging Al Leiter.
"This year our position players have been ravaged like nothing I've ever seen," Cashman said. "But it is what it is. You deal with it."
That's exactly what Cashman had been doing since late Wednesday afternoon, when trainer Steve Donohue had called him from Anaheim to tell him the MRI on Frazier's injured ankle indicated a need to put the outfielder on the injured list -- along with 13 other players at the moment.
Normally it would have meant plucking another player from Triple-A and getting him on a plane for California immediately, but with little meat left on the bone at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, if you will, Cashman and his staff immediately began scanning the major and minor-league rosters of the other 29 organizations in baseball, looking for immediate help.
For several hours Cashman worked the phones, first from his office at Yankee Stadium, then from his car as he drove to his home in Connecticut, and finally from his couch, with the game against the Angels on TV across the room.
Shortly after midnight, after fruitless conversations via phone or texts with other GMs about more appealing players, Cashman had a new outfielder, having agreed to send "cash considerations" to the Indians for Cameron Maybin, the 12-year big-leaguer who was currently playing in Triple-A Columbus.
In doing so the Yankees' GM had accomplished two primary goals: get something done fast enough to have a player in Anaheim for Thursday night's game, and do so without giving up a significant prospect.
"I was very transparent with clubs," Cashman said. "I told them I needed a player on a plane to LA first thing in the morning. A lot goes into it. You peel the onion and you determine, what's the landscape? I made a number of calls on players who either weren't available or teams said, 'Hey, we'll talk about him but we're going to want something in return.' I was like, 'OK, our time frame is not going to work.'
"A lot of relationships come into play. And your scouts are making recommendations. It turned out we had a scout right there, watching Columbus the last two days, so I was getting real-time reports on Maybin's at-bats. He was putting together quality at-bats, so that was always good to hear too.
"At the same time, you're on the phone with agents of players you're talking about, because with so little time to work with, you want to make sure you have advance consent (involving potential minor-league opt-outs, etc.)
"When the dust finally settled, there were two players I could get my hands on, and Maybin ended up being the choice. We got word to him around midnight in Columbus and our traveling secretary had him on an early flight in the morning.''
If that sounds like an awful lot of work for a past-his-prime player who was hitting .212 in Triple-A, well, it's Cashman's job to exhaust every possibility even in looking for what is likely to be short-term depth until the likes of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and perhaps Frazier too return from injury.
In any case, with Maybin in the fold post-midnight, Cashman turned his attention to the game in time to see the Yankees come back from 5-0 to win, with "B-Bombers" such as Tyler Wade, Gio Urshela, and Mike Ford playing important roles.
Such unsung contributions and some excellent starting pitching of late are helping the Yankees avoid potential disaster, and, who knows, perhaps save the season, but Cashman said he can't get caught up in looking at it that way.
"I'm not thinking anything but short-term right now," he said. "Put the tourniquet on it, stop the bleeding. Save the patient. So it's triage. That's what we're dealing with right now."
Yes, there is always work to be done this season, it seems. On Monday, Cashman put Jonathan Loaisiga on a plane to Anaheim to be a sixth starter, the intent being to give the other starters an extra day of rest, but back-to-back extra-inning games created a need in the bullpen and Loaisiga wound up being a savior of sorts Wednesday night with three scoreless innings in relief of CC Sabathia.
His reward was a plane ticket back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, because Cashman felt the pen needed still another fresh arm -- in this case Joe Harvey. As such, the GM was on the phone after the game into the early-morning hours, speaking with Aaron Boone and others in the organization.
"There's no such thing as sleep when we're playing on the West Coast," Cashman said. "I need to have those conversations after the game. We're so far away, out West, so there's only a small window if you're going to act on something. You wake up the farm director or the Triple-A manager, get somebody up and get the first flight out."
Cashman said his internal clock won't allow him to catch up on sleep once the sun is up, so it makes for an extra coffee on days like this. By 5 p.m., as he spoke on the phone in his office, I asked if he was hoping his Statue of Liberty play nets results similar to 2005, when the patchwork rotation more than held the fort as the Yankees wound up winning 95 games and an AL East title.
"I just want to get through the game tonight without having to make another transaction," he said. "That's always the ideal scenario. It's just not the likely one."