During one of the various discussions that took place on this site yesterday, commenter MJ made an important observation about Brian Cashman that I would like to highlight. The comment is taken out of its original context, so some of it may not be entirely relevant, but the general gist of it is clear:
First of all, no one proclaims him a genius. He’s a good, competent GM that has done a very good job since getting complete control over baseball operations in November 2005.
Second, considering the farm system he inherited was completely barren because he didn’t have control over the scouting/drafting process, it’s no surprise that the Yanks had to go the free agent route for a number of years until their system could start producing enough players to plug into holes or used for trades.
Third, you dismiss the players I listed as “nice moves” but completely ignore the fact that Wells was the team’s best starter in 1998 and that Clemens was the team’s best pitcher from ‘99-’03.
Like every GM, Cashman has made his share of mistakes but unlike every GM, he has a mandate to win every single year or else people think he’s a failure.
You can’t have it both ways — you can’t expect him to win every year but then be upset that he spends money or that he goes after the game’s best players. If you want Cashman to be a pure development GM that spends less money, you have to ease up on the belief that it’s only “win or else” around here.
I think MJ makes a number of strong points. Firstly, he notes that Cashman has done a very nice job with both the minor league talent and major league club since gaining full control in late 2005. Furthermore, while a lot of his work prior to that point was aided by the team put in place by Stick Michael and Bob Watson, he did supplement a number of important pieces to the 1998-2000 championship clubs. Finally, and most importantly, it is unfair to dismiss Cashman’s accomplishments as being a function of the Yankee payroll without acknowledging the pressures that come attached to that payroll.
Is Brian Cashman a perfect general manager? Certainly not. Like most GM’s, he has made plenty of mistakes in his career. Yet, on balance, he seems to do well in most of the trades that he is involved in, and rarely do you look at a deal and ask “what was Cashman thinking?” His record in free agency is a bit spottier, but has been better since 2005 and has helped the club win 4 titles during his tenure. He also seems to understand the value of having a good farm system, and has shown during this offseason that he understands that sometimes, you need to identify which prospects are not vital to you and can be expended to obtain a piece that can help in the immediate future. Finally, he seems to use a synthesis of the new and old ways of thinking about the sport, as scouting types and stat gurus both have a place at the table. In all, the Yankees could do a lot worse, and I would place him among the top 10 GM’s in the sport.