I would be lying if I was to tell any of you that I wasn’t giddy with excitement over the thought of New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman being shown the door at the end of the 2014 season. While most people think that Cash will be given another contract either before the season ends, or shortly thereafter, the Steinbrenners could send a clear message to Yankees fan everywhere: the way the Yankees have done business since 1998 isn’t going to work anymore.
I grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s, and remember the lean years in the Bronx. Sure there were a handful of second place finishes during the heyday of Donnie Baseball, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson, but the wheels came off quickly, as the 80s ended and the 90s began. Two miraculous things occurred to help rebuild what became a dynasty by the middle of the decade: George Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball and general manager at the time, Gene “Stick” Michael was allowed to build and develop the farm system.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Cashman has undone everything that Michael and former manager Buck Showalter did to build a solid foundation in the Bronx, one that had the “Core Four” along with unofficial fifth member Bernie Williams. As we all know, the Boss returned, ran Showalter out of town, and handed Cashman the keys to the castle. Aside from Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano, can you name one single “impact” player the Yankees have developed since Michael’s departure?
Let’s forget about the barren farm system for a moment. Brian Cashman’s real ineptness as general manager came as early as the end of the 2001 season, with the Yankees losing a heartbreaking World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Several of the “Old Guard” Yankees that Cashman’s predecessors Gene Michael and Bob Watson had brought in to make the dynasty whole, were either let go or retired. Leaders such as Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius left, and in came misfires such as Jason Giambi, Rondell White and Raul Mondesi. And who could forget Cashman giving up on a young, 26-year old left-handed pitcher in Ted Lilly, and bringing in headcase Jeff Weaver?
Throughout team history, the Yankees have rarely, if ever, lost one of their own players to free agency who they truly wanted to keep. With Cashman, it’s happened multiple times. Remember back to the stunning defeat the Yankees suffered at the hands of the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series? Out went Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, in came Kevin Brown and Jon Lieber. Sure, some would point to the fact that Clemens had planned on retiring, and was talked back into playing by the Houston Astros, but a general manager should always perform his due diligence. If there was even a sniff of a rumor that Clemens was thinking about coming back, what did Cashman do to ensure he returned to the Bronx? To make matters worse, he lost Andy Pettitte as well. I’m not even going to discuss Robinson Cano at this point.
Instead, I am going to focus on Cashman’s continued blunders that have put the Yankees in the position of overpaying brittle and aging stars rather than augmenting a roster built on homegrown talent with the occasional free agent or trade. What made the Yankees dynasty of the 1990s so great, is that everyone had the same mentality…”What do we need to do to win today?” Whether it was grinding out at-bats, bunting, stealing a base, or taking a 10-pitch walk and passing the baton to the next guy in the lineup, those teams understood the meaning of sacrificing for the greater good. The Yankees of that era weren’t superstars at every position, but they were good baseball players. When players such as Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez were brought into the fold to replace team leaders, we all should’ve seen the handwriting on the wall.
Everyone who isn’t a Yankees fan always claims “They buy their championships.” Here is something I will never understand about Brian Cashman. First, a man has to know his limitations. If you don’t know how to properly scout and draft, you HIRE THOSE THAT DO! Secondly, if the Yankees want to spend big bucks on the best talent money can buy, how about BUYING THE SCOUTS AND DRAFT EXPERTS OF THE TAMPA BAY RAYS AND ST. LOUIS CARDINALS? Championship teams are built on organizational depth and talent. Gene Michael understood that. He witnessed firsthand how badly things could go sour when you give up all of your talented minor leaguers for over the hill bums. It happened in the 1980s. Don’t believe me? Remember players named Fred McGriff, Jose Rijo, Willie McGee and Jay Buhner? Yep. All Yankees farmhands that were dealt for steaming turds. Once the Boss was out, Michael scouted and drafted Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte. I think he knew what he was doing. It’s just too bad that ol’ Stick is far too old to come back in and revitalize a franchise in disarray. It is alarming at how thin the minor league system is of viable superstar talent. Look how badly Cashman missed when he made the decision to unveil his “Big Three” in Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy.
While as a fan of the Yankees, I of course want to see every move that Brian Cashman makes work out for the best, and to watch the Yankees hoist the World Series trophy this coming fall. Unfortunately, I’m also a realist, and if the latest incarnation of the Yankees crash and burn, there is only one man’s head who should be on the chopping block: Brian Cashman. He’s held the job longer than most ever expected him to, and his poor personnel decisions have cost the franchise dearly. My advice to Cash: Don’t go away mad, just go away!
Follow Yanks Go Yard co-editor Billy Brost on Twitter @Billy_Brost