The past few months have not been the most kind to Brian Cashman. After watching the Yanks get dispatched in the ALCS by the Rangers, he was powerless to stop his his prime off-season target from heading back to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, he took gruff from the unscrupulous among us for his charity work which included scaling a building in December and tending bar in Midtown for three hours last week and heat for putting together a “Best of the Early 2000s” slate of back-end rotation candidates.
Meanwhile, as Andy Pettitte stews — and in a certain sense, holds the short-term fate of a few key organizational cogs in his hands — Cashman has had to defend himself from New York columnists as well. Bill Madden’s baseless speculation that Cashman wanted to test his hand at team-building with a budget earned a sharp rebuke from the Yanks’ GM who denied the entire story.
Lately, then, the Yankees owners have taken to publicly defending the team official often viewed as the ultimate scapegoat in New York. Anything that goes wrong is Cashman’s fault, and anything that goes right is a result of the Yanks’ fiscal might.
A few hours ago, MLB.com’s Peter Gammons issued a different take on Cashman and his role with the Yanks. As Gammons sees it, Cashman isn’t a divisive figure in the club’s hierarchy. Rather, he is the calming influence amidst a Front Office. He writes:
Hal is private, and we all think he is tough. He also knows what his father once told me, that, in the end, Brian will do what’s in the Yankees’ best interest, not just his own. Cashman proved it in 2005 when his contract was up and, in the best long-term interest of the organization, would not do a back-page cosmetic deal in the pennant race. He proved it again in 2006 when the Yankees lost in the playoffs to the Tigers, when George Steinbrenner and Levine wanted to fire Joe Torre and were well down the line toward hiring Lou Piniella, and Cashman stood his ground, talked his bosses off the ledge and saved Torre’s job…
When Hal Steinbrenner admitted to Sherman that he orchestrated part of Cashman’s response in the Jeter negotiations, it was evident that even with Levine’s occasional imitation of the organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, there is a sense of stability around the Yankees that will remain in place as long as Cashman is in charge of the baseball operations.
It is also very clear that if Cashman were to leave, Hal Steinbrenner can see the rush for power that would take place below him, which, with the contracts for some of their older players outstanding, might send the Yankees into the kind of chaos Cashman has been able to avoid. Had Torre been fired in 2006, would the Yankees have won a World Series championship three years later? My point, precisely.
As the Hot Stove League has worn on, Cashman has opened his mouth more frequently than ever before this year. Some of that is in response to his critics, and some of his comments have been about the need to keep the organization focused on its player development path. It makes reporters used to silence from the normally tight-lipped GM uncomfortable, but it’s not a sign of his weariness of being a Yankee. After all, it’s the only organization and work place he has ever known.
I don’t think Brian Cashman is the best GM out there. I’ve been critical of his bench-building skills, and I find that he doesn’t use the Yanks’ financial might to improve the team around the edges. The signings of Andruw Jones and, to a lesser extent, Russell Martin could change that this year, and the bullpen certainly won’t suffer from having Rafael Soriano around. Right now, though, Cashman’s the best guy for the job, and as long as he wants to stay, I believe Hal Steinbrenner will keep him.