"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Three More Years

Brian Cashman

Brian Cashman is signed through 2014.

“Not a big fan of Cash any more, but I do have to give him credit for this year. The Yanks had a strong bench, great bullpen, above average starting pitching. Ironically, in the end, it was the Yanks’ hitting that led to the Yanks elimination.”
— Comment from Banterer Dimelo

The task of presenting an even-handed critique of the man we affectionately call “Cash Money” is surprisingly difficult. On one hand, there’s a record of success — six World Series appearances, four titles — only surpassed by George Weiss (no relation) and Ed Barrow. But there’s the counterargument that it’s easy to be successful when you work for a billion dollar enterprise and can show up, put pictures on a corkboard, affix a few stacks of bills to a sharp object and pick your target.

That perception is not reality.

Consider the pressure cooker. The expectation to win the World Series every year. That standard is set at the Steinbrenner level and trickles down to the fiber of each individual working in the organization. The work conditions, to put it diplomatically, are less than ideal. Forget the Steinbrenner factor for a second. Add Randy Levine, Lonn Trost, and the Tampa Brain Trust, and you have difficult politics to negotiate. This dynamic begat the most common criticism levied against Cashman: that he hasn’t built a team from scratch; that he wasn’t the one making the personnel decisions.

There is evidence to support that theory. Cashman was the beneficiary of the work done by Stick Michael and Bob Watson. Draft picks like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada had either blossomed or were maturing. Acquisitions like Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez were already in place. Yes, he inherited a great team. It was made an all-time team when the Yankees traded Brian Buchanan, Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, Danny Mota and cash to the Minnesota Twins for Chuck Knoblauch. Scott Brosius was picked up off the scrap heap to solidify third base. Those two moves alone proved to be a resounding introduction for the GM lauded as a Boy Wonder long before Theo Epstein.

But looking at Jason Giambi, Randy Johnson, Raul Mondesi, David Wells Part 2, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright. Do those moves have Cashman’s stamp?

The tension led to Cashman having a Howard Beale moment at the end of the 2005 season. He considered leaving. Eventually, the gentlemen on the rung above Cashman decided to give him more autonomy, and he signed the extension that carried him through the 2008 season.

That winter, he signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher to boost a team that had missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1994 strike. The 2009 World Championship team was all Cashman. Critics say he bought the title. But many youngsters on that team — Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang pre-injury, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes — were able to have an impact because Cashman refused to trade them when presented the opportunities in previous years. Either Wang, or Cano, or both, were on the block for Randy Johnson and Johan Santana. Hughes was dangled as a chip as well. That season was the fruit of Cashman’s efforts to build the farm system.

In recent years, the Yankees have had depth. Instead of Tony Womack or Clay Bellinger, there was Jerry Hairston Jr., and Eric Chavez. Instead of John Vander Wal, there was a homegrown Brett Gardner, and Andruw Jones.

Perhaps the greatest difference in Cashman in the last six years of his tenure is his demeanor. There is a confidence that Cashman openly displays. He speaks to the media more directly and is more of a mouthpiece than he used to be. In some cases, the hard demeanor has backfired. The PR gaffes regarding the management of Bernie Williams’ exit, his silence during the Joe Torre negotiations following the 2007 playoff exit, the Joba Rules and everything that has occurred on that front, the Derek Jeter negotiations taking place in the media, and the Jorge Posada drama this past season all reflect negatively on Cashman. He whiffed on Cliff Lee not long after Lee whiffed the Yankees as a Texas Ranger.

And there are still moments when stories surface that Cashman’s authority has been overridden: The most glaring examples are 2007, when Hank Steinbrenner negotiated directly with Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod opted out of his contract; and last winter when Cashman said publicly he did not want to sign Rafael Soriano, and then lo and behold, Soriano was a Yankee and the heir apparent to Rivera, begrudgingly pitching the eighth inning a season after leading the AL in saves.

The three-year extension made official on Tuesday is the second since that “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” manifesto. If you believe Wally Matthews, the Yankees are meandering. They have no direction. A few recent moves would indicate otherwise: Sabathia is re-signed; Swisher’s option was picked up; Andrew Brackman has gone the way of the parrot in the Monty Python skit. Rafael Soriano’s option, according to reports, is likely to be exercised. Looks like the first priority is shoring up what you have before filling in the gaps.

Priorities are being set. Now that Cashman is settling back in, he can begin establishing the direction, which he has said is pitching. Twenty-nine other teams are doing the exact same thing.

We have seen Brian Cashman grow from Boy Wonder to steely-eyed fortysomething. The winter following Cashman’s last extension featured the biggest spending spree ever. What he spends — or doesn’t spend — could define the remainder of his career in New York.

Only Barrow, who lasted 24 seasons, had a longer tenure than Cashman. When faced with the question, “Who else could do this job?” Weighing all the factors, given what he’s endured, and how well he understands the central nervous system of the New York Yankees, it may be that Brian Cashman is the best person for the job. He is, at least, for three more years.

Categories:  1: Featured  2010s  Will Weiss  Yankees

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 2, 2011 9:25 am

It's amazing to think that Cashman is now part of the old guard. And yes, the photo of Howard Beale is, in part, a tribute to Steve Lombardi, who shut down his "Was Watching" blog when Cashman resigned. I don't have that kind of hatred for Cash. Nice job, Will, pointing out his strengths and weaknesses.

2 rbj   ~  Nov 2, 2011 10:29 am

[1] Wow, really? I stopped going to Steve's site long ago, I got fed up with his A-Rod and Cashman bashing.

It's hard enough to win a game, because the other team has talented players as well -- the best that played at high school, the more gifted ones in college. And they're doing everything they can to win as well. Plus they are beneficiaries of improved training, medical and scouting too. I think it's remarkable, and a testament to the whole organization that the Yankees have made the postseason 16 of the last 17 years.

Now, do I feel the season is a disappointment if the Yankees don't win the championship? Yes. I feel that way about every team I follow. But to bash a team for only winning 5 of the last 17 championships is an insult. You're basically saying that we should have the best 25 players and they should be playing junior varsity teams. The first part is beating other highly talented players and making the postseason. That proves you are a very good team. And nowadays you then have to play three rounds against, guess what, other very good teams. And then factor in luck.

Once in a great while, 1927, 1998, you have a team/season for the ages. They are to be treasured. Just don't expect it every year.

3 Will Weiss   ~  Nov 2, 2011 10:43 am

[1] Thanks Alex. ... I shied away from the personal dealings I had with him. I can tell you that in my 5 years covering the team, he was affable, accessible, and very easy to like. I don't envy his job one iota. Considering all the factors, he's done, and continues to do, a very good job. Everyone has weaknesses and screws up. His are more glaring given the forum and how public his job is.

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 2, 2011 10:54 am

I don't feel too strongly about Cashman one way, or the other. I do wonder about his VORGM, you know, value over replacement GM.
I'm sure Cashman gets a lot of respect around the game, but how many teams (from coaches and players, to fans) look at Cashman and think "man, if we had that guy running the club we wouldn't be playing out the string in September." Would he be a difference-maker for a middle of the pack club, or a chump change organization?
I don't know.
I'm guessing he'd love the challenge, but I'm sure he's more than content to continue shopping with the Yankee credit card.

5 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 2, 2011 10:55 am

[3] "Considering all the factors, he's done, and continues to do, a very good job. Everyone has weaknesses and screws up. His are more glaring given the forum and how public his job is."

Yes indeed. Excellent point, Will.

That said, I think one aspect of his performance has been underexamined: the "manager" part of "General Manager". Cashmoney has clearly surrounded himself with quality executives: Eppler, Oppenheimer, Mark Newman, Jean Afterman (and was it him or Watson who gave Kim Ng her first exec-level job?). Other teams wanted to possibly hire Cashman's assistants, which is a plus in his column. The Yanks' drafts in the 5 years since Oppenheimer took over have been significantly better than the 5 years prior. I've read many things about how the Yanks' "data department", run by Eppler, is among the best in the game.

Cashmoney doesn't do it all himself, and he's clearly got good people around him. I'm glad he's back.

[2] I was an original commenter back when Steve started WW, but like you, I couldn't take the virulent Cashman and A-Rod (and Hughes) bashing. I can't say I'm surprised Steve shut it down, but I am a little sad.

6 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 2, 2011 10:58 am

3) i agree he mostly does a good job, I guess the question is, could an outsider come in and do a better job at this point. Your answer is 'probably not?'

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 2, 2011 11:00 am

5) I'm all for stability in Yankeeland at this point, so I'm glad he's back, too.

8 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 2, 2011 11:43 am

[6] I think most GMs are not fungible. Most GMs need to be in the right circumstances to succeed. Their skill sets do not necessarily transfer.

Its the truly great GMs who can succeed regardless of the circumstances: Ed Barrow, Pat Gillick, Branch Rickey all come to mind.

I think Cashman is closer to "truly great" than the other side, but I may not be entirely objective on that one.

9 RagingTartabull   ~  Nov 2, 2011 12:37 pm

I personally can't think of anyone who could have possibly done a better job over the past 14(!!) years than Cash. You don't just luck into 6 pennants and 4 titles thanks to a fat checkbook, ask everyone from Jim Hendry to Omar Minaya about that.

But my only request: can we PLEASE stop lumping Giambi in with the bad signings??

10 monkeypants   ~  Nov 2, 2011 2:12 pm

[9] Yes, thank you regarding Giambi. On the other side, I will say:

In recent years, the Yankees have had depth. Instead of Tony Womack or Clay Bellinger, there was Jerry Hairston Jr., and Eric Chavez.

Wasn't Hairston added at the deadline? So it's not really fair to use him as evidence of Cashman designing a team with depth.

11 cult of basebaal   ~  Nov 2, 2011 3:20 pm

[1] Man, I had to wander over to "Was Watching" and confirm that for myself.

Too funny.

Seriously, anyone with that depth of antipathy towards Cashman is probably better off, healthwise, not blogging about it obsessively.

But then again, I put the Cashman haters in the same box as birthers, truthers and the-moon-landings-were-faked nitwits ...

12 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 2, 2011 3:39 pm

11) I didn't talk directly to Steve about it but my sense is that he was getting tired of blogging and that the Cashman thing became an external event he could hang his retirement on. I could be wrong about that, he could easily just dislike Cash so much that he'd rather not blog than cover a team run by Cash. Hey, they don't call us fanatics for nothing.

13 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 2, 2011 4:16 pm

[12] I think you are right on the mark. While Steve has always been a protagonist in what was wrong with the Yankees, his earlier posts were both interesting and thought provoking. A few years ago he added staff (while for years he was a one-man show... pretty awesome) and greatly cut down on not only the number of his own posts, but the length, breath and variety of them.

I just think he was burnt out, and honestly, he has had very little to say in the last few years. It's too bad in a way, because early on, he produced a tremendous body of work... far more than any other individual blogger.

I guess he had said everything he has to say.
In terms of Cashman, I have said before, there are 29 GMs in MLB, and then there is the Yankees GM. Simply not in the same ballpark. I guess if you believe the President of Spain, or of Uganda, has the same responsibilities and burdens the the President of the US has, maybe you will disagree.

The question is not if someone else could do as good a job as Cashman.... the question is could someone else even survive in the job for 3 years... no less 14.

I think Cashmoney has done a GREAT job. That is not to say there havent been mistakes and misjudgements, but that is part of the job. I hold Cashman resposible for those maitakes in the same way I hold Swisher responsible for not getting on base 62% of the time.

In other words, like everything else, the job he has done is relative. Relative to other GMs some, but much more to the unique situation that is New York and the Yankees.

While we have not come out as well in the PS over the last 10 years as I would I liked, I have this bizarre, insane take on it. As opposed to taking Cashman to task for the teams he has built, I believe that the players were/are responsible for what goes on in the field.

Like this year, I don't think Cashman threatened the families of ARod, Teix, CC and Swisher unless they sucked beyond all expectations.

The truth is ANY team can beat any other team in a 5, or even 7 game series.

This is just the CRNB.
(Chaotic Random Nature of Baseball).

14 jfdrums   ~  Nov 2, 2011 4:28 pm

Nice post. At this point, it's difficult to imagine anyone else in that job. Overall, I'm satisfied.
You mentioned Wally Matthews. I've made a point to never read one of his articles again after the way he was attacking Jeter early this year. It's one thing to question his ability at his age, there were some moments when even I had my doubts. However, it's another thing to ridicule a player that has meant so much to the franchise. It seemed personal. Of course, Jeter then plays the second half of the season with his middle finger in the air to all the critics. Maybe he's written an article saying he was wrong, but I won't be reading it.

15 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 2, 2011 4:32 pm

It's not easy to write a blog by yourself. I still don't know how Jon Weisman does it. I only did it for a little over a year before Cliff joined me. Then again, I was writing daily, still am in fact. But I think you can reach a point where you've tapped out what drew you to blogging in the first place. Brian Gunn, classic example. His Cards blog was incredible, Ed Cossette's Red Sox site, too. They went out when they felt the inspiration start to fade.

For me, I added new writers, who I thought would add variety but also maintain a level of quality. But while Banter has never been strictly about the Yankees, it has moved away from being a baseball blog or even a Yankee blog over the past few years. I wouldn't have been able to sustain my interest in writing exclusively about the Yanks, they just aren't that stimulating for me, not after 9 years. So for me, the Banter is better suited for me as a NYC blog that features the Yanks. That way I can keep a clean sense of being a fan and can write from a place that is sometimes fresh.

Plus, this past season, I think that Hank and Jon were wonderful with their game recaps, which can be painful as a writing exercise if you do it too often.

Maybe Steve will just chill for a year or two and then come roaring back when he's inspired again.

16 Dimelo   ~  Nov 2, 2011 7:51 pm

[0] So does that mean my Cashman view was balanced, Will?

17 Will Weiss   ~  Nov 3, 2011 11:08 am

[16] Yes. Your comment struck a chord with me. It elucidated the track I wanted to take the column. So thank you for pushing me off the diving board. ... [6] That's exactly what I'm saying. Any long marriage is fluid. Part of the reason longevity is attained is because the two sides continually figure out ways to coexist. Cashman, Levine, Trost, the Brothers Steinbrenner, and Tampa have all done that. It may be the most underreported element of the Yankees' front office dynamic that Cashman wields a lot of influence. The top bosses, while they do have their hand in some personnel decisions, and always will, place a lot of faith in Cashman. I can think of three people who may be able to work in that bubble: Theo Epstein, John Shuerholz, and Jon Daniels. Kevin Towers probably could also.

18 Dimelo   ~  Nov 3, 2011 2:15 pm

[17] Pushing people off the diving board was something I did quite a bit in my youth, at least you didn't drown. ;-)

Anyhow, good piece. Peace!

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