KANSAS CITY — With his first season as the Yankees’ captain drawing to a close, Aaron Judge has been paying close attention to every aspect of the organization’s operation, especially within the player group. He has seen red flags that require attention, and he is prepared to offer suggestions.
“There’s some bigger picture ideas and philosophies that I think maybe need to change,” Judge said Sunday as the Yankees prepared to play their final game of the 2023 campaign against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has promised to ask “tough questions” in the wake of the club missing the postseason, its first dark October since 2016.
General manager Brian Cashman is expected to return, and though manager Aaron Boone is under contract through next year, he said he has not been told if he will return. A meeting with Steinbrenner and Cashman is scheduled for this week in Tampa, Fla.
Judge said he believes Boone is the right person to continue managing the club.
“He’s got a good feel for the clubhouse, with the 100-win seasons and the things he’s done,” Judge said. “He’s just a good communicator. He’s able to hold guys accountable. If he sees things he doesn’t like, he’s going to call you in the office and let you know. He’s just been a great manager year in, year out. I’m looking forward to more years with him.”
Judge was less effusive when asked about Cashman’s future.
“I’ve got nothing on that,” Judge said. “Brian, we’ve seen his track record and what he’s done. He’s brought a lot of great ballplayers into this clubhouse. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.”
Judge called 2023 a “challenging year” for the club from the aspect of injuries and changes in staff (hitting coach Dillon Lawson was dismissed at the All-Star break and replaced with Sean Casey, whom Judge would like to return in 2024).
Better health is essential. But Judge also said the club needs players to exhibit more drive.
“In here, I think a level of urgency and an understanding [is needed that] just because you get to the big leagues and you get to New York, you’ve still got to improve,” Judge said. “You’ve still got to make adjustments. That’s what I think these extra four weeks will help guys figure out and get them on the right path.”
Boone said that this week’s meetings are intended to pinpoint what went wrong with the club and how it can avoid a similar outcome in 2024.
“We’re certainly taking a deep dive on everything, making sure we’re separating facts from some piling on that happens this time of year,” Boone said.
Steinbrenner has commissioned a third-party review of the Yankees’ processes, including their analytics department, which has drawn scrutiny following several ill-fated trades. Judge is curious to see what comes of having a fresh set of eyes on the operation.
“I think it’s just about how we use [analytics] and how we value them is an aspect that we just maybe need to look at again,” Judge said. “The Yankees are top-notch in the numbers we get. I think we’re the best in the game at that. I think it’s about funneling those down to the players in the right format.
“ … I wouldn’t say [we are] overloaded. I think it’s just looking at the right numbers. I think maybe we might be looking at the wrong ones. We need to value some other ones that people might see as having no value.”
Judge declined to say which numbers he was referring to, though in a subsequent question about rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe, he pointed to batting average: “You can ask anyone in this room, if they’re hitting .200, they’re not happy.”
Despite a disappointing ending to the year, Judge said he is excited about what the Yankees saw late from some of their younger players, and he believes the clubhouse has good chemistry.
“We have a good group of guys in here,” Judge said. “I’m excited to build off what we’ve got here, and if we can add a couple of more pieces down the road this winter, then we’ll be in a good spot.”