Week Two of our GM-a-palooza gets underway today. After starting with World Champion Theo Epstein, we move to three time World Champion Brian Cashman. Cashman's tenure is reviewed below by David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
I don't think Brian Cashman is the best GM in baseball, but I also think he's not given enough credit for the Yankees success. He's been GM of the Yankees for eight seasons; 1/4 of the Steinbrenner reign. That itself speaks to his abilities as a manager.
It's probably not correct to speak of just Cashman as the Yankees GM. It's really a mixture of people. Joe Torre, Gene Michael, and George Steinbrenner work together to attempt to produce the best team available. It's not always pleasant work, as the Boss likes to create tension to drive his employees:
Then there are the verbal assaults. "It's embarrassing," one Yankees executive says. "George says stuff where you go, 'Oh, my God, my 5-year-old wouldn't say that!' George's classic line to Brian is, 'They're pulling your pants down! Just pulling your pants down! You're too young to be GM!' "Last October, the Yankees dropped the first game in the playoffs against the Minnesota Twins. Then, in the fifth inning of the second game, the Twins tied it 1-1, and suddenly the Yankees' missed chances to score runs were all Cashman's fault. Steinbrenner erupted in front of other executives at Yankee Stadium. "You're horseshit, and you're overpaid!" he yelled. "No one will take your contract off my hands. Maybe the Mets will take you. You have permission to talk to the Mets!"
Friends say Cashman maintains his sanity by occasionally yelling back. Publicly, though, he won't challenge the Boss. "I felt good after that game," he says evenly. "We won. Employees shouldn't be judging their employers. Unless they don't want to be employed anymore. I feel loyal to the man who gave me the opportunities. Is he a tough boss? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, he's made me professionally who I am today. It's all I've ever known."
Any discussion of his tenure has to begin with the success of the organization. The Yankees have the best record in baseball over his time as GM (through Thursday, April 7, 2005).
Cashman's detractors point out that Brian:
- Inherited a very good team.
- Has lots of money to spend.
- Isn't really in charge.
All of those are very good points. Cashman, however, was in the organization as assistant GM since 1992, mostly negotiating contracts. So there's no doubt he had a hand in putting that team together.
And sure, the Yankees have plenty of money, but so do other clubs that haven't been so successful. The Orioles, Mets, Cubs and Rangers come to mind as clubs with rich owners that haven't spent the money wisely. The Yankees have made the playoffs every year of Cashman's tenure, won three World Series, and made appearances in two others. He knows how to spend the money.
As for not being in charge, point taken. I remember a story about Cashman fighting for a Christmas vacation. Steinbrenner doesn't believe in vacations; you have to be working all the time. Cashman got his vacation, and while he was taking it, George went out and signed David Wells to teach Brian a lesson.
Not being in charge makes Cashman's tenure even more impressive. He's had to put together a team that wins despite having to absorb dumb Steinbrenner moves. What Cashman clearly understands is what kind of players win ballgames; people who get on base; people who hit for power; pitchers who strike out batters and don't walk many.
The Yankees pitching staff from 1998 on is 2nd in the AL in strikeouts, 2nd fewest walks issued, and the third fewest HR allowed. His batters have drawn the 2nd most walks and hit the 2nd most HR in the AL. He's kept the team great on both sides of the ball.
My biggest criticism is that he's allowed the team to grow old. This is probably where not being in charge hurts the most. Steinbrenner wants to win every year, and insists on signing championship players. Well, those are usually older hitters and pitchers, so Cashman has to keep making short term fixes. The Yankees will reach the point where they have to fix too many things at once and falter; at that point they can rebuild, but it will also probably be the end of Cashman as GM of the team.
I'd really love to see Cashman in an organization that gives him a free hand. My impression is that he'd give Beane and Theo a real run for their money. Meanwhile, he gets to be the GM of the NY Yankees, and I'm sure that worth all the verbal abuse from the boss and snide remarks about his abilities he hears. He gets to lead a winner.