The Kids Are Alright, Front Office Edition

The first test for The Brothers Steinbrenner, as we all know by now, was the 2007-08 offseason, and they started out shakily at best. Despite their general manager’s desire to hold a firmer line with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, the new owners caved at the first signs of pressure and gave both of those players much bigger contracts than they needed to. After this, Cashman convinced them to give him more autonomy, and things have been pretty good ever since. Later that same off-season, ownership backed Cashman’s decision not to trade Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Marquez for Johan Santana, and even though the Yankees finished in third place in the American League East in 2008, that decision has been vindicated and then some. 

And, of course, in addition to signing C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees also added A.J. Burnett and, traded Wilson Betimit and Marquez for Nick Swisher in a move of pure ninjitsu, and, as a result of Cashman’s lobbying of Hal for more money in his budget, Mark Teixeira. The Yankees won the World Series, and everything was right with the world.

It was the 2009-10 offseason that, in many ways, vindicated Cashman’s 2007-08 plan. Phil Hughes had been an integral part of the 2009 bullpen, and was poised to emerge as a legitimate big league starter and potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Ian Kennedy was sent to Arizona to facilitate the trade for Curtis Granderson, and Melky Cabrera was, um, *cough* traded for Javier Vazquez *cough*. Neither of those moves, nor the trade for Nick Swisher, could have been accomplished as they were had the Yankees traded them to the Twins for Santana in 2008, who, by the way, had turned into an overpaid, injury prone, albatross in Queens.

2010 wasn’t as successful as 2009 by any means, but, keeping things in perspective, it wasn’t a failure by any means. The Yankees won the wild card with the 3rd best record in baseball despite an awful year from Burnett, an injury to Andy Pettitte, and a brutal schedule down the stretch. They swept the Twins, again, in the ALDS, and then took the red-hot Rangers to 6 games in the ALCS. In other words, they were right in the thick of competition at the end of the season, and came up 2 gcames short of the pennant mostly because their offense, the best in baseball during the regular season, just didn’t show up for the ALCS. It happens, unfortunately, and there’s really nothing anything anyone can do about it.

That brings us to the point where, to hear some tell it, the wheels fell off, the 2010-11 offseason. Cliff Lee, who just about everyone thought was destined to be a Yankee, took slightly less money to go back to the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving a gaping hole int he Yankees 2011 rotation and stunning a very large portion of New York fans and media, especially when no “Plan B” emerged. And then Cashman’s superiors decided to sign Rafael Soriano over the GM’s objections, and apparently it’s 2007 all over again. But is it really?

Whatever you think about the Soriano deal, it’s worth keeping it in perspective. The Yankees signed an elite relif pitcher for, potentially, $35 million and a first round draft pick. Is that too much for a non-closer? Yes, it probably is. Is it going to cripple the Yankees? No, it probably will not. Is it proof that ownership is going to ruin the franchise with impatience and by not listening to their baseball people? I don’t really think so. It would be one thing if Hal and Randy Levine decided to disregard Cashman’s opinion and meet the Royals reportedly high asking price for Zack Greinke after Lee signed with Philly, but they didn’t. Or if they rushed off to trade Jesus Montero for some second or third tier starter but, again, they didn’t. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Brian Cashman is making the baseball related decisions for the club, and the one exception is hardly a truly egregious one, in either the baseball or the financial sense.

From the outside looking in, I see an organization that’s pretty darn well run. Hal Steinbrenner seems like a pretty good owner with a solid head for what he’s doing. He’s willing to spend money to win, but he recognizes that he’s not the “baseball guy,” and he doesn’t want the team to return to where they were in the middle of the last decade. Cashman is, in my opinion, a fantastic general manager who’s built a successful major league team as well as one of the top farm systems in the game, despite lacking a high first round pick any time in the last decade or so. There seems to be a good relationship between ownership, the front office as represented by Cashman, and manager Joe Girardi. And for all the hemming and hawing this off-season, they’re one move away (say, Andy Pettitte deciding to pitch in 2011) from being the favorites to win the American League.

Long story short, there isn’t a front office in all of baseball I’d trade this one for.

7 thoughts on “The Kids Are Alright, Front Office Edition

  1. Steve

    Wow, how much did the Yankees pay for this article? Johan Santana would arguably have been their 2nd best pitcher over the 3 years. While "saving" Hughes they ruined Chamberlain. You really think they couldn't get Nick Swisher if Jeff Marquez wasn't available? Who the heck is Jeff Marquez anyway?lol__We don't really know how good a GM Brian Cashman is because the GM of the Yankees is very different than GM for majority of teams. The Yankees "BUY" players. Yes, sometimes they trade for a player that no one else is willing to pay (ARod). They outbid (by a lot and sometimes themselves) to get Jason Giambi, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira

    • Yes, it's totally unbelievable to say that, for the price the Twins were asking, I'd rather have Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Phil Hughes on my roster than an over 30 pitcher who just had surgery on his throwing elbow, won't pitch until some indeterminate point this year, and still has 4 years and $100 million left on his contract. Clearly I had to be paid to write such insanity. Can't put one ever on you, can we Steve?

      The rest of that is too tired to even bother with anymore.

  2. Mike

    Posts like these are part of what keeps me coming back to this site on a daily basis (and my preferred place to get news/analysis on anything Yanx). I would surmise that a fan only following MSM might think there's a storm brewing in the front office (I wonder if they really believe that, or is it just to fill the offseason columns and everything winds up getting overblown). Anyhow, I applaud the staff here for giving well-thought, reasoned, and rational takes on the reality of situations such as these. I like to think Jon Stewart puts the MSM in its place regarding political topics (in that he strives to give the most accurate representation of reality with proper context, albeit with a comedic spin); I believe IIATMS serves a similar function with the sports media world (and does it quite well).

    • *blushes* Who, us?

      Thank you very much.

    • This is officially my favorite comment ever. You have no idea how much I love Jon Stewart.

  3. Todibus

    I love all this drama around Cashman and the Steinbrenners! It's for just this reason that I follow the soap opera sport called NASCAR, though I actually DO watch baseball games (and not just for the wrecks).

    It used to be that Hot Stove League time was to debate players and teams, now we get to talk about GM's and owner squabbles? Priceless!!

  4. OldYanksFan

    Fans bitch a lot about Cashman, often without realizing how difficult his job is. Comparing him to other GMs doesn't work. I believe Cashman and the Brother Stein are just fine. A situation like this will always leave some hurt feelings, but it is rather minor in the grand scheme of things. After all, Cashman survived George…. how bad can H&H be?

    I glad we didn't get Santana, but in 3 years, he has averaged 29 games/yr and a 143 ERA+… so I wouldn't call him a bust (yet).

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