In defense of Brian Cashman

The Yanks’ loss tonight sure was disheartening. They failed to hit; their star set-up kid — and remember, he’s just a kid — couldn’t deal with a swarm of bugs and was a little wild; the back end of their weak bullpen failed to get outs in key situations.

For a small but vocal minority of Yankee fans, the fault for this team lies with Brian Cashman. The Yankees GM hasn’t been able to field a World Champion team since 2000, and even then, that team was largely the product of his predecessors Bob Watson and Gene Michael. So Cashman, because his teams are continually flawed, despite a payroll that has finally grown to $200 million, should be fired.

Well, I do not buy it for one second. When Brian Cashman inherited the Yankees — a team he, as an assistant general manager, helped construct — they were at the start of a great run of World Series championships. His work led the team to three World Series championships, five American League Championships and a playoff berth every single season.

But for some Yankee fans, the team has failed every year after 2000. Who cares about the two AL Championships and the seven playoff appearances? Who cares about the 686-445 record with a.607 winning percentage tops among all Major League teams from 2001-2007.

So are we supposed to blame Brian Cashman because he’s put together a team that wins during the regular season but can’t win during the playoffs? I don’t think so. If you put together teams that win in the postseason but can’t get there, what’s the point?

The bad part are these best-of-five series. While I hate to make excuses, they’re hardly indicative of a team’s ability over the course of 162 games. Cashman has, while working with a very overbearing boss who insisted on giving Jason Giambi a contract about two years and $40 million too long, to name one, put together one of the most successful baseball games of all time. You can’t top that no matter how poorly the Yanks have done in October.

Meanwhile, the Yanks are down but not out at all. They face Jake Westbrook on Sunday and, if they survive, Paul Byrd on Monday. If the team clicks, there’s no reason to count them out and every reason to expect a game five. If they make it that far, you’ll see far less criticism of a team that, while flawed, isn’t exactly a disaster.

What to do

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but the 3 of us have been busy and all that junk.

I’ve managed to secure a smidgen of time for myself amidst the chaos in my life, so I wanted to get something up on the site that could spark a decent conversation/debate and keep the site semi-interesting for more than 2 minutes. So here’s how it works:

You are Brian Cashman, and your team is in very real danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since Bill Clinton’s first term as Prez. The trade deadline is 11 days away and you have a pretty deep farm system (as well as a wealth of the most precious commodity in baseball, young cheap pitching) but few open spots on the ML roster. What do you do?

Discuss.

Cashman: we have a plan

Cashman just spoke to the media on hand. He basically said what we expected: they have a strict plan for Phil, and they’re not going to deviate from it.

He didn’t say it specifically, but this is definitely what he meant: Phil will have two starts in Scranton. He said they’re going to get him to 100 pitches before they even consider sending him up, so the 75 he’ll throw Monday won’t be enough.

He also seemed quite elated at a Juan Miranda question. Don’t rule him out being the starting first baseman next year.

Read nothing into Cashman’s comments

Nothing warms my heart better than typing the next three words: Great win tonight. The Yanks overcame Roy Halladay and Kyle Farnsworth to win a thrilling game. They shaved a game off the Red Sox lead and held steady in the Wild Card. Things are clicking.

Today, I would like you all to reserve the Kyle Farnsworth insults for the comments on this post. Instead, as Phil Hughes prepares for another Minor League rehab start, let’s talk about what Brian Cashman said yesterday afternoon.

As Peter Abraham noted last night, the Yanks’ GM spoke a bit about Kei Igawa’s spot on the rotation as Phil Hughes’ return comes closer. Cashman claims that Kei Igawa has been hurt by his irregular spot in the rotation and that Hughes has nothing guaranteed. “Until he’s ready it’s not something we have to consider. He’s not guaranteed anything,” Cashman told the Yanks’ reporters.

Now, let’s get one thing straight: Phil Hughes will always be a better pitching option than Kei Igawa. Kei Igawa won’t magically stop giving up home runs if he starts getting on a regular work schedule. He won’t find a way to make 115 pitches last 8 innings instead of 5 innings, and he won’t magically find a way to get out Major League hitters.

That being said, Brian Cashman here is doing his job as General Manager. He isn’t going to throw Igawa to the wolves even though we know Igawa will end up with the wolves if Hughes returns healthy and ready to go. He can’t say that, yes, Kei Igawa has just two more starts left in the Bronx this year. Considering that Kei Igawa is under contract for four more years, the Yanks won’t be as tactless as to cut him loose now.

Plus, as Abraham later noted, no 21-year-old is ever guaranteed a spot in the rotation based upon his work in 10.2 Major League innings. We know what Hughes can do; we saw it in Texas on the night his hamstring popped. For now, Hughes doesn’t automatically get that spot.

But know this, readers: Phil Hughes will be back in the Yankee rotation if he aces his last two rehab tests. Cashman will be on hand today in Trenton, and if Phil delivers the goods, as I expect him to, Cashman will say to himself at least that Igawa is gone. So don’t despair; Cashman is simply tending to his sheep. As the Yankees’ shepherd, that’s his job.

Five players that could help the Yanks (with no commitment for ’08)

As the calendar turns to June, the Yanks are close to being dead in the water.

In April, they went 9-14, scoring 131 runs while allowing their opponents 125. Poor starting pitching performances spearheaded the loss column, though a potent offense mitigated some of the damage — which says a lot, considering the results.

In May, they went 13-15, scoring 137 runs while allowing their opponents 143. This was due to hitters not hitting for games at a time. However, the team line of .276/.351/.431 is comparable with the team April batting line of .268/.347/.421.

The pain of this season is simple: the highs are too high and the lows are too low. And, in the end, the stats balance themselves out. However, because their standing is based on the results of games, rather than an amalgamation of the entire season, they’re sitting in last place in the AL East. Only Kansas City, Texas, and Cincinnati have won fewer games than the Yanks (they share a win total with Tampa Bay, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, and Houston).

Now Jason Giambi is out, leaving a hole at DH. There are a number of things the Yankees can do to fill that gap. The most likely is to rotate it among Matsui, Abreu, and Damon, leaving Melky in the outfield full time. Another is to add Josh Phelps to that rotation.

But the Yanks have other glaring problems that need to be addressed. Brian Cashman needs to work the phones to see if he can salvage this season with a few replacements. Because we could get them for less value than, say, Mark Teixeira, here are a list of five players I wouldn’t mind seeing Cashman trade for. Suggestions? Leave ’em in the comments or hit me with an e-mai: rabjosephp at gmail dot com.

[Read more…]

Is Cashman the problem or the solution?

In his most recent piece this afternoon, Peter Abraham dispelled what he feels are some myths about the Yankees’ current situation. Abraham feels like firing Cashman is a bad idea.

“The Yankees don’t have a lot of roster flexibility and Cashman has improved that to some degree. Firing him now could drop this team into a 10-year slump,” he wrote. Well, I disagree. In fact, I think many of the moves Cashman has made since supposedly taking full control of this team have led to this disastrous first two months.

Most notable from the last few months were the trades of Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson. The Yankees received few usable parts in return for these two players. Right now, Sheffield’s 10 home runs would put him second on the Yanks, and his .832 OPS is over .200 points higher than Abreu’s .613 OPS. The Yankees were a better team with Gary Sheffield and don’t have much to show for sending Detroit one of their missing pieces. I don’t miss Randy Johnson, but Luis Vizcaino, the only Major Leaguer in that deal, has been downright horrible.

Then, Cashman went out and threw $50 million at Kei Igawa when even his own scouts were telling him that Igawa would be, at best, a fifth starter in the Majors. Considering the Minor League pitchers in the Yankees’ system, this money could have been better spent just about anywhere else. The Yanks could have replaced Igawa with someone making just $380,000 this year. And that someone would probably have put up better numbers than Igawa.

He also re-upped with Mike Mussina for two years. The jury is out on that deal, but the early returns aren’t too promising.

Then, Cashman figured he could solve the first base hole by shoving Doug Mientkiewicz into it. Dougie’s .295 OBP is killing the team, and his defense just doesn’t make up for the number of outs – 98 in 133 plate appearances – he’s making at bat.

Finally, the Yankees’ bench is terribly weak. If Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez were to go down, Miguel Cairo would be the replacement. Wil Nieves, before this weekend, had been an unqualified disaster, and Melky Cabrera probably should have been traded last winter when his stock was at an all-time high. This is the weakest Yankee bench in years.

So I blame Cashman. While the team has been saddled with contracts that dole out millions of dollars to over-the-hill players (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon), Cashman’s answer to this problem was to throw a pro-rated $28 million at Roger Clemens, an unnecessary piece considering the Yankees’ other problems right now.

I doubt the Yanks will fire Cashman. There are no real viable internal candidates right now, and the Yankee braintrust wouldn’t want to look outside for a mid-season replacement. So Cashman, the originator of this problem, will have to be the one to find a solution too. I can tell you this: Todd Helton ain’t the answer. Let’s see where he goes from there.