By Neil Keefe
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On Tuesday morning I was walking down Broadway to the Hard Rock Cafe thinking about what Brian Cashman might say at the WFAN Breakfast with a Champion and wondering how different it would be from the Joe Torre breakfast on December 1. I had heard stories about how open and honest Cashman was when he did the breakfast last year, but I had no idea he would be this open and this honest. And I had no idea all the trouble he would cause.
Cashman gets praised for his honesty. The media loves that he is accessible and that he is willing to make public appearances like Tuesday. He seems like a guy that takes pride in being this way. But he also seems like a guy that at times forgets that he is the general manager of the New York Yankees, and that at times he needs to be more like Edward Wilson in The Good Shepherd and less like Fletcher Reede in Liar Liar.
But for someone that has held arguably the most critiqued front office position in professional sports for as long as he has, Brian Cashman still seems to have a problem coping with how he is perceived on a daily basis and it’s mostly because of the way he wants to be perceived.
In the first season of Jersey Shore, The Situation has the now famous line of, “Everybody loves me, babies, dogs, ya know, hot girls, cougars. I just have unbelievable mass appeal.” Moments later in the same episode, The Situation is nearly in tears when Sammi chooses Ronnie over him. Here is the same person that wants to be viewed as the cockiest and most desirable bachelor in the world crying about a girl that he just met.
Cashman makes people believe that he is bulletproof and that there isn’t anything that the Steinbrenners could say to him, or that talk radio or newspapers or the Internet could say about him that would make him feel bad. Well, this couldn’t be less true.
On Tuesday, whenever a story or article was brought about bashing Cashman, he knew exactly what story the person was talking about. He even called out a story from Newsday in which his history of quotes on Joba Chamberlain was used to show his indecision about the pitcher over the last three-plus years. Cashman made it clear that pieces depicting him in a negative light do in fact have an impact on his life and that he spends time reading stories about him and listening to people’s opinions on the job he does. He proved that he isn’t this suit that checked his feelings at the door when he took over in 1998. He made you want to feel bad that people write negative things about him even when he is trying to be honest like with the Soriano deal. I don’t feel bad for him.
I was there on Tuesday when Cashman said, “He’s more apt to go to the outfield” regarding what will happen when No. 2 can’t play shortstop anymore one day. That’s all he said. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a simple answer to a simple question asking if Jeter would move to third base or the outfield one day. The national outbreak from the one-sentence answer was a result of it being January 25 and that there’s nothing to talk about, so I get that people are looking for anything and everything to twist into a story. My question is: Why was it that answer that became national news? Because there were a lot more controversial things that Cashman said on Tuesday morning.
Let’s get to the 11 points he touched on to show that Derek Jeter being “more apt to go to the outfield” is hardly the No. 1 newsworthy line that came from Cashman’s mouth.
“It’s OK. It’ doesn’t matter to me what it is. I’m not here to make these guys like me. I don’t care if the old guard likes me.” – Cashman on his relationship with Derek Jeter.
Cashman made it clear that he has a goal to win now and win later, and that he won’t let anyone interfere with that goal whether it’s Derek Jeter or Randy Winn. Loyalty has no place in Cashman’s heart or business plan and he doesn’t care that an entire fan base will turn on him for an unpopular move.
Cashman brought up a point that he brought up during the Jeter negotiations and that is that he feels like the organization has paid people for their services with their previous contracts and doesn’t need to pay them again for prior services. Without saying so, he made it clear that he wasn’t about to crumble to the idea that Jeter’s legacy is worth more than his play on the field. Some might think that Jeter’s new contract suggests that Cashman did just that, but I don’t think it does.
Then there was the suggestion that Jeter would be better in the outfield than at third base. Cashman’s reasoning for this was he wants power at the corner infield spots and that when the Yankees had Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs at those spots that it was painful with the lack of power. That was all he said about Jeter and the outfield!
“I didn’t give him a chance to turn it down.” – Cashman on telling Jorge Posada that he will no longer be a catcher.
Cashman wanted to make sure that he was the one to tell Jorge Posada that he would now be a designated hitter and would no longer be a catcher (thought Jorge will be training as if he is going to catch in the even that Cashman’s catching plan doesn’t work out). He wanted to make sure that he was the one, so he took out a private room at a doctor’s office while Jorge was having some minor work done and put it all out there for Jorge without giving him a chance to refute the plan.
Cashman said that he wanted the message to come from above and not come from Joe Girardi, and the only reasoning I can think for that is that the relationship between Girardi and Posada must be as fragile as documented. And if Girardi was the one to tell Posada that he wouldn’t be going behind the plate again, well there might be a situation.
“There was one team he would have gone to other than us and it was Philly.” – Cashman on losing out on Cliff Lee to the Phillies.
I ripped Cashman for not landing Cliff Lee and for not having a backup plan. On Tuesday morning he tried his best to make it seem like maybe I was unfair, but I’m not about to feel sorry for the man that is willing to open the season with Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Sorry Cash, I stand by my feelings.
Cashman said that Lee had told players on the Yankees that he was coming to New York and had told Cashman that the Yankees would be the first ones invited to visit with Lee during free agency because that is where he wanted to go.
The only thing worse than listening to Cashman give the play-by-play on how the offseason came crashing down with Lee was listening to him pronounce “Halladay” by saying “Holiday” over and over. IT’S “HALLADAY”! “ROY HALLADAY”!
“Randy Levine had wanted Soriano all winter.” – Cashman on why Rafael Soriano is a Yankee.
I like the move for Rafael Soriano because in Cashman’s plan of trying to “win now and win in the future” I care more about now. Let’s worry about later when we get there, the way that Cashman will worry about Jeter’s position when we get there.
Cashman used Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon as reasons why you don’t give multi-year deals to right-handed relievers and kept mentioning that the Yankees could find low-risk, low-reward righty relievers later in the year if needed. So I guess he is willing to wait for starting pitching and bullpen help until the trade deadline. I think he forgets that it’s not a given you are going to get there when your No. 3 starter lost 15 games a year ago and your No. 4 and No. 5 starters have 3.1 IP per start written all over them. But Cashman finally admitted that even though the Soriano signing is “a reactionary move” to missing out on Lee, it “makes us better” now.
Soriano helps the Yankees win now, obviously. And to me giving up the No. 31 pick in the first round is a small price to pay for Soriano (the money doesn’t matter). When Cashman talked about telling Damon Oppenheimer that they are going to get a great player with the 31st pick in the draft, he forgot to run down his history of his first-round draft picks. And while it’s nice to think that we could have the next Double-A star hitting .231 in Trenton in four years with that pick or a lockdown eighth-inning guy in 2011, I’m going to take the lockdown, sure-thing every single time, and twice on Sunday.
“Before that move [for Soriano] the Red Sox had the higher payroll than us.” – Cashman on the Yankees’ current payroll.
I love when the Yankees front office or the Red Sox front office is asked about what the other is doing and they pretend like they aren’t worried or that they don’t care. Does the above quote sound like a guy who goes about his business without worrying about what’s going on at Fenway Park?
As much as the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is something stirred up by the media for the fans, it is much deeper than that, no matter what the players or front offices say. I’m sure that it means more to Derek Jeter than Curtis Granderson and to David Ortiz than Mike Cameron, but it’s a very real thing and it isn’t going away anytime soon. At least not with Adrian Gonzalez entering the mix. I have already pre-ordered eight new Blackberrys for when Gonzalez comes to Yankee Stadium for the first time and celebrates his departure from Petco Park by destroying the right field bleachers and I spike my phone on the floor in disgust.
When asked who is better on paper right now, Cashman said the Red Sox are. He said the Yankees have a better bullpen and they have comparable position players, but the edge goes to the Red Sox with starting pitching. At least he admitted that everything is not OK right now, and reassured me that I have a right to be scared about what is going to happen in the AL East this season.
“I need to tell you something. Don’t count on me.” – Andy Pettitte to Cashman in Texas following the Yankees’ ALCS loss to the Rangers.
I said I wasn’t going to shave until Andy Pettitte came back. After one week (fearing for my social life) I shaved. So, if Andy does decide to stay home this year, I take full responsibility.
Cashman talked to Pettitte on Monday night. If Pettitte isn’t talking to Cashman to tell him that he is or isn’t coming back, I wonder what they talk about?
Cashman said that Pettitte had never told he’s leaning towards retirement in previous years, but did so in Texas after the ALCS when he told him to not count on him.
Cashman did say that he doesn’t care if Pettitte returns to the team in the middle of the year because he “needs pitching regardless of how he gets it.” But Cashman said he doesn’t think Pettitte will go that route because if the Yankees missed the playoffs by a game or two, or a handful of games, he knows it would eat away at Andy that he didn’t come back sooner and he let his teammates down.
“He has great talent.” – Cashman on A.J. Burnett.
I’m beginning to think that I’m the only that believes that Burnett’s “great stuff” is a myth because he has a lot of people believing in him and he has tricked a lot of people with it. He tricked Cashman in a fifth year and $82.5 million. He has tricked John Sterling and Michael Kay into saying “great stuff” seven times a start and he tricked Girardi into letting him start Game 4 of the ALCS and into facing Bengie Molina. This needs to stop! Now!
Cashman said he knows Burnett “has great talent” and that he is “on a mission to right the wrongs of last year” because “he let everybody down.” Let me get out and play my violin for a guy that went 10-15 and made $16.5 million because he had some off-field issues.
Cashman believes that the relationship with Burnett and Larry Rothschild will be like the one between Robinson Cano and Larry Bowa a few years ago.
I think the best part of his rant about Burnett was that he used the analogy of an alcoholic, saying that it’s like an AA program in that you need to admit you have a problem and then attack the problem. He said that Burnett has been attacking his problem this offseason with Rothschild.
Minor League Pitching
“They call Betances and Banuelos the ‘Mexican Killer B’s” – Cashman on Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos.
Cashman wants Andy Pettitte to return and then use Ivan Nova as the No. 5 starter. But if that doesn’t work, Scranton and Trenton have five prospects in each rotation, and he thinks the Yankees are the only team in the league with that scenario at Triple-A and Double-A.
Cashman said that Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos (called the “Mexican Killers B’s”) have high-ceiling, front-end starting potential and that they might be “Phil Hughes or better.” He said that if the Yankees coaching staff saw the kids they would think they are ready to contribute now. But then he let everyone down by saying that they are a year or two away.
He mentioned that the Yankees have David Phelps and Adam Warren in the event that his current rotation plans fall apart. (Why would they? His rotation plans usually work out…) He also said that Phelps and Warren have both flown through the system and that both might be better than Nova.
“His stuff has watered down since then.” – Cashman on Joba Chamberlain’s abilities since injuring his shoulder in Texas in 2008.
Finally some meaningful information about Joba Chamberlain, or the Pitcher Formerly Known As Joba Chamberlain. Cashman admitted that Joba hasn’t been the same since he injured his shoulder in Texas during 2008 and said that there is no situation in which Joba will go back to the rotation.
Cashman believes that Joba is “still a quality reliever and can still be a setup guy,” but that “his stuff has watered down” since that night in Texas. I believe in the same for Joba. I believe that he can 2007 Joba again. I’m just running out of time in believing.
“I can trade Russell Martin.” – Cashman on what he will do if Jesus Montero is ready to be the starting catcher.
Cashman hopes Russell Martin can be the type of clubhouse presence that Nick Swisher has been for the Yankees for two years, but really he hopes that Martin returns to being the player he was when he came up with the Dodgers. Cashman said he thought Martin was the second coming of Thurman Munson at the time.
According to Cashman, Jesus Montero has an “80” arm with a slow release, but a lot of strength. And he said Austin Romine is better defensively than Francisco Cervelli, but not as good offensively as Montero, but that Romine is also definitely a starting catcher in the majors.
Cashman said there would be a full competition for catcher in camp, and that if Montero blows everyone away, he “can trade Russell Martin.”
Marcus Thames/Andruw Jones
“He’s Marcus Thames with better defense.” – Cashman on Andruw Jones.
I was and still am a big Marcus Thames fan, so seeing him leave for L.A. so that I could see Andruw Jones in pinstripes hurts. I understand that Marcus Thames was an adventure in the outfield, and not a good adventure, but I still liked him for his bat.
Cashman made it seem like landing Jones was like picking up some smokeshow bartender on a Saturday night. He kept saying that trying to find a right-handed hitter with power that can hit lefties well and also played solid defense in the outfield was an incredible task. I kept having to remind myself that he signed Andruw Jones because the way he talked about his accomplishment, you’d think that Jayson Werth was coming off the bench for the Yankees this year.
The last thing I’m going to say is the first thing Brian Cashman said in response to Mike Francesa’s question about how the offseason has gone was, “It’s not been fun.”
At least we’re on the same page on one thing.
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