I consider Gabe Paul to have been the most successful Yankee GM during the Steinbrenner era, but the guy who has been sitting in that same seat since 1998 would be the choice of many. Brian Cashman turns 46-years-old today. He got his current job when George Steinbrenner’s ranting and raving drove Bob Watson’s blood pressure up into the stratosphere. Certainly, a big reason Cashman is still in the chair is that his reign as Yankee GM coincided with the physical decline of “the Boss.” Let’s face it, the George Steinbrenner of the seventies and eighties would have blamed and fired or driven Cashman away long before now.
But with the legendary Yankee owner first de-clawed and now gone from the scene, Cashman has done a pretty good job of establishing himself as the new decider in the Yankee hierarchy. Don’t get me wrong, if Hal Steinbrenner disagrees with Cashman on any move, that move doesn’t get made. But the truth is that while the Boss’s boy may understand how baseball works, Cashman lives, eats and breathes it.
Cashman began his Yankee career as an intern who got that job because his Dad, who raised harness horses for a living, had a friend who knew the race-horse-loving George Steinbrenner. It was Watson who recommended that Cashman, who was by then Watson’s assistant, be hired as his successor, but not before he warned his ambitious apprentice to consider refusing the promotion.
Cashman’s ascension, however, was blessed by perfect timing. The 1998 Yankee team he inherited was about to put forth one of the greatest seasons in MLB history and because Cashman had little to do with its formation, he got little credit from the media for the achievement. This greatly pleased Steinbrenner, who had a well-publicized mania about any Yankee front office executive being praised for the team’s success. Cashman also was a master at accepting Steinbrenner’s insults, taunts and criticisms. He learned quickly that when things did not work out for the team on the field to act as if it was his fault but if and when they did, to give credit to others, especially the Boss. Then as George got older and sicker, he gradually became less and less involved with the team’s personnel decisions. As the Yankees kept winning, the only real battle for authority Cashman had to fight was with Steinbrenner’s famous Florida-based team of baseball advisors. It appears he won it when in 2005, he threatened to accept the GM’s job for the Washington Nationals if the Yankees didn’t give him authority over George’s sunshine boys.
Cashman has made several adept moves during his tenure. One of his most recent was the trade that put Curtis Granderson in pinstripes. He has also made several errors, especially involving free agent pitchers, which have cost millions upon millions of Yankee bucks. But there’s no doubt that the guy works hard and is well respected by his peers around the league.
So what have I got against Cashman? Believe it or not, his treatment of Derek Jeter during the Captain’s most recent salary negotiation turned me off to the guy. I don’t blame him for being a tough bargainer and trying to sign the living legend for as little as possible. I do however blame Cashman for taking it public, even after Jeter guaranteed the Yankees at the outset that he would not negotiate or sign with any other team. It was as if Cashman was trying to prove to everyone how tough he was by acting that way with a Yankee legend when all he accomplished was to embarrass Jeter for absolutely no good reason.
Oh well, happy birthday Brian Cashman. I wish you a future filled with good health and happiness. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitching coach.
For Yankee fans not old enough to remember Cesar Tovar, think of a Chone Figgins with more defensive versatility. He spent his first eight big league seasons with Minnesota, where he played every position but catcher, led the league in hits in 1971, averaged .281 in 1,090 games and stole 186 bases. He then spent the final five years of his career playing for five different teams, ending up with the Yankees in 1976, where he played his final thirteen big league games.
Juan Rivera was a power hitting outfield prospect in the Yankee organization who played for the parent club in 2001, ’02 and ’03. New York was hoping he’d replace Paul O’Neil in right field.He got his longest shot during his last season in pinstripes, appearing in 57 games and smacking 7 home runs. But that wasn’t good enough for the Yankee brass, who bundled Rivera with Nick Johnson and Randy Choate in the trade with Montreal that brought Javier Vazquez to the Bronx the first time. Rivera’s now found a home in the Angels’ outfield.
Today is also Brian Cashman’s birthday. The Yankee GM started as an intern in the Yankee front office where he caught the eye of “the Boss” and the rest is history.