From Bill Madden -
There is a reason Brian Cashman is taking this extra time to reach a decision on a manager and doing his due diligence by conferring further over the weekend with his baseball people: His job is riding on it being the right one.
The emergence of young-gun pitchers Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and especially Joba Chamberlain – the centerpiece of Cashman’s grand plan to maintain the Yankees as a power without the bloated payroll – saved the season for the GM, if not his manager. Forgotten for the time being was the $40 million spent on Kei Igawa that could have otherwise gone to Ted Lilly; the $40 million Carl Pavano was still soaking up while lying by a pool in Florida; the $17 million in wince money being paid out to Kyle Farnsworth or, going back, the ill-conceived trades for Jeff Weaver and Kevin Brown that started the Yankees on this downward pitching cycle that now is showing signs of reversing itself.
Nevertheless, it was ownership that took the public relations waxing for the severing of ties with Torre, which is why the Steinbrenners have taken pains to say the hiring of the new manager will be largely the decision of Cashman and his baseball operations people. Even though Steinbrenner long ago designated Don Mattingly as Torre’s heir apparent, his son Hank has made it clear that while the family has its own favorite for the job, it isn’t going to force anyone on Cashman. If it is indeed Mattingly, then he is Cashman’s guy.
This is Cashman’s dilemma: whoever he chooses will be directly tied to his own destiny. His three-year, $5million contract expires after next season and it was interesting to hear Hank Steinbrenner say the other day that Yankee fans and the media should have “patience” with the new manager because he isn’t being handed the 1996 Yankees. Whether intentional or not, it came out sounding as if (in his mind) this current version of the Yankees, which is largely the product of Cashman, doesn’t have the same potential as the team Gene Michael put together for Torre.
This all makes sense to me. If the public is upset about the Yankees taking Girardi over Mattingly, let Cashman take the heat. On the flip side, if Mattingly is chosen and he’s in over his head, let Cashman take the heat. It’s win-win, in terms of PR, for the Steinbrenners and President Bluster – if it works out, in terms of the manager choice, they’re golden for empowering Cashman, and, if it doesn’t work out, it’s Cashman’s fault.
It’s an old Steinbrenner trick – he used to do this with Gabe Paul in the 1970’s too with statements like ‘Billy Martin’s fate is in Gabe Paul’s hands’ when we all knew that Big Stein was the man behind the curtain.
But, don’t feel sorry for Cashman – because, if he makes the right call (assuming it really is his call), he can look like a genius here and it gives him some leverage on his next contract. What’s it going to be Batman, the tiger or the lady? Tough call.