Yankees Hot Corner – Learning lessons from other NY-Metro teams
The New York Yankees are 6-9 this season and they’ve only won one series midway through April. The Bombers have a couple of things going against them; They have a rash of crippling injuries that have taken them off course. They have a manager who is very ho-hum when it comes to getting the most out of his team. They have a lack of discipline and fundamentals from the top down.
There are three Tri-State area teams that are currently in the playoffs of their respective sports right now. Each team got there with a different skill, and they all took their own paths to the playoffs. Two are actually playing each other right now, but that doesn’t mean anything in this hypothetical. The Yankees and their fans could learn a lesson or two from each of these teams right now and although the baseball season is very long (some say too long), it’s never too early to get some valuable lessons from some good teams.
Patience is a virtue
The Brooklyn Nets (then the New Jersey Nets) had a similar peak as the Yankees in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. The teams share a similar trajectory, even though the Nets don’t get the spotlight on them nearly enough. They lost a few times in the Finals, tried to rebuild in the mid and late 2000’s with aging, over the hill players, and have started a franchise renaissance with some young sparkplugs and veteran leadership.
The difference between the Yankees and Nets is that the Nets have been visibly more patient than the Yankees. D’Angelo Russell is now a star because Head Coach Kenny Atkinson gave him the time and tools to develop into one. Caris Levert is relied upon as one of the Nets’ pillars despite not having any fanfare coming out of college.
The Nets have been patient with their young players and have surrounded them with the right cast of characters around them. The Yankees need to do the same, and that all starts at the top with Brian Cashman. Sometimes it’s less about the splashy free agent and more about the guy who will take the time to teach the youngsters how to play the game correctly and how to get the most out of themselves as athletes. Yankee fans sometimes are too impatient and need to realize that patience is a virtue and the Brooklyn Nets are an example of that.
Trust the process
You’ve heard that phrase before. Former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie uttered it over and over when the Sixers were winning 20 games a year and quite frankly tanking each season until they got it right. They finally did and are now among the best teams in the NBA. They’re currently playing the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, but don’t let that be a deterrent for the Yankees to take lessons from both of them.
As is the case with Hinkie, Cashman has essentially told Yankee fans to trust the process. Despite not winning a World Series in ten seasons, Cashman is still among the best GMs in sports and even though the Yankees hold themselves to a higher pedigree than most other teams, they’ve had plenty of success.
The two teams are built very similarly; First round draft picks as the face of the franchise (Aaron Judge, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons), hired hands that have become an integral part of the lineup (Giancarlo Stanton, Jimmy Butler), and a supporting cast that can get the job done when needed (Luke Voit, Tobias Harris). Now the biggest lesson the Yankees can learn from the Sixers is how to bring this all together. It took the Sixers years to get to where they are, and the Yankees need to learn things the same way. They’ll never tank like Philly did but as the saying goes “Sometimes you need to lose first in order to win”.
New York Islanders
A coach can make all the difference
This is absolute a shot at Aaron Boone. Barry Trotz took the downtrodden (no pun intended) Islanders from worst in the league in defense to best in the league. He has them one game away from making it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first season on the Island, with essentially the same group of guys.
If the Yankees are going to make some noise in the playoffs, the coach, or in this case manager, needs to be relied upon to lead his men into battle. Aaron Boone doesn’t seem like a guy who can do that and it seems the Yankees are winning in spite of him.
He can throw whatever analytics he wants at his guys but until they have that bond that the Islanders (and Nets for that matter) have with their coach, they’ll never reach their goals. As Jeremy Roenick said last week on WFAN’s Joe and Evan radio show “Hard works beats talent ten out of ten times if talent doesn’t want to work”. He used that to describe the Islanders and Penguins but it could also apply to an insanely talented Yankees team.
There are lessons to be had all around the Yankees. This isn’t going to matter in September when the Yankees are fighting for the division, but it does matter right now because great teams win during times of adversity. If the Yankees and their fans can take just a little from each of the three teams in the playoffs, they’ll be much better off.
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