Josh Donaldson disaster needs to come with hard Yankees lesson

At this point the most the Yankees are going to receive from Josh Donaldson is a lesson:

Trust what your ears hear and your eyes see.

They heard prior to acquiring Donaldson what was no secret in the game — that even his allies would describe him as having a prickly personality. The Yankees ignored that and traded for him anyway.

They watched Donaldson for a season-plus — between IL stints — fail to successfully hit a baseball. They mostly ignored that too.

The reasons why Brian Cashman and his baseball operations group ignored this evidence should serve as a primer about behaviors that have served the Yankees poorly as they have devolved this year into a non-contender. The question now is if they hear it and see it, or are they damned to keep repeating these mistakes?

Donaldson was released Tuesday — the Yankees having spent $50 million for 165 regular-season games of .207 with 25 homers and 180 strikeouts, plus an overmatched postseason performance last October. Yankee officials appreciated his defense and work ethic, but even those who liked him also saw his difficult side. That was central to why the release came now — before they had to bring him back from the 60-day IL and face the potential uproar from Donaldson over not playing over, among others, Oswald Peraza.

Robert Sabo for NY Post

They could have waited a little longer, but decided to bestow one more favor. His waiver claim period ends Tuesday, giving Donaldson enough time to hook on with a contender prior to the Sept. 1 deadline that would make him eligible to be part of the playoffs. It will be fascinating to see if another club wants to do business with Donaldson. Frankly, the Yankees should have done this weeks ago; I was consistently surprised that a non-contender would allow a player with no future with the club and no additive value in the clubhouse to be still taking batting practice in regular hitting groups. What was the upside?

But when it came to Donaldson, there was a disinterest in makeup that has beset the organization recently. For example, the Yankees for years had regularly tried to obtain Joey Gallo and Donaldson, and the word about Gallo’s edginess that might not mix well with New York was as prevalent in the game as Donaldson’s prickliness. Both were ignored — the human intelligence taking a backseat to the spread-sheet possibilities.

I recall watching a drill in spring training 1992 with a first-year Yankee manager named Buck Showalter. The drill was being purposefully disrupted by Mel Hall, an all-time bad act. Without making eye contact with me, Showalter said, “You could have a jerk (he used a stronger word) on your team, but that (stronger word) better be Barry Bonds.”

Hall was not Bonds, neither was Donaldson. With a great prime-age player, you might close your eyes to an issue. But the Yanks were not only dismissing questions of makeup here, but age (Donaldson was 36 when he was obtained), mounting injury history, diminishing batting averages and that he perpetuated the non-athletic, righty-swinging, all-or-nothing similarity of a lineup that kept getting shut down in the playoffs because it was non-athletic, righty-dominant and all-or-nothing.

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But desperation is a bad emotion to mix with decisionmaking. The Yankees kept striking out on finding a shortstop. They had stuck too long with Gleyber Torres, favoring metrics that said he could play shortstop over eyes that said he couldn’t. They stuck with Gary Sanchez too long at catcher for the same reason.

Sanchez fell into another all-too-common Yankee bucket — the player who enjoyed initial success that cratered and they held onto beyond the point of having value in the market (Deivi Garcia was the most recent piece of evidence). The Yanks should have just non-tendered Sanchez after the 2021 season. Instead, they had desperation when the lockout ended in March 2022 — spring training was about to begin and the Yanks still had Sanchez on the roster and payroll, but no starting shortstop. They traded Sanchez with Gio Urshela to notably miscalculate that Isiah Kiner-Falefa could handle shortstop here — which, for most of last season, the Yanks ignored their eyes about as well.

But access to Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt meant taking on Donaldson, who the Twins — for personality reasons — could not wait to eject.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman

The Yankees watched Donaldson not hit last season and not hit this season, but kept pointing to exit velocities that suggested he was just unlucky. But at some point, your eyes have to count too. Yep, Donaldson would intersperse a hard-hit ball occasionally amid a run of helpless at-bats. More importantly, the Yankees insist that their goal each year is to win the World Series. But it is hard to buy that if they watched Donaldson whiff in 16 of 36 appearances last postseason. It was a scream that he was yet another Yankee who would never succeed against playoff-caliber game-planning and pitching.

There is nothing the Yankees could do any longer about arguably the worst trade of Cashman’s administration — except open their eyes and ears and learn from it.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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