Saturday, February 25, 2023

Brian Cashman's Yankees...


Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees GM for a quarter of a century…

Brian Cashman has been the general manager of the New York Yankees for twenty-five years. For many younger Yankee fans, he is the only GM they have ever known. For those of us who can remember life under George Steinbrenner, the GM role, like managers and pitching coaches, was a revolving door.

Cashman is a polarizing figure in the Yankees Universe. He is one of the most criticized individuals in the Yankees organization. Cashman certainly has more than his fair share of detractors. Joel Sherman of The New York Post wrote a good article this week in defense of Cashman. I will preface it by saying I know Sherman gets accused of peddling Yankees propaganda. Covering the Yankees puts food on Sherman’s table and buys him the comfort of a home and a luxurious lifestyle. By comparison, I could not buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks for the money I have earned writing about the Yankees. He is motivated to write stories that help him maintain access to important individuals in the Yankees hierarchy.

Sherman’s column included an interview with Brian Cashman’s chief lieutenant, Senior Vice President, and Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman. I understand an interview with a Cashman subordinate is not going to yield any negative comments about her boss.

I am not trying to defend Sherman (or Cashman), but I found Sherman’s words to be thought-provoking. I have been critical of Brian Cashman over the years. There is frustration with certain moves (or lack thereof). He lives a life in that every move is questioned and scrutinized with the power of hindsight. He has had his share of successes, yet they can easily be overlooked by the failures. 

In Sherman’s piece, Afterman describes Cashman as the Wizard of Oz if there actually was a wizard behind the curtains. He lives and breathes the job 24/7. In our lives, personal priorities, at times, can take precedence over the Yankees. Cashman lives a life where the Yankees take precedence over everything.  His passion and loyalty have endeared him to the Steinbrenner family. His consistency, work ethic, and leadership style have earned the respect and admiration of those who surround him.    

A great leader makes those around him (or her) better and Cashman carries those attributes. Unlike his father, Hal Steinbrenner has rewarded those who have faithfully served the organization and the Yankees tend to have very low turnover in the front office. Afterman, an attorney, has served the Yankees for over twenty years. She was hired to replace Kim Ng as assistant general manager. Some Yankees fans probably never realized that the current Miami Marlins general manager once worked for Brian Cashman.    

Afterman was asked about manager Aaron Boone and his perception as a puppet. She quickly dismissed the thought by describing Boone as an incredibly smart manager who understands the game and the clubhouse. She states that it is not Cashman’s nature to force his beliefs on the manager. Listening to Bret Boone’s podcasts over the years, I have heard him routinely describe his brother as the smartest guy in the family.  I do not believe the front office writes the lineup card or dictates which arms come out of the bullpen. Aaron Boone is his own man, and I do believe he makes his own decisions based on analytics and his knowledge and understanding of the game. 

I am guilty of calling for Boone’s head but I respect him. He holds a job that is only successful if you win championships, a feat he has never accomplished. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi continues to get love for no other reason than he won the 2009 World Series.  No offense to Joe, but I have enjoyed Boone’s tenure more than the tense Binder Joe’s time in the hot seat.  Boone has the respect of the clubhouse, and he enjoys a good rapport with the media and the front office. 

Despite Brian Cashman’s contract expiration at the end of last season, there was never a chance he would leave the Yankees. The subsequent four-year contract, although seemingly delayed, was inevitable.  Afterman was asked if Cashman will walk away if he wins another championship. Her response was that he would walk away when the job was no longer enjoyable. General managers tend to have a short shelf life, yet Brian Cashman has endured. The Yankees win every year. Maybe not championships but they win games on the field more than they lose.  The Yankees will win a World Series again. All things considered, I am hopeful Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone are the men to see it through. 

I am not purposely trying to write this post in defense of Cashman or Boone. Regardless of how biased it may be, Sherman's column made me pause to appreciate both men.  As Yankees fans, we have an invested interest in their success.  Supporting them means we are supporting the Yankees. It serves no purpose to attack either man. One day, neither man will be employed by the Yankees. Until then, we should trust them to do their jobs. They are trying to win with the baseball team that matters the most to all of us.    

First pitch

It is almost game time for the Yankees. Their first Spring exhibition game is later today. They will be on the road at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida to face the Philadelphia Phillies (1:05 PM ET). I thought former Boston Red Sox reliever and current non-roster invitee Tyler Danish was going to start, but the latest lineup card posted by MLB’s Bryan Hoch shows Ryan Weber as the starter. He will be faced by former Yankees prospect Nick Nelson.

The big names like Aaron Judge will not make the trip but it will be a good opportunity to see future stars like Jasson Dominguez. Regulars Gleyber Torres and Harrison Bader are in the lineup, and so is my favorite shortstop-to-be-replaced Isiah Kiner-Falefa. 

(Photo Credit: Twitter via @BryanHoch)

The Yankees make their home debut at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow (Sunday, February 26) in a split-squad game against Lucas Luetge and the Atlanta Braves. The other split squad will be in Dunedin, Florida to play the Toronto Blue Jays.

The first few Spring games are always exciting to watch but by March, the games become a drag while impatiently waiting for Opening Day. Maybe this year is different with the World Baseball Classic even if only a few Yankees will be participating.

Roster Moves   

The Yankees have yet to make any roster changes since camp opened. They have three guys who will be moved to the 60-day Injured List (Luis Gil, Scott Effross, and Frankie Montas). They are eligible to be moved to the IL now, but they temporarily remain on the active 40-man roster. The last transactions made by the Yankees happened over two weeks ago when they activated Domingo German and Greg Weissert. 

Unless the Yankees make a trade, it seems possible one or more of the non-roster invitees might make the Opening Day roster. Of the pitchers, Ryan Weber appears to be the most likely to make it. Wilmer Difo, Willie Calhoun, and Rafael Ortega stand out as the strongest candidates among the hitters. Many fans would love for the Yankees to promote Anthony Volpe. I will not object if he makes the Opening Day roster, but I accept the expectation that he will start the year in Triple-A. Once Volpe gets a spot on the 40-man roster, it will be a long time until he relinquishes it (or at least we hope so). His time will come soon. If he tears it up for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as he did in the lower levels, it is a near certainty he will be in the Bronx by the All-Star Break.  Injuries can always accelerate the timetable. 

Rodón versus Gallo

It is interesting to see the contrasting views of these two players. One thrives for the spotlight and pressure, and the other runs from it. Earlier this week, Rodón spoke of the differences between playing for the Yankees and the San Francisco Giants. He said, “The fans [in New York] want to win. They care. They care a lot.” Conversely, he said, “Giants fans are invested, but not like in New York. Win or lose, you’re not going to get booed in San Francisco.”

Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Rodón has taken heat from the Giants fan base for the comments, but Giants commentator and former Major Leaguer Mike Krukow came to Rodón’s defense. To paraphrase Krukow, he said fans in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York love the game, but they treat teams like their kids. San Francisco fans, on the other hand, treat the Giants players like their grandchildren. 

Regardless, Rodón’s words show he is up for the challenge of playing in front of baseball’s most passionate and demanding fans.

Meanwhile, there are guys like Joey Gallo who enjoy lesser pressurized environments. In an interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Gallo said, “I tried to handle it well. I took pride in the fact that I still played. I was still diving for the Yankees, running into walls for the Yankees, running hard for the Yankees. I knew I was getting traded. But I still had the pride, the integrity of the game, the respect for the fans, respect for the organization. I’m still going to go out here and bust my ass. I’m not going to just cash it in.” He went on to say, “The Minnesota market is different than the New York market. The Texas market is different than the New York market. I always just wanted to play baseball, have fun, hang out with the boys. That’s my goal, just to play baseball and win games. I don’t really like being more than that. I guess this is more my vibe, you know what I mean?”

Mental toughness defines champions. There was always a question if Gallo would thrive in New York. Sadly, he performed worse than anyone expected. It will be interesting to see if he can recapture what he had in Texas after underwhelming the fans in New York and Los Angeles. Rodón seems prepared to grab the bull by the horns and take New York by storm. 

Maybe the Analytics team should factor mental toughness into the equation when they are scouting for possible additions. Some guys can handle it, some guys cannot. It may not always be obvious who can or cannot make it, but there was nothing about Joey Gallo (or Isiah Kiner-Falefa for that matter) that screamed large market success. Rodón was born for New York. It is a huge difference.

Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

On a side note, if the Yankees’ season-opening series against the Giants was being played in San Francisco, would the fans boo or would they give him a polite golf clap.  Somehow, I suspect it would be the latter.

As always, Go Yankees!