Great stuff on the Yankees G.M. today via Andy McCullough:
As this woeful camp winds down, with Opening Day eight days away, [Brian] Cashman remains the club’s diminutive symbol of defiance in an era when George Steinbrenner’s scions lack the bluster associated with their surname. He refuses to acknowledge the possibility the Yankees could fall from their perch as one of baseball’s elite despite an aged and battered roster. Cashman considers himself a product of his environment, and even among these kinder, gentler Yankees he can’t shake the history that forged him.
He started as an intern in 1986. He weathered the tempests of George Steinbrenner after his 1998 promotion to general manager. He emerged from the constant power struggles battle-scarred but wiser, buttressed by a diverse group of assistants in baseball operations, who have helped chart the organization’s revamped course toward fiscal responsibility.
During the winter, the Dodgers usurped the Yankees as the game’s premier spenders. Cashman appears more than willing to cede that title. The Yankees will never feel like underdogs, he said. But they can adopt their rhetoric.
“Look at Vietnam,” he said. “The biggest payroll didn’t win there, either.”
This is his 16th year in charge, which makes him the longest-tenured Yankees general manager since World War II. His résumé includes four World Series titles, 12 American League East titles — and endless disquietude.
“Working here, you don’t ever feel secure,” he said. “The demands are high. The demands are high.”
Once Cashman’s ride arrives each morning, he slips into the backseat and keeps his cumbersome cast elevated. At the ballpark, he rides a golf cart along the dark hallway toward the trainers’ room. There waits his black, four-wheeled scooter, the same one utilized by shortstop Derek Jeter while convalescing from a broken ankle last winter. He rides the scooter throughout the complex, and crutches back toward the parking lot each night.
As Cashman developed his post-injury routine this past month, a sense of gloom pervaded the atmosphere. A losing record appears possible for the first time since 1992. The roster is baseball’s oldest. Jeter could miss Opening Day. Outfielder Curtis Granderson will miss the season’s first month. First baseman Mark Teixeira might miss the entire season. And the viability of their highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez, is a mystery as he recovers from hip surgery.
The injury pile-up revealed a dearth of depth on the major-league roster, which critics assert is a result of managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner’s insistence on reducing the 2014 payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Cashman countered that their 2013 payroll remains robust, more than $200 million for the sixth consecutive year. He cited the team’s “significant” but rejected offer this spring to impending free agent Robinson Cano.
So for Cashman, nothing changes, even as big-league sharks circle the Yankees and outside observers predict their downfall. The concept of a bridge year, a euphemism for rebuilding, is “just not part of our DNA,” he said. “There’ll be no such thing. Not intentionally, anyway.”
A perception of weakness materialized this winter. The Yankees exhibited caution. They ignored high-profile free agents Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, while less-pricey options Eric Chavez, Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz signed elsewhere.
Like Hal Steinnbrenner, Cashman chafes at the idea his team has become cheap. He framed their behavior as a product of prudence, not poverty, and of making “good, efficient, sound, baseball decisions.” Both Cashman and Steinbrenner have referenced the high prices paid on one-year deals for players like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Kevin Youkilis.
“I would not have participated in the Greinke or Hamilton signings,” Cashman said. “Whether that ($189 million) restriction was in place, or not.”
In turn, Cashman laughed off the notion that the Yankees needed to reclaim their spending crown from the Dodgers.
“My job,” he said, “is to put a team out there that wins for the least amount of money possible.”
Yet, of course, there is the specter of The Boss.
“But I said ‘win’ first.”
Cashman mentioned the idea of “tread(ing) water until the guys come back.” He has learned from his failures, from trades for aging pitchers (Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson) to misguided free-agent acquisitions (Carl Pavano, A.J. Burnett) to expensive Japanese imports (Kei Igawa). He credited his assistants for their guidance in recent years as he’s become “more choosy.”
“I’m not gun-shy,” he said. “But we are definitely more educated.”
Sixteen years of Cashman. That’s a fact. The question is: When will it end? If you ask me, he’s now almost five years past his due date on being fired. But, at least there is a building swell within the Yankees fan base who want him gone. And, hopefully, someday, the Stein Brothers will get on board with it as well.