Let’s take the central, specific, complaint that’s supposed to exist on the part of ownership, the 2009-10 offseason. Namely the acquisitions of Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez, and Randy Winn (I could point out that ownership could he blocked any of those moves and didn’t, but we’ll presume for now that Cashman was literally allowed to do whatever he wanted last year). We’ve been over the Johnson and Vazquez acquisitions time and time again, and I’m not here to rehash a debate on those. But whatever you think of those moves (for memory’s sake, I liked the Vazquez deal, and was milquetoast at best on the Johnson signing), they were low cost, low risk, high upside moves that had a clear and understandable logic to them. Did they work out? No, but as Jason said, no GM bats 1.000, and in the scheme of mistakes, they were pretty small ones. Signing Johnson instead of Jim Thome may have been a mistake as a lateral move, but the Yankees still had the best offense in baseball. And believe it or not, the Yankees actually came out ahead in terms of WAR on the Vazquez deal, both because Boone Logan was a pretty decent lefty out of the pen and because Melky Cabrera was even worse than Vazquez in 2010.
But the thing that really gets me is the idea that, a year later, someone in the organization is actually complaining about signing Randy Winn. Did Winn flop completely? Sure he did. But he was signed to play a bench role, being a 4th/5th outfielder who could competently defend both corner outfield positions. It didn’t work out, but that happens all the time. Every team has bench or bullpen players who aren’t panning out a couple of months or so into the season who get DFA’d to make room for someone else. It’s basically a routine part of a baseball season. And even then, if you want to blame Cashman for signing Winn, it seems to me that you have to give him credit for signing Marcus Thames to a minor league contract, and Thames’ great season as a bench player far outweighs Winn’s poor play. In all seriousness, I can’t believe anyone in any sort of semi-important role within a Major League Baseball organization would actually be complaining about this.
Jason already noted the factual discrepancies in the piece with regards to Lee, and I’ll add that his “sources” understated the case quite a bit. Whatever his feelings about playing in New York specifically, at this point it’s obvious that Lee wanted to go back to the Phillies, and they were willing to sign him. Good night Irene. Short of offering Lee a blank check with Hal’s signature on it, I honestly don’t know what anyone thinks Cashman could have done to sign Lee above what he did.
But it’s the ending that really galls me about this piece:
Some people who know him believe it’s because Cashman wants people in the game to say he makes smart baseball moves, rather than just spend the most money. They point to his friendship with A’s general manager Billy Beane.
“He wants to be the guy the book is written about,” one baseball official who knows Cashman well said Wednesday.
He doesn’t want to simply be the “director of spending.”
This is pure horse-hockey.
For starters, so far as I know Brian Cashman is very respected around baseball for his abilities. Can he spend more money than anyone else? Absolutely. Does that give him an advantage? You betcha. Can Brian Cashman fleece you blind in a trade if you’re not on your toes? He absolutely can. Just ask the Phillies or White Sox if they’d like to have the Bobby Abreu/Nick Swisher trade back. And he’s done a heck of a job with the farm system too. Robinson Cano is an elite offensive player at the big league level. Brett Gardner is a more than adequate everyday player, at least on most teams. Phil Hughes, who Cashman refused to trade for Abreu or Johan Santana, was a key contributor to the 2009 world championship team and now has the look of an emerging front line starter. Jesus Montero is the top hitting prospect in all of baseball. And the Yankees system, even after trading Austin Jackson, is considered by most to be a top 6 group. The only people who don’t regard Brian Cashman as a quality baseball man are; a) Yankee fans who think the team should win a World Series literally every year, b) the kind of people who are always, always going to complain about how much money the Yankees have and how they sign all of the big free agents every year (even if they, you know, don’t), and c) mediots like Mike Lupica.
As for the notion that Cashman wants to run a team with a mid-market budget? Well he’s been the Yankees’ GM since 1998, and plenty of other jobs have opened since then. As of the 2004 season, the guy had five pennants and three world championships as a GM, so I’m pretty sure he probably could have gotten a chance with one of those teams if that’s what he wanted to do. And the notion that he doesn’t like to spend money and/or wants to hoard prospects isn’t exactly borne out by his recent decisions. This past season, he was willing to deal Montero for two and a half months worth of Cliff Lee‘s services. Last year he traded the team’s nearest big league ready prospect for Curtis Granderson. And the year before that, in addition to spending big money on C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, he went to ownership and asked them to approve an increase in his budget, so that he could sign Mark Teixeira out from under the Red Sox. This doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s just itching to have an oppressive budget imposed on him for the fun of it.
Now, does he want a book written about him? That I don’t know. If he does, I’d have to think it would have been written though. Maybe it’s just me, but someone following the Yankees’ general manager around for a season and then writing a book about what it’s like to do that job would be fascinating to me. I might even pay full price for it! But hey, maybe I’m alone in that , and no other writer wants to bother with it. Brian, if that’s the case, by all means have your people call my people (that would be Larry) and I’m sure we can work something out.