In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a raving fan of Brian Cashman’s work as GM of the Yankees. (Please, be clear, I have no issues with Cashman as a person. I would bet that he’s a nice guy. And, this is solely tied to his history of putting together pitching staffs and his overall record as a talent evaluator.)
Related, this morning, I thought to myself – “How long ago should this guy have been fired?” To answer that question, I think you need to look at his career as Yankees GM. And, in doing that, I believe that there are three distinct sub-eras in the “Cashman as Yankees GM” timeline to consider. These are:
The Stick/Watson Beneficiary Era (1998-2001)
As I wrote back in October 1, 2008:
Brian Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998. And, yes, the Yankees did win rings in 1998, 1999 and 2000. However, when Cashman took over as the head man in charge, the following players were already on the team: Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mike Stanton, David Cone, Ramiro Mendoza, David Wells, Joe Girardi, Jeff Nelson, Chad Curtis and Darryl Strawberry.
This group of Yankees was added to the team by Stick Michael and Bob Watson. It was they, and not Cashman, who built a powerhouse entity (via this cadre of players) who went on to win three rings from 1998 through 2000 – and which benefited Brian Cashman when he took over for Watson in 1998.
Hey, I do give Cashman credit for not screwing up Stick and Watson’s work and allowing the Yankees to reach the World Series four years in a row here. So, clearly, there’s nothing during this period to warrant him being fired.
The Straw Man GM Era (2002-2005)
This is a tricky time to assess. Clearly, once Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte left for Houston following 2003, the Yankees pitching went south and Cashman was not up to the task of putting the pieces back together again. But, on the flip side, there were too many cooks in the Yankees kitchen during this time and Cashman was saddled with players like Raul Mondesi, Tony Womack and Jaret Wright that were nothing of his doing. So, here, yes, it was time to be concerned about Cashman’s ability to build a championship team. But, to blame all the Yankees issues on him at this time is not fair.
The Full Autonomy Era (2006-2010)
For the skinny here, I refer back to what I wrote on December 27, 2008:
Brian Cashman became Yankees G.M. on February 28, 1998. However, from 1998 through 2005, George Steinbrenner’s troops in his Tampa office (including but not limited to Bill Emslie, Billy Connors, Mark Newman and Damon Oppenheimer) had so much input on personnel moves that it was somewhat difficult to know what exactly what were Cashman’s decisions or not.
This all changed in October 2005 when Brian Cashman was given full autonomy on running the Yankees. As Cashman said at that time: “I’m the general manager, and everybody within the baseball operations department reports to me. That’s not how it has operated recently.”
Yup, this is where the Cashman clock starts (for me). And, sans the ring in 2009, it was not a great time for Brian, in my humble opinion – and, I’ll get back to the ring thing in a second too.
First, what happened from 2006 to 2008 in Yankeeland? Well, in 2006 that Yankees were a team who got body slammed in the first round of the playoffs. And, in 2007, that became a team who didn’t finish first and who got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. And, that became a team in 2008 who didn’t even make the post-season. Clearly, this is not an impressive section of the Cashman resume. The trend line here is all downhill.
But, what about the World Championship in 2009! Ah, yes, that.
To me, that ring comes down to the perfect storm of Steinbrenner dollars off-setting prior roster decision mistakes, a very favorable post-season schedule that allowed the Yankees to ride Sabathia and Pettitte, and an inhuman post-season performance from Alex Rodriguez. And, none of those things have anything to do with Brian Cashman being an astute GM of a baseball team.
Lastly, we all know about the struggles the Yankees had in 2010 with their starting pitching. Also, Cashman as gone on record saying that his roster decisions coming into that season were flawed.
Getting back to the original question here, in October 2005, the Yankees signed Brian Cashman to a three-year extension to be GM of the Yankees. And, it was after that deal, that I would have let him walk – all things considered, as stated above. After the Yankees finished third in 2008, it would have been the perfect time for a change. But, instead, at the end of September 2008, the Yankees gave Cashman another three year extension.
Maybe this season will be Brian Cashman’s last year as Yankees GM? If it is, it’s three-years overdue in happening, according to my scorecard.