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Brian McCann calls his first half season with the Yankees “horrible”

Jul 1, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

MLB: Yankees-Brian McCann Press Conference Reuters

Brian McCann has been one of the biggest free agent busts of the offseason so far, hitting just .221 with a .642 OPS in 74 games for the Yankees after seven-time All-Star catcher hit .277 with an .823 OPS in nine seasons for the Braves.

To his credit McCann hasn’t pulled any punches in assessing his own performance in the first season of a five-year, $85 million contract, telling Brendan Kuty of the Newark Star Ledger:

Horrible. Hitting–you know, I feel good behind the plate. But swinging the bat, I need to get better. We’ve just got to keep grinding. I’ve got faith in myself and I think we’ll swing the bats better.

McCann hit poorly in April and May, but June was his worst month with a .198 batting average and .580 OPS.

No one should have expected McCann to collapse so suddenly at age 30, especially since he was one of the better-hitting catchers in baseball last season in Atlanta, but back in November our own Matthew Pouliot did break down why McCann was a poor bet to age well into his thirties and our own Bill Baer analyzed why calling Yankee Stadium home wasn’t going to boost McCann’s power numbers quite as much as many people expected.

Of course, the Yankees talked about how they signed McCann for his Thurman Munson-like intensity behind the plate and … well, that hasn’t changed any (and he’s thrown out a career-high 45 percent of steal attempts, at least). And now they owe him $17 million per season through 2018.

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  1. thomas844 - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Beltran hasn’t been much better

  2. yankeefanincolo - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    It’s the “Samson Syndrome”… he can’t hit since he had to shave off the beard.

  3. barrywhererufrom - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    This signing and Beltran could be part of the reasons Cashman loses his job. Ironically even after all their injuries the replacements to their rotation haven’t pitched poorly. Their lack of run producing hitters in their lineup is glaring. This was a bad team put together by Cashman..

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      I think you have to give some credit to McCann for the success of the replacement pitching staff. And Beltran was hitting quite well before he flipped over the wall in Tampa.

      While guys like Roberts and Johnson have not produced at a high level, the season ain’t over and we will see what fruit the trade market yields.

      • Eutaw's Finest - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        But could you really EXPECT Roberts and Johnson to produce at a high level? They were signed to low end deals because they are not guys who produce at a high level, so to set the expectations any higher than their past few seasons would dictate is wishful thinking at best.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        Absolutely right, but given the market I think even these signings panned out relatively well. Both Roberts and Johnson have provided positive value, probably to a greater extent than their contracts would merit. Roberts has been worth over one WAR, while Johnson ins rather limited playing time has been worth nearly half a win. If we take 2 WAR to be an “average” MLB player, both guys are basically set to be average for dirt cheap. Cheap enough to be be replaced if the market presents options that would be clear upgrades.

    • TheMorningStar - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Get ready to be attacked by the Cashman apologists. Nothing bad is ever ‘teflon’ Cashmans fault. All the blame goes soley to Yankee ownership.

    • trbmb - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      I would really like to see Cashman take a shot at being a GM on a low revenue team, one without ready $$$$ to address any need. His contract is up at season end, now might be the time for him to go do that. I suspect he won’t.

      He has had 17 years, time for a change.

      If George S was still around, Cashman wouldn’t be. Hal and Hank are another story.

  4. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    The guy had to learn a whole new league worth of hitters. Then he had to learn an whole new pitching staff. Then 3/5 of the pitching staff he learned went away and he had to learn a whole NEW new pitching staff.

    While I don’t think this excuses all of his hitting struggles, it does leave me inclined to cut the guy more slack than I would most other new players. His game calling and defense have been pretty awesome, all things considered.

  5. TheMorningStar - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Where are all the Cashman apologists now???

    And please don’t blame the McCann and Beltran signings and the Phil Hughes non-tender soley on team ownership.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Well, I will say this: if Cashman gets the blame for the bad, let’s also give him some credit for the good.

      He signed Tanaka, who one could argue is in the top 3 pitchers in baseball this season (and just imagine if he had a league-average defense behind him!).

      He picked up Solarte off of the MiLB scrap heap who was worth a full WAR in April/May.

      The Yankees farm system has produced what is arguably the best late-inning bullpen duo in baseball this year (Betances/Robertson).

      Gardner has been worth almost 3 WAR already this year on a reasonable contract.

      The team lost 3/5 of its rotation, plus big chunks of time from its closer, RF and 1B, and remains 2.5 games out of first place with half the season in the books.

      I won’t say that all has been rosy, but we are not talking about an incompetent GM here.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        Of course, the flip side is that prior decisions by Cashman (and by Hank S. on extending A-Rod) provided that bad defense behind Tanaka.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        Absolutely. And that is likely why they paid the big bucks for Tanaka and his 127 Ks. I think if some of the big hitters were hitting the team could afford to play Brendan Ryan a bit more, but that is likely a net neutral move given his offensive ineptitude.

        I am not trying to absolve Cashman and Co of all of their sins here, but merely pointing out that SOME decisions have worked out quite well and that the team is in a pretty good spot, all things considered.

      • TheMorningStar - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        That’s all nice, but the fact is if Cashman were the GM of almost any other team he would have been fired long ago; his ‘mistakes FAR outweigh he ‘successes’.

        For every Solarte there are 3 Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbays, and Alfonso Sorianos.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        Those are all pretty good examples of Cashman’s relative success stories. Wells was dirt cheap for the Yankees with his former team picking up most of his salary, and he carried the team for a month or two when he came over.

        Soriano, basically the same story.

        Overbay was a good glove platoony-tune who got way too much playing time because of Teixeira’s injury. They eventually upgraded the position by pairing him with Mark Reynolds, but it wasn’t enough. Personally I would have been happier giving someone like Russ Canzler a shot there, but Cashman has more info than me. Maybe that would have been the disaster.

        I think the Yankees’ ability to take on salary means they tend to pick up big names, which makes the failures seem greater than they are. I love that the Yankees get roasted when they have all stars at every position, and they get roasted when they don’t have enough all-stars. First world problems for sure

      • TheMorningStar - Jul 1, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        Vernon Wells is an example of a good Cashman move???

        You’re drinking waay to much of the Yankee cool aid my friend if you consider Wells and Reynolds and Overbay as good trades/signings. You need to get with reality…those moves were terrible.

        The Yankees are still playing Wells as I type this.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        In a vacuum I would not say they are good moves. Wells and Overbay were picked up at the end of spring training, when there were not many other options available, to fill specific needs that arose unexpectedly (Tex’s wrist injury and Granderson’s broken arm, both occurring during spring training) . And Cashman paid very little for either one.

        I am not going to say that those moves were keys to any kingdom, but they filled needs that the club had without preventing the team from being flexible in the future. So I would not count them as disastrous either.

  6. groupofsevenrules - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Whining about your own performance isn’t the right way to play the game, Brian. Bellyache about someone else’s instead. You’re undoubtedly still the best in the game at that.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Whining about his performance? Sounds like he did nothing more than respond as honestly as he could to the question(s) posed by the respective reporter writing the article.

  7. sdelmonte - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    There was a great article somewhere on last wekk about how good McCann is at framing pitches. He might not be hitting, but given the piecemeal nature of the Yankees’ rotation, he is contributing something huge right now. Yeah, he was signed to hit, but he’s earning his pay a lot more than Beltran.

    • chc4 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      He’s not being paid $85mill over 5 years to frame pitches. It’s a nice secondary skill but they paid for his bat.

      • f.verd - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        Time to “rest” McCann and let Cervelli have a shot while he’s still healthy…before he’s not…

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        I think they paid for the package. Cashman & Co have shown that they love some pitch framing, see Molina, Stewart etc. who were not in the lineup for their bats.

  8. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Yes – but there has been a 37% reduction in Shenaniganry on opposing players Home Runs.

    So they got that going for them

  9. Eutaw's Finest - Jul 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    “…hitting just .221 with a .642 OPS in 74 games for the Yankees…”

    And people are still clamoring for McCann to be an All Star catcher based solely on his performance during his tenure with the Braves and disregarding his ’14 numbers. I don’t get it.

    • southpaw2k - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      In fairness, who in the AL would be adequate at making the All-Star team? I know Derek Norris is pretty high up on the votes right now. Would you rather have Salvador Perez over McCann?

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      you don’t get it you say…

      the voting process ALLOWS fans to vote for who they WANT to see in the game…

      and that does NOT have to be who’s doing the best…

      no rules saying one has to vote for the player with the highest WAR, highest OPS or OPS+ etc…

      If enough people WANT to see him in the game and they vote for him to be on the team, well that is how the process works.

      many people like players who are not the best in the game and they want to see the player THEY like, even if they aren’t the best player.

      • Eutaw's Finest - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        I’m not disagreeing… I should have mentioned in there the ramifications of the ASG and why fans are voting for a struggling player to make the team, in turn hurting your division’s chances at winning just so you can get your favorite team’s players in there. Logic fail.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        Eutaw has an interesting point, since in one of Bud’s biggest stupidities, this decides home team advantage for the WS. If I’m a Cards fan, shouldn’t I, in addition to ballot stuffing to put Yadi past Lucroy, even more, stuff the ballot for **the worst player at every position in the AL?**

  10. pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    No one is hitting. Period. The only Yankee who has been somewhat consistent has been Gardner. Everyone else, including McCann, Beltran, Ellsbury, Jeter, etc., need to step up a lot over the second half. I don’t blame McCann. When an offense is as bad as this one, they’re all to blame. It’s a shame because their shaky starting pitching has been keeping them in games fairly well, but they just can’t score enough.

    • sportsfan18 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      don’t expect Jeter to “step up” as you said…

      For a 40 yr old shortstop, he’s doing very well…

      For “Jeter” he isn’t but well he is NOW 40 yrs old.

      The best bet for Jeter is to maintain what he’s done and not slow down due to the grind and the long season.

      Jeter kicking it up a notch? Highly unlikely.

      I commend him for an outstanding career, he’s an all time great and he is doing better this season than I thought he would.

      • pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Let me clarify. I’m not expecting Jeter to hit 20 homers and hit knock in 65 RBI’s in the second half, but it would be nice to get a little more out of him if he’s going to hit in the second whole. If not, move him down the order. There’s no reason at this point that he should be hitting second in this order. I totally respect what Jeter has been for the Yankees, but even the past greats slid their way down the order when they declined.

    • f.verd - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      And I keep wondering …how is it possible that K. Long still has a job? !! His last “success” was Granderson, and Long rode that wave way beyond its useful life. Long seems to have a history of turning Gold into Straw.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        It is difficult to assess how much blame or credit to give to one particular coach. Even if they determined that KLong isn’t helping to a great extent, firing him is only a good idea if they have someone better lined up.

      • pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Although I like Kevin Long, I think it may be time to make a change there. Something needs to shake things up a little and maybe this is that thing. While I know this offense lacks power, there’s no reason that a lot these guys shouldn’t be hitting as least 30 points higher with their respective averages. I also wish Giradi would shake up the line up more. That’s one thing Torre was good at and most of the time it seemed to spark something positive. I know it’s not the answer to all of their problems but sometimes you need to do something.

  11. dluxxx - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    How do Yankee fans feel about McCann’s contract number? 17 million for a catcher who isn’t hitting? I hear all the bellyaching about Mauer and his $23MM contract from Twins fans, and granted he’s no longer a catcher, but I find that a difference of $5 million between McCann and Mauer isn’t really that much of a difference. I mean, if Mauer’s still catching, I think he’s still the better option. Mauer > McCann IMO.

    • pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      What are you going to do? It is what it is. The contract amounts don’t change the fact that he’s not hitting. Given the Yankees options going into the season, I don’t think they regret the signing. Of course they expected more offense out of McCann, but they’re getting the best catching they’ve had in a while. This whole thing is about the what if’s.. If the starting pitching stayed healthy, if the other guys they signed were doing better, etc., we wouldn’t be looking at the McCann signing as a failure.

      • TheMorningStar - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        C’mon, even if everyone was healthy and both Elsbury and Beltran were tearing it up, how can a $17 mil a year player hitting .221 with a .642 OPS, with a -.07 WAA and a 0.2 WAR NOT be considering a failure in ANY circumstances????

        Sorry, be you can’t sugarcoat this one.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      The difference there might be the player’s salary as a percentage of the team’s total payroll. In that regard, Mauer is WAY more expensive than McCann.

      • pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        He may go out there in the second half and earn that contract. Very few big signings for the Yankees over the years have just lit it up right away. Whether it’s Tino, Giambi, Tex, etc., it took them a while to finally settle in. Of course he could continue to struggle into the second half but I think good hitters eventually find their swing. Also, they’re all struggling, so it makes it’s that much worse and glaring. If some of the others pick it up you can ride it out while someone else is struggling.

    • zackd2 - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Except Mauer isn’t a catcher anymore. So this argument is pointless.

      • dluxxx - Jul 1, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        If you look at the numbers between 05 & 2013, Mauer is better in pretty much every category except homeruns. He was also a top notch defensive catcher. McCann is no Mauer, and he’s getting close to Mauer money from the Yankees. I’m just pointing out that pre-concussion the Mauer contract was nothing to complain about, but plenty complained anyway. His contract at 1B? Yeah, I’d like a bit more offense, but his contract isn’t crippling the Twins by any means. They still have plenty of money to spend. The issue is their owner and GM not opening up the checkbook.

  12. SocraticGadfly - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    The success of the team is due to Girardi as much as anybody. Once again, as in most his Yankees years, he’s managing above Pythag, which is (over sufficient time period) an approximation of sorts for WAR for managers.

    McCann? Assuming that, if not by the end of this year, that next year, McCann’s thrown-out percentage reverts to his past levels then — pitch framing aside — he’s be about league-average defensively. He’s never caught 140 games in a year and hasn’t had 130 since 2011. Matt’s earlier piece about his future is probably about right.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 1, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Why assume his pitch framing results to past levels but nothing else? If we are going to play the game of ‘regressing to history’, then his bat should be coming around any day now.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        No, I’m not counting pitch framing. I’m saying that, if his steals-thrown-out reverts to his averages then, NOT counting pitch framing as something yet part of catchers’ defensive measurement on FG or B-Ref, he’s league average.

        Otherwise, again, per Matt, the rest of his game is likely NOT to “regress” to 2013 or earlier.

  13. Black Dog - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Yes, I’d rather have Salvador Perez than McCann. He’s hitting 60 points higher, and with more home runs.

  14. pete2112 - Jul 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    It’s quite easy to look at where we stand now and say who you would rather have based on their numbers at the middle of the season. Did you say this about Perez at the beginning of the season?

  15. dowhatifeellike - Jul 1, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Most people said the same thing when the Yankees offered that contract.

  16. serbingood - Jul 1, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    Cervelli should be catching at least 3 days a week. He is a good hitter when he gets the at bats. McCann should be given a bit more rest during year one. Handling an ever changing pitching staff and the media are not going to help him at the plate.

    Cervelli was on route to be the starting catcher last year before getting hit on the hand. Give Cervelli some more time. He can do it. It would also take some pressure off McCann.

  17. cranbery - Jul 1, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    Brian is too thin and doesn’t look happy at all!

  18. sanzarq - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    McCann is hitting into a radical defensive infield shift this year that he didn’t have to deal with in Atlanta. Until he can consistently hit the other way to keep the infielders honest, his batting average will suffer. Same thing is happening to Chris Davis with the O’s.

  19. Dom Fruges - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    I don’t know too much about McCann’s stats before he came to the Yankees. However, I think the Yankees missed on this and I throw a lot of the blame on Joe Girardi. He had two good catchers in Cervelli and Murphy plus Gary Sanchez in the minors. He should have gone with Murphy since Cervelli was hurt. I think both Joe Torre and Joe Girardi are “defensive” minded about the catching position. So, perhaps in their mind McCann was a very good defensive catcher with an added bonus of hitting HRs and RBIs.

    However, he has been killed by the infield “Shift” and perhaps not knowing AL pitching.

    It really goes to the heart of the Yankees problems with players coming out of their system. These players need time on the field and the Yankees are always looking for instant success. I think Cervelli and Murphy would be fine .275 – .290 hitters if they could play on a regular basis.

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