• Taibbi: Brian Cashman, The Bad Lieutenant

    Posted by on April 18th, 2009 · Comments (16)

    Matt Taibbi, over at the Men’s Journal, offers an opinion on Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman. (Hat tip to BBTF). Here’s some highlights of what Taibbi had to say:

    Because objectively speaking, the job of New York Yankees general manager should be the single most failure-proof position not only in sports but in all of human society. Giving a normal, red-blooded, pattern-baldness-suffering American male access to the Steinbrenner fortune and asking him to buy 25 baseball players a year in an unregulated market is no different, in any meaningful way, from handing Sarah Jessica Parker a blank check and asking her to fill a three-bedroom apartment with shoes and dresses. And we’re not even asking her to get good deals. All we ask is that the outfits match.

    [Current Yankees G.M. Brian] Cashman managed to discover the one avenue through which limitless money and power under the current Major League Baseball rules can be a competitive disadvantage. He found that if you pack your roster from top to bottom with pathologically needy, egomaniacal, paranoid megamillionaires aged 30 and up, you can more or less permanently block the development of the choice, hungry, 25- to 30-year-old talent group that serves as the core of virtually all winning baseball teams.

    Brian Cashman has kept his job in baseball over the years because he is masterfully good at just one particular thing: choosing sides in exploding Yankee scandals. Back in 1998, when he was elevated to general manager at age 30 (he joined the organization as an intern at 19), the assumption was that he would be there in title and that George Steinbrenner would be the guy making all the major decisions. Which sounds like a [bleep] deal for Cashman, except that, for the next 10 years or so, he could safely whisper to his buddies in the media that all the Yankees’ bad decisions were really made by the loony man above him. (Cashman has probably shoplifted a good two or three years of extra job security just by being one of the few people in the Insane Yankee Clown Posse to always feed the ravenous New York sports press.) He’s sort of like the Democratic Party in that he has managed to convince his fans that he was actually against deals he voted for/was in on from the beginning, and vice versa. Most Yankee fans believe Cashman didn’t really want to fire the revered Joe Torre and didn’t really want to sign Japanese special-needs student Kei Igawa and didn’t really want to acquire wall-puncher Kevin Brown or anger addict Randy Johnson or Jaret Wright or José Contreras or Jason Giambi or any of the other overpriced, underperforming free agents who soiled the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium over Cashman’s tenure.

    The story we’re supposed to buy is that Cashman deep down inside is really a Theo Epstein–style GM who values internal player development and homegrown pitching (just like the Democrats deep down inside were against the war in Iraq) but just hasn’t been allowed to do his thing because Steinbrenner or his equally loony sons are always overreacting to losing spring training games and forcing Cash’s otherwise steady hand.

    Cashman apologists would have the world believe that every time Yankee ownership sees David Ortiz hit a home run or James Shields pitch a complete game, this poor, unassuming, numbers-crunching GM gets an angry phone call from Steinbrenner’s Florida palace (in the public imagination, a massive palm-lined subtropical resort not unlike Pablo Escobar’s lavish Medellín spread) and is ordered to immediately go forth and buy a 10-figure free agent from Scott Boras to quiet the doddering Boss’s temporary attack of Player Envy. And right then and there Cashman’s sound, fiscally conservative 10-year plan to build around Austin Jackson, Phil Hughes, and Andrew Brackman (it was Ben Ford, Ryan Bradley, and Craig Dingman once upon a time) goes up in smoke.

    We seem to hear constantly from plugged-in baseball types like Fox’s Ken Rosenthal and SI’s Jon Heyman that Cash is in consideration for a GM job in a place like Washington, DC (the rumored destination in 2005) or Seattle (the rumored destination last fall), where he presumably wouldn’t be bogged down in organizational disputes and would be able to have real freedom in personnel decisions. And each time we are reminded just how much of a genius Cashman is, his wunderkind reputation still riding off the fumes of those world championships his first three seasons — championships that, in reality, were seeded years earlier by former Yankee personnel legend Gene (Stick) Michael, a man who actually considered chemistry when building teams. Interestingly, these whispers always seem to be floated just prior to Cashman signing a rich new long-term deal with the team that does bog him down in organizational disputes and doesn’t give him total personnel freedom, the Yankees.

    The net effect of all of this has been to inoculate Cashman from responsibility for any and all Yankee misfortunes. It’s not unlike an athlete who lets you know before the game that his arm hurts; if he gets lit up for seven runs in three innings, you know why. If he throws a shutout, he’s a hero.

    Since most know how I feel about Brian Cashman, I’ll let my past comments on him stand for the record. And, obviously, I think that Tiabbi has raised some interesting points here. How about you? What do you think about what Tiabbi has written and/or what’s your opinion of Cashman’s body of work as Yankees G.M.?

    Comments on Taibbi: Brian Cashman, The Bad Lieutenant

    1. saranacyankees
      April 18th, 2009 | 3:35 pm

      really stupid article, he says a yankees gm shouldnt be able to fail because you can basically buy whoever u want, but then faults cashamn for signing older and not younger players. Younger players are locked up by the teams that developed them, you dont have a chance to buy them until they get older. Throw in a little team chemistry preaching and blaming cashman for kei igawa, kevin brown, and chase right= really frustating article for me to read

    2. MJ
      April 18th, 2009 | 3:40 pm

      “…the job of New York Yankees general manager should be the single most failure-proof position not only in sports but in all of human society.”
      ——
      Stupidest comment ever. There is no such thing as a failure-proof position, no matter what people want to say.

      To even bother arguing this point — or any other that Taibbi raises — would be a colossal waste of my time. Taibbi should go back to MTV and Rolling Stone where he can conjure up other imaginative and farcical tales of woe.

    3. Pat F
      April 18th, 2009 | 6:49 pm

      what an awful, awful, awful article. most of this stuff doesn’t even make sense. i don’t know anything about this guy, but does he have any credentials to be offering analysis on the yankees that makes us think we should take it seriously.

      i’m not in love with brian cashman (nor am i someone who doesn’t like him), and therefore i am always willing to look at new angles. but you have to at least have some accountibility and/or make sense with what you are writing for me to give it any weight.

      saranacyankees already pointed out the most obvious fault/contradiction that exposes how this dude is trying to spin everything negative (you can’t do that, otherwise you end up contradicting yourself).

      another issue is his talking about how cashman has found the only way to create a competitive disadvantage. hmmm. toss out whatever years you want to toss out (98-00). after that, the yankees made the playoffs for 7 straight years. i’d love an explanation as to how this is somehow a “failure” due to the competitive disadvantage created by the way cashman operates.

      the list goes on, and i don’t feel like doing it when we’re down 20-2. this was a terrible article based on fluff and spinning things, not any sort of reality or cold hard facts. or even analysis that can be taken seriously for that matter due to all the contradictions (saranacyankees’ point) and flat out incorrect information (that the yankees have somehow failed by signing high priced free agents, making the playoffs 7 times after the stick/watson period was truly over).

    4. Pat F
      April 18th, 2009 | 6:53 pm

      if you want to make an argument that at least COULD be true, you talk about how cashman has only been successful because of the money (we don’t know because we have nothing on record with him working under different circumstances). but to talk about how the signing of these free agents has somehow made the team unsuccessful is laughable as it is simply untrue. and that is exactly what this guy is arguing when he talks about cashman’s way being a competitive disadvantage. i doubt any team has more wins or playoff apperances this decade. if that’s a lack of success, wow.

    5. thenewguy
      April 18th, 2009 | 7:58 pm

      And right then and there Cashman’s sound, fiscally conservative 10-year plan to build around Austin Jackson, Phil Hughes, and Andrew Brackman (it was Ben Ford, Ryan Bradley, and Craig Dingman once upon a time) goes up in smoke.
      ———-

      So does he want Cashman to develop players (who he says are no good) or sign players who are over-priced and over-aged? This is a stupid, stupid, stupid article that has very circular logic and makes real points. He thinks the Yankees should be able to buy anyone they want, but faults Cashman for doing so. He wants the Yankees to develop talent but doesn’t think the talent is good enough. And for some reason, he forgets how much of the Red Sox talent Theo bought or traded for.

      This is one of the worst, most illogical, attacks at Cashman I’ve seen. Cashman has done plenty of stupid things, but this article goes about critiquing him in the wrong way.

    6. butchie22
      April 18th, 2009 | 8:28 pm

      I see the Cash Man nation/apologists have come out of the woodwork! Tiabbi’s article hits some sore spots for Cash Man devotees and he does make a very credible case against Cash Man. As I’ve said many times, give charlie McCarthy 200 mill dollars and he could probably field a better team than Ca$h Man has. The most painful thing that he mentions that the most delusional of Cash Man’s adherents can’t understand: Stick and Bob Watson laid the foundation for the team. The best that Cash Man did was not to screw up what Stick and Watson built AND that is still a left handed compliment. Yes, the Yankee GM had the team continue to be in the playoffs for 8 plus years BUT they haven’t won one World Series title in this century. Meanwhile, I have to watch the Red Sox do it twice in 2004 AND 2007 and I have to hear the Cash Man nation still defend him. Enough is enough already……

    7. butchie22
      April 18th, 2009 | 8:46 pm

      Tiabbi calling Igawa a special needs student was classic. And Kei cost 50 million plus all told, when Cash Man could have signed Lilly for less money. And speaking of Lilly, Cash Man traded him for that goat Weaver! It’s funny how one Cash Man travesty is separated by one degree of separation from another!

    8. thenewguy
      April 18th, 2009 | 9:07 pm

      Butchie… Let me tell you what really bothers me.

      There is plenty to get at Cashman for, and generally its the same things over and over again (Brown, Igawa, Pavano, Brown, etc.) And thats FINE. My problem is that this guy doesn’t really offer anything new, therefore I don’t really see the contribution to the argument.

      And I feel this guy (or anyone else) loses credibility when they say “Look at what Theo did with homegrown talent!” But they don’t understand that Manny, Ortiz, Lowell, Pedro, Dice-K, Becket, etc. weren’t homegrown talent. Sure, Theo has done a far better job of winning championships in the past few years than has Cashman. But he has a huge budget to work with as well, bigger than basically every team in baseball. So pointing to Theo and saying “this is how someone wins a championship with homegrown talent” tells me that this guy is a moron.

      And then when he says:
      “He found that if you pack your roster from top to bottom with pathologically needy, egomaniacal, paranoid megamillionaires aged 30 and up, you can more or less permanently block the development of the choice, hungry, 25- to 30-year-old talent group that serves as the core of virtually all winning baseball teams.”

      That is just plain stupid and makes this think this guy has no idea what he is talking about. It’s basically a shot at A-Rod, and if you still think A-Rod is the reason the Yankees haven’t won a WS in nearly a decade, then you are delusional.

      Basically, some of his basic arguments are OK (but heavily recycled) and he makes statements that make him sound like he is a moron.

    9. thenewguy
      April 18th, 2009 | 9:08 pm

      makes me think*

    10. susanmullen
      April 19th, 2009 | 12:20 am

      In my experience, the man at the top sets the tone for everything. That was George Steinbrenner for some years. Then ownership began a period of flux, ie Mr. Steinbrenner’s commitment–at one point the Dolans came very close to buying the team. Then came George’s desire to allow Steve Swindal to run it (during which time Joe Torre got a 3 year contract), Swindal’s departure, then Mr. Steinbrenner’s failing health, then the accidental, reluctant owners Hank and Hal. Throw in around 2001-2002 the launch of the YES Network and the whole focus changed. The YES Network became a competitor of the Yankee team–it needed different kinds of players than might make a good team. I don’t like anything about the YES Network, watch it as little as possible, and was happier when games were on MSG. The founding CEO of YES was Leo Hindery, basically an itinerant yapper and deal maker. Certain executives he hired are still in place. Based on what I’ve read about Hindery’s varied career, he’s not someone I’d trust to set up a network or any other business. The point is there has been too much going on and it lacked a committed full time owner. It still does. Randy Levine’s main point in life was to get rid of Torre and Cashman stood back and let him do it. The result is both Cashman and Levine have jobs today. Ownership is still in flux with a panoply of relatives which allows all kinds of things to go on that shouldn’t. Some of which may involve Cashman.

    11. Raf
      April 19th, 2009 | 12:35 am

      The point is there has been too much going on and it lacked a committed full time owner. It still does.
      ———————
      Full time owner was there from 82-90 as well

    12. Raf
      April 19th, 2009 | 12:38 am

      I’ll let my past comments on him stand for the record
      —————-
      Yeah, same here… No sense beating the same drum over and over

    13. Raf
      April 19th, 2009 | 9:50 am

      There is plenty to get at Cashman for, and generally its the same things over and over again (Brown, Igawa, Pavano, Brown, etc.) And thats FINE.
      —————
      Brown wasn’t that bad a pickup, despite being listed twice :D

    14. handtius
      April 20th, 2009 | 12:19 am

      i hate his political throw ins. totally discredits him. the whole article was a bunch of regurgitated crap.

    15. Y-fan
      April 21st, 2009 | 11:30 pm

      So, Cashman’s record is not perfect. Nonetheless, excluding Gene Michael, he might be the best Yankees GM since Gabe Paul. Does anyone care to remember GMs such as Lee McPhail(ure), Syd (Spend)Thrift, and Murray Cook. Just look at the rest of the Steinbrenner GMs at http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tenworstjobs-7-yankeesgm.htm.

      One thing you can say in Cashman’s defense – there has been little of the give away the farm for nothing (or less than nothing) such as with the Fred McGriff and Willie McGee trades.

    16. May 31st, 2009 | 8:29 am

      [...] only made 10 starts for the team so far? Maybe it’s because he’s the poster child for Yankees “throw money at a problem” solution method – and it’s hard to love a high-priced [...]

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