For the past few days, the MSM and interwebs have been abuzz by a comment that Yankee GM Brian Cashman made at the WFAN breakfast on Tuesday. You would think that Brian said something really interesting, really decisive. Something that Yankee fans and baseball fans have been holding their collective breath about some big star player, and Brian finally cleared things up with a declarative statement. But he didn’t. In reality, he did nothing of the sort.
First, the context. The question was asked by an audience member if Derek will remain at shortstop for the entire 4 years of his newly minted contract. Mike Francesa immediately followed up with “what about moving Derek to third?” which is something he’s often discussed on his radio show. Brian said that he’s heard Mike discuss that on his show (long time listener, first time caller) but doesn’t like the idea of Derek on third. He recounted how in the late Don Mattingly years, the Yanks had Mattingly at first base and Wade Boggs at third. Those who remember his career will recall that a 1990 back injury had sapped Donnie of much of his power in his later years. Boggs of course, was the quintessential ‘slap hitter’ of the late 80s and early 90s who averaged 5-8 HRs most of his career (1987 notwithstanding). So from 1993-95 there were two key positions (1B/3B) where most teams expect to get some power where the Yanks were getting little. Brian said “That killed us, then we went and got Tino and (won in 1996)” Mike interjected “So where do you see Derek going? ” Brian took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and said “. . . more likely the outfield. ” Mike asked “Left?” Brian said “Well, we have Brett Gardner there”. Both Brian and Mike went on for a minute or so kicking around the idea after that, but Brian said nothing definitive. Brian was clearly thinking on his feet and answering a hypothetical question. One that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time to me, and there was no audible reaction from the audience, either. If anything surprised me, it was how little thought Brian appeared to have given to the subject.
Next, Brian said earlier at that same event that Derek is their SS next year, and for the foreseeable future. He doesn’t view Eduardo Nunez as a replacement, so its not as if they have his successor in house. So the really interesting question for me is what do they do with Derek when they find a replacement? He doesn’t profile as a DH, or as a corner outfielder. He’s under contract for 4 more years. Nobody envisions him remaining at SS for the whole 4 years, yet nobody knows what to do with him once he’s moved off the position. That’s where I think this gets really interesting, especially since Derek has long been a player who loathes spending any time whatsoever on the bench. He hates taking days off when he’s hurt, how’s he going to react when he’s healthy? But the MSM all too often steers clear of things that are thought provoking or interesting, opting instead for non-stop sensationalism.
Tyler Kepner caught up with Brian last night at a charity event, and Brian had this to say about his comments:
“At the breakfast yesterday I didn’t think I was saying anything that was newsworthy.
“All I can do is explain myself as well as I can and, hey, this is what I was talking about, this is what I meant. I didn’t think it was a big issue. I’ve been in that position before. Who’s going to replace Mariano Rivera as the closer? Is it Joba, it is Hughes? When Randy Johnson was here, can Randy Johnson be a closer? You know, all those different questions but for some reason when that comes around with the shortstop it becomes a really crazy loud story.
“I did talk to Casey Close. He asked, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ because they were receiving a lot of calls. I haven’t talked to Derek and I explained everything to him (Close). Hopefully I sufficed. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing to explain.”
As someone who was there, I agree completely. It was an off the cuff remark that has generated 2 straight days media coverage. Why? Because it involves a big star in Derek Jeter, which attracts attention for media outlets whether or not the story deserves it. In context, it was really no big deal.