Via John Harper -
Damon Oppenheimer, the man most responsible for Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy becoming Yankees, was sitting behind his desk recently, recalling the circumstances that allowed him to draft the two pitchers, when suddenly he felt compelled to issue a warning of sorts.
“I hope people realize this isn’t the norm,” he said, speaking of how quickly Chamberlain and Kennedy rose through the minor league system. “This isn’t the way it’s going to be every year. I hope everybody’s not getting spoiled by this.”
…the Yankees’ farm system has made huge strides the last few years, rising in the annual rankings by Baseball America from 24th among the 30 organizations in 2004 to fifth going into 2008.
The turnaround coincided at least partly with GM Brian Cashman’s decision to name Oppenheimer as the new scouting director in 2005. Oppenheimer, a former catcher at USC and then in the Brewers’ minor-league system, had filled a handful of baseball operations positions since joining the Yankees as a scout in 1993, but amateur scouting is his passion, and he was delighted to be named scouting director.
It remains to be seen whether this gamble pays off, but there is no debating the improved state of the Yankee farm system. Oppenheimer’s role as scouting director in this improvement has earned him praise from both Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner, to the point where he is viewed as a potential successor to Cashman should the current GM leave on his own or be replaced in the coming years.
Oppenheimer deflected such talk when the subject was raised.
“If that’s something somebody else sees and wants to talk about, and that’s the right thing to happen, it’ll happen,” he said. “But I’m definitely not out there seeking that job. I love doing what I’m doing now. What we’ve done with Cash, everybody feels like we’re building something special here.”
I was once not that high on Oppenheimer. But, that was a mistake. I hope he’s the next Yankees G.M. – should something happen with Cashman (such as a promotion or an exit). He deserves the shot and has a leg up in that he knows the Yankees organization and what it takes to survive there.
It’s interesting that Cashman is now painted as a champion of Oppenheimer. That was not always the case. Note from an October 2005 report:
One thing under discussion is more frequent and inclusive meetings, in which Cashman, manager Joe Torre and possibly scout Gene Michael, whom Cashman regards very highly, will have Steinbrenner’s ear nearly as often as the Boss’ Tampa-based advisers. Billy Connors, Bill Emslie, Mark Newman and Damon Oppenheimer, all of whom work at the Tampa minor league complex, are among the chefs stirring the broth, a source of irritation to Cashman and Torre in New York.
Good job by Cashman in realizing the value of Oppenheimer and for putting him on point for the draft, as he has done now.