The Front Office PostBy
@rwolfe09 Not coincidentally, the Red Sox and Blue Jays have two of the biggest scouting staffs. Yankees? One of the smallest.
@JoeRo23 By my count, they have 23 scouts. Blue Jays have 70. Red Sox have 71.
I don’t know how the topic came up or how the rest of the conversation went, and frankly I don’t really care. I also don’t want to challenge Glassey’s info or anything, I’m sure his numbers are correct (or are at least in the ballpark). Either way, again I don’t really care. I think we’re all smart enough to understand that the more scouts a team employs, the better off they’ll be. It’s not rocket science. I just want to use these two tweets as a jumping off point about the Yankees and their front office. Forgive me in advance, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this.
Brian Cashman has been the Yankees GM for the long time, an eternity compared to his peers. The only GMs who have been at it longer than him are Brian Sabean of the Giants and Billy Beane of the A’s. Cashman’s been at the helm since February of 1998, Sabean since September of 1996, and Beane since October of 1997. The other 27 teams have (unofficially) combined for 79 (!!!) different full-time GMs since Cashman took over, which puts the average life span of a big league GM at 4.44 years or so. Obviously the successful ones will last longer, and it’s hard to argue with the success the Yankees have had during Cashman’s tenure.
When I look at the Yankees front office, one thing really stands out to me: there’s no obvious, in-house candidate to replace Cashman. I’m guessing that’s by design, because why would Cashman want competition from the inside? He’s made himself that much more valuable to the franchise by making sure no one emerges as a potential replacement. From a business perspective, it’s brilliant. Assistant GM Jean Afterman reportedly specializes in contracts and negotiations, not necessarily baseball operations. Scouting directors Billy Eppler (pro) and Damon Oppenheimer (amateur) don’t have any kind of GM’ing experience, even at the assistant level. The closest thing the Yankees have had to a potential in-house GM alternative during Cashman’s tenure (at least recently) was Kevin Towers, who served as a special advisor in 2010 before taking the Diamondbacks GM job over the winter.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when you look around the league, this is something pretty unique to the Yankees. Just to use the Red Sox as an example (since apparently they’re the measuring stick for everything the Yankees do), their official site lists something like eight assistants (with various titles) to GM Theo Epstein, including one former GM in Allard Baird (Royals). If Epstein leaves for whatever reason, AGM Ben Cherington could step in and the team wouldn’t miss a beat. In fact, he and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer served as co-GMs when Epstein briefly left the club in December of 2005, and the duo actually brokered the Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett trade in Epstein’s short absence. I just don’t see how that kind of seamless transition would occur with the Yankees.
Of course Cashman has advisors, namely former GM Gene Michael. I don’t want to make it sound like he’s calling all the shots on his own, because no GM does. Remember, the title is general manager; Cashman manages people. He makes decisions based on input from Michael, Eppler, and a ton of other people we don’t even know exist. From the outside looking in, it just seems like there are fewer people with input than there are elsewhere in the league. But then again, what do I know? I could be completely off base. There is such a thing as too many voices in the room, no doubt about it, but there’s certainly a ton of value in having others to make suggestions, challenge ideas, etc. Ten people in a room agreeing with each other is not necessarily a good thing, not when it comes to multi-million dollar baseball decisions and things like that.
Cashman’s contract is up after the season, and I do want him to return. Aside from the usual GM’ing duties, I also think he’s the perfect “bad guy,” so to speak, as these legacy players start to hit the end of the line. Need to move Derek Jeter off shortstop? Cashman will be the bad guy. Need to release Jorge Posada? Cashman’s the bad guy. Let Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui walk? Blame Cashman. He handles the role well. I also think his relationship with ownership is extremely, extremely important. I really can’t emphasize that enough. A meddlesome ownership can be a franchise killer, and Cash clearly has the respect of the Steinbrenners. That’s important.
Although I do want Cashman to return, I can definitely see the benefit to bringing in a new GM, if that’s the way the team goes. Thirteen years is a long time man … fresh opinions, fresh evaluations, fresh perspective, and fresh ideas can obviously provide a great deal of good. However there’s no clear candidate to take over, at least not internally. I think I said that already. If someone from the outside is brought in, then you’ve got to worry about them adjusting to New York and all the things that come along with it. The media coverage*, the huge payroll**, the fans, ownership, the stadium, literally everything involved with the job. The ideal candidate would be someone with GM experience, the kind of person that will walk into the office on day one and already be respected. Someone that’s been there before, been through getting hired and getting fired, been through winning and losing and dealing with expectations. New Mets GM Sandy Alderson fits the bill, just for example.
Now if Cashman does remain the GM beyond this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything should stay the same, at least in my opinion. I would like to see some level of front office restructuring, including the addition of some more traditional assistants and advisors, people with different backgrounds and varying levels of experience just to … freshen things up. I guess that’s the best way to put it. After doing things one way for so long, a little change can go a long way. That’s just the way this game is. You’ve got to constantly adapt, though the Yankees play with a much bigger safety net.
So after all that, it’s probably a good time to mention that I think Cashman’s return is more in question now than ever before. This has nothing to do with the team’s performance on the field, I don’t think they’re going to fire him or anything, it has more to do with his uncharacteristic outspokenness during the winter (that has continued into the season). I actually find the honesty refreshing, but it’s just that we’re not used to seeing it from Cash. He’s mastered the art of saying many words while saying nothing (of substance) at the same time, but this was the exact opposite. Very blunt and straight forward, “you asked a question, here’s your answer, are we done?” style. That outspokenness makes me wonder if he’s going to make/has made the decision to leave on his own terms. Maybe he’s burnt out. Maybe ownership went over his head too many times and he’s fed up. Maybe he wants a new challenge or to prove that can win with a small payroll. Who knows. The “why” isn’t important***, the “if” is.
How I got here from a pair of tweets about the number of amateur scouts the team employs … I have no idea. I guess they tie back into the stuff about having more input. It’s better to have three different sets of eyes watch a prospect than just two, which is better than just one. Information is a powerful thing, and the more you have the better the decision you’ll make. Regardless of what happens with Cashman after the season, I’d welcome some change to brain trust just to improve decision making as whole. It’s super cliche but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s: these are the Yankees. They should dominate the sport with their resources, and that includes having the best front office personnel. The Rays and Red Sox and every other team survives only because the Yankees make mistakes, so why not take some steps to reduce them?
* That includes amateur know-it-all schmucks like me.
** Big payrolls lead to bigger mistakes. It’s just the way it goes.
*** I suppose if the “why” has to do with some major internal dysfunction that pushes Cashman away, then yeah, that’s important. Important in that it needs to be addressed.