• Leitch: Cashman’s Burden

    Posted by on March 6th, 2011 · Comments (9)

    Will Leitch writes about Brian Cashman’s Burden.  It’s an interesting read.  Here’s a snip:

    Cashman, who will never be played by Brad Pitt in a movie, has always envied this; he’s close friends with Epstein and knows how revered Epstein is, not just in Boston but in the sabermetric baseball community as a whole. Boston is a little bit of a general manager’s fantasyland; Epstein has power and public renown in a great baseball city. Epstein can walk down the hall and talk to Bill James; Cashman is stuck running into Hank Steinbrenner on his smoke breaks.

    This has been the fundamental quandary for Cashman since he took over. What kind of G.M. does he want to be? Does he want to be like Epstein, an all-powerful leader who is never questioned? Or does he want to be the G.M. of the Yankees, a multitentacled beast with a million masters, where you might be overruled on major personnel matters? Rumors about Cashman’s leaving have been swirling for years, mostly because of that apparent envy of Epstein, the desire for autonomy, the exhaustion from the daily trench warfare. His winter oddities only added to the speculation.

    But Cashman has never said he wanted to leave, and when spring training began, he reemphasized he wants to stay with the Yankees, and the Yankees want him to stay. (The Yankees, per long-standing policy, don’t negotiate contracts until they end.) This is his dream job, after all, and it’s undeniably easier to be a successful general manager when your team has a nearly unlimited payroll.

    That’s the weirdness of the situation, though. Remember: Cashman’s controversies this winter were about wanting to spend less money, not more. Most G.M.’s are constrained by a small payroll; Cashman acts like a man constrained by a large one. He would love to make the Yankees sleeker and younger, ignore expensive older free agents like Cliff Lee, make the team more nimble and flexible, the way their division rivals the Red Sox and Rays are. (Not signing Lee may hurt this year, with the Yankees’ rotation problems, but trust me, someday you’ll be happy the Yankees didn’t give a 32-year-old pitcher with a history of back problems $150 million over seven years.) He would love to do the job the way the other Young Turk G.M.’s do, the ones whose success and failure ride on their decisions in the short term and the long term.

    Sad to say, though, the Yankees are the Yankees: Overpaying for expensive older free agents is their birthright. Cashman can construct a smart roster all he wants, but when the guys with the purse strings want to buy a player, who is the G.M. to say no? Why would he want to? It’s not his money.

    O.K., I’ll just hang up now and listen to your reaction…

    Comments on Leitch: Cashman’s Burden

    1. Evan3457
      March 6th, 2011 | 7:10 pm

      Here’s my reaction:

      I mean, really, there’s nothing here that hasn’t already been discussed. We know he didn’t go all-out/wasn’t permitted by Lee to go all-out to get him. We know he was overruled on the A-Rod re-signing; we know he was opposed to the Soriano signing. We know he doesn’t have ultimate authority within the organization. We know that Trost has his say, and Levine has his say, and, ultimately, Hank and Hal get the final say. We also know that Cashman didn’t start the fight with Jeter; we know that the team’s reaction to Close’s “confused” remark was authored by Hank. We know this because Hank said so.

      Most of us didn’t take offense at Cashman’s “antics” for charity, because, well, they were for charity. He’s never said he wanted to leave, and he probably won’t unless they kick him out the door.

      The irony here is that Cashman is trying to run the team the way some people say they want it run; so of them are the same people who’ve made it clear will celebrate the day Cashman leaves/is fired the same way that they celebrate the winning of the Stanley Cup in Detroit or Montreal.

    2. redbug
      March 7th, 2011 | 6:15 pm

      I’d love to see Cashman or any very good GM run the team like Gene Michael did in the early 90′s when George was tossed by MLB. Let some home-grown talent stick around w/ some smart free-sgent signings. Don’t do the dumb ones like Soriano, Randy Johnson, Clemens last, etc. But this does assume the Yanks have the likes of (the former) Core Four on hand to protect.

      The author of this article finishes pretty accurately. I’d add that letting a really good GM do his/her job is never going to happen as long as the Steinbrenners’ are in control.

      “…the Yankees get everything they want: a smart, steady hand at the till, trying to keep costs down and put a championship team on the field, a guy they know well enough that they understand when to step in and overrule to spend some money. It might seem like chaos, but it works.

      And Cashman knows it. Which is why, as much as he might look out the window sometimes and wonder what life is like outside the only adult job he’s ever known, he’ll never leave. He has it pretty damned good here. We all do. If he needs to go slide down a building every couple of years to blow off some steam, more power to him. Nothing’s more stressful than your dream job.”

    3. Raf
      March 8th, 2011 | 12:29 am

      redbug wrote:

      I’d love to see Cashman or any very good GM run the team like Gene Michael did in the early 90′s when George was tossed by MLB. Let some home-grown talent stick around w/ some smart free-sgent signings.

      That’s what Cashman has been doing.

      Don’t do the dumb ones like Soriano, Randy Johnson, Clemens last, etc.

      Or Spike Owen, Mike Gallego, Xavier Hernandez, Kevin Elster, Terry Mulholland…

    4. MJ Recanati
      March 8th, 2011 | 11:24 am

      redbug wrote:

      Don’t do the dumb ones like Soriano, Randy Johnson, Clemens last, etc.

      When you say Soriano, I assume you mean signing Rafael Soriano, correct? If so, we agree that the signing was stupid.

      Randy Johnson wasn’t a signing but a trade and I’m not sure I see what was so dumb about it. They traded Javier Vazquez and Dioner Navarro to Arizona and got one good season and one bad season out of the deal. Six seasons later, Dioner Navarro still sucks. Patience with Vazquez might’ve been the better course of action but, unless you’re arguing that, I’m not sure I see anything wrong with the Johnson acquisition.

      What was so “dumb” about signing Roger Clemens in 2007? It didn’t cost the team any minor leaguers and, despite the financial cost associated with the move, Clemens gave the Yankees 17 starts at around 6 innings with a better than league average 108 ERA+. Unless you’re objecting to the move from a financial standpoint — at which point it’s a pointless argument because the money means nothing — I hardly see how signing Clemens at a time of need and getting decent results out of him is so “dumb.”

      redbug wrote:

      But this does assume the Yanks have the likes of (the former) Core Four on hand to protect.

      The odds of a team ever having that many borderline Hall of Famers (Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte) and first-ballot locks (Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter) all coming up from the system, playing together for a decade and playing for seven pennants (1996, 1998-2001, 2003-2004) is extremely unlikely for any organization. It’s simply unrealistic to expect that Brian Cashman — or any general manager that succeeds him, for that matter — can recreate what we witnessed under Gene Michael or Bob Watson. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen in most normal circumstances. Cashman can’t be faulted for the fact that lightning hasn’t struck twice.

    5. Raf
      March 8th, 2011 | 6:13 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Randy Johnson wasn’t a signing but a trade and I’m not sure I see what was so dumb about it.

      He didn’t pitch a no hitter and strike out 20 every time he started. And he didn’t smile, was grumpy, and he attacked cameramen. He spit the bit in the 2005 ALDS, despite the fact that it was Small who took the loss. He didn’t have any heart despite coming out of the bullpen in game 5, cleaning up after Mussina. He didn’t have any heart a year later in 2006, because he didn’t pitch a perfect game against the Tigers in the ALDS after getting an epidural.

      What was so “dumb” about signing Roger Clemens in 2007?

      Clemens didn’t win 30 games.

      Cashman can’t be faulted for the fact that lightning hasn’t struck twice.

      Of course he can, have you forgotten where you are? ;)

      :D

    6. redbug
      March 8th, 2011 | 6:14 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:

      I agree, ever having the likes of the Core Four, plus Bernie Williams, again on any team is remote. And, I wasn’t faulting Cashman for not having that opportunity since.

      My point is if George had control of that group, instead of Stick Michael, it’s likely more than one of them would have been traded. We know George wanted to get rid of Andy throughout his career and suceeded once by allowing him to leave via free agency. Would he have shown the patience needed while they all learned how to play the game? Doubtfull, since it was very rare any patience was given to any rookies throughout George’s tenure.

    7. MJ Recanati
      March 8th, 2011 | 7:12 pm

      @ Raf:
      LOL! Silly me! :-D

    8. MJ Recanati
      March 8th, 2011 | 7:14 pm

      @ redbug:
      I agree with all of that; it’s all more or less accepted fact.

    9. Raf
      March 8th, 2011 | 7:40 pm

      redbug wrote:

      Would he have shown the patience needed while they all learned how to play the game?

      Depends on the player.

      Steinbrenner came back in 1993, and started meddling in 1995. Jeter became a starter in 1996, and that was because Tony Fernandez broke his elbow. Andy Pettitte came up in 1995 and did well. George may have wanted him gone, but there was also the concern that his elbow wouldn’t hold up. Their fears were vindicated in 2004, when he blew out his elbow. Posada didn’t become a full time starter until 1998; he was the backup in 1997 (Leyritz in ’96). Rivera came up as a starter, failed, gained a few MPH on his fastball, and hasn’t started a game since. Bernie didn’t become a full time starter until the 1993 season, which isn’t surprising, considering how crowded the Yankees’ OF was when he first came up; Mel Hall, Jesse Barfield, Roberto Kelly, Danny Tartabull, among others.

      Having said that, there were other players that had been developed during Steinbrenner’s tenure, but they were traded away, or played out the string.

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