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Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cashman’

Joe Girardi’s personality exudes loyalty. In his three-plus years as manager, it’s hard to think of one instance in which he publicly criticized a player. In many ways, that’s an admirable trait, one that his players must surely appreciate. However, there is a difference between throwing a player under the bus and acknowledging his deficiencies. Unfortunately, at least with A.J. Burnett, Girardi has been unable to make that distinction.

AJ Burnett watches from the dugout after being pulled in the second inning (Photo: AP).

After surrendering four runs and loading the bases in the second inning, AJ Burnett received another early hook from Girardi. As he departed the mound, the right hander seemed to mouth something in his manager’s direction. Then, the YES cameras caught Girardi following Burnett into the clubhouse. Had there been a confrontation? With the score lopsided, the remaining innings became a formality leading up to the post game.

After the game, Girardi was livid. However, his anger wasn’t directed toward Burnett’s rampant ineffectiveness, nor was it inspired by the way in which the right hander expressed himself while leaving the mound. According to the Yankees’ manager, those events were much ado about nothing. Instead, what sparked Girardi’s post game tirade was the unfair way he believes the media has been treating Burnett.

I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J. Me and A.J. have mutual respect for each other. I cheer for this guy. He cheers for me, and we cheer for this team. I want the guy to do well.” – Joe Girardi, quoted by AP, August 20, 2011

Instead of taking the opportunity to hold his erratic right hander accountable for his actions and performance, Girardi choose to make him the victim. In some ways, that has become the organization’s party line. Just last week, Brian Cashman launched into a similarly impassioned defense of Burnett. According to the GM, Burnett’s struggles were as much a media creation as a reflection of reality. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support the claim.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Some of Brian Cashman's best decisions have involved trades he didn't make.

The trade deadline has resulted in some of the most lopsided deals in history, but that doesn’t mean evey swap made under the gun has to have a winner and loser.  Each year, there are just as many deadline deals that are prudent as ones that are impetuous, but what about the trades that don’t get made? Sometimes, by not pulling an itchy trigger, a general manager can make his team a deadline winner even without making a single transaction.

During his Yankee tenure, Brian Cashman has not been very active during the trade deadline. In fact, when he has made a major in-season deal, it has often come earlier in the year when the pressure of the deadline was off in the distance. What Cashman has been very good at, however, is avoiding impetuous deals that would have a negative impact on the future more than help in the present.

In his first year as GM, Cashman inherited a strong team and built it into a powerhouse with additions like Chuck Knoblauch and Orlando Hernandez. However, despite compiling a record setting winning percentage over the first four months, the Yankees were still front and center amid several rumors at the deadline. In particular, it was reported that the team was close to securing Randy Johnson for a package including Hideki Irabu and a combination of prospects like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Lowell, Ricky Ledee and Homer Bush.

Although it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would have had a negative impact on the Yankees, an improvement would have been impossible.  Granted, if the deal had been made, the Yankees may not have had to face Johnson in the 2001 World Series, but it’s also possible they wouldn’t have gotten there without the likes of Roger Clemens and David Justice, two players later acquired using players rumored to be in the mix for Johnson.

In 1999, the Yankees reportedly considered trading Andy Pettitte for Roberto Hernandez.

In 1999, Andy Pettitte was having one of his most difficult seasons in the big leagues. During the first half, the normally reliable lefty compiled a 5-7 record with a 5.59 ERA, leading to speculation that the Yankees might trade him before the deadline. One of the more prominent reports involved the Yankees trading Pettitte to the Phillies for two prospects who would then be flipped to Tampa for Roberto Hernandez. Had that trade been made, there not only wouldn’t have been a core four, but it’s also possible the Yankees wouldn’t have had four championships to celebrate. Because of Cashman’s ability to resist the pressure from above to trade Pettitte, the Yankees were able to enjoy 85 more wins, including nine in the post season, from the homegrown left hander.

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As the trade deadline nears, the Yankees will probably be linked to every impact player available on the market. If the team gets shutout, have no fear, Carlos Beltran is on the way. Or, if Bartolo Colon stumbles again, there’s still no reason to fret. Ubaldo Jimenez is being measured for pinstripes. Whatever the Yankees’ need, the next two weeks will provide a rumor to fill it. Of course, much of the rampant speculation will likely be news to even Brian Cashman.

Although it’s fun to identify acquisition candidates based on marquee value, it’s sometimes more constructive to examine the relationships between general managers. For example, if the Red Sox need reinforcements, there’s a good chance Theo Epstein will turn to the San Diego Padres. Not only is Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer a former Red Sox’ executive, but the two teams have made 11 trades since Epstein took the reins in Boston.

Brian Cashman’s Most Common Trade Partners (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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During the offseason, the primary concern about the 2011 Yankees was a lack of pitching depth. Entering spring training, the blueprint was to hang around the pennant race until the summer, at which point Brian Cashman would trade for an established starting pitcher. Well, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.

As they approach the halfway mark of the season, the Yankees have done more than just hang around. Entering July, the team has compiled the best record in the American League and built a solid three game lead over the favored Red Sox. In some circles, the Yankees’ first half success has been considered a big surprise, especially in light of the many injuries they’ve endured. Although there may be some truth to that assessment, it’s still hard to look at the Yankees as underdogs.

Yankees R/G Versus the A.L. Average, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

With all the talent the Yankees have on offense, no one should be too surprised by their current position in the standings. Despite a few periods of inconsistency, the Bronx Bombers have mostly lived up to the name. In addition to leading the majors in runs per game, the 2011 Yankees have also posted one of the franchise’s highest totals relative to the American League. To date, the Yankees’ 5.33 runs per game is 25.1% greater than the league average of 4.26. The last time the Yankees outperformed the league by that much was 1931, when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig powered the offense to a per game total of 6.88 runs, the second highest output in team history. In fact, only three other Yankees’ teams have outscored the league by a higher percentage, and each one featured the potent duo of Ruth and Gehrig.

Yankees R/G Allowed Versus the A.L. Average, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Note: Y-axis has been inverted so better results appear above the x-axis.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Even though the Yankees’ offense has been a major part of its success, it really hasn’t carried the team. In fact, at various times throughout the year, pitching has been the Yankees’ strong suit. The team’s current ERA of 3.51 not only ranks fourth in the American League, but would also be the franchise’s lowest annual rate since 1981. Of course, the depressed run environment has contributed to lower ERAs across the board, but even when compared to the league, the Yankees’ runs allowed per game is impressive. As illustrated in the chart above, the team’s current runs allowed rate of 91.7% would rank right at the median on a historical basis. Although not as impressive as the offense, that’s still not bad for what was supposed to be a major weakness.

Because the Yankees have enjoyed both great offense and great pitching, the team has a run differential of 115, or 1.46 runs per game. If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider this: it would be the fifteenth highest total in franchise history. Although it might be asking too much to expect that level of proficiency to continue, if the Yankees can maintain a differential of at least 1.20, they’ll still be in elite company from a historical standpoint. Among the 27 Yankee teams (excluding the strike shortened 1994 season) to maintain a differential at or above 1.20, the average win total was 100, all but six finished in first place and 16 won the World Series.

Yankees Run Differential Per Game, 1901-2011 (click to enlarge)

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Ironically, the 2011 Yankees have been more underachievers than underdogs, at least based on their expected Pythagorean record. The big question, however, is whether the team can continue its success throughout the dog days of summer? Or, will Brian Cashman still need to work the phones in search of reinforcements? Even though the halfway mark is always a good barometer, in baseball, the climate surrounding a team can quickly change. If there are storms gathering on the horizon, it’ll be up to Cashman to be a good weatherman. The Yankees’ chances in October could very well depend on his forecast.

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During an interview on WFAN, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman implied rather directly that the extent to which Jorge Posada is no longer an option behind the plate is entirely the result of his own actions.

Posada and Cashman haven’t exactly seen eye to eye this season.

According to Cashman, when Francisco Cervelli was injured during spring training, the Yankees turned to Posada as a potential backup for Russell Martin, but the veteran backstop decided that he would be better off focusing on his new role as DH. Cashman also stated that lingering headaches resulting from last season’s concussion also contributed to Posada’s reticence to get back behind the plate. If Cashman’s version of events is accurate, it would mean that the Yankees could have enjoyed more roster flexibility had Posada decided, or been physically able, to embrace the role as a backup to Martin.

Considering how poorly Cervelli has played since returning to the active roster, and how much Posada has struggled as a DH, it seems as if both problems could have been mitigated if the Yankees and Posada had better prepared for the current predicament. Cashman’s recent revelation is particularly ironic because it has been assumed that one reason Posada has bristled in his new role was because of the lack of an opportunity to catch. What’s more, it also contradicts the prevailing thought the Yankees, not Posada, pulled the plug on a backup role because of lingering health concerns.

Posada has not yet been asked about Cashman’s comments, but one wonders how the feisty veteran will react to the implication that his failure to stay in shape is the main reason preventing him from stepping back behind the plate. Without knowing the extent to which last year’s concussion has hampered his ability to catch, it’s hard to say how receptive Posada would be to the Yankees’ willingness to have him work his way back into being an option at the position. In the meantime, for the sake of harmony in the clubhouse, it’s perhaps even more important that Posada doesn’t contradict Cashman’s account or express resentment at the idea that the end of his catching career has been self inflicted.

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When Saturday night’s lineup was first posted, Jorge Posada was batting ninth. Then, he was scratched just before game time. As various rumors about his status circulated, including speculation about a possible retirement, Brian Cashman announced to FOX cameras that Posada had asked out of the lineup. Cashman also stated that no injury was involved. Soon thereafter, a torrent of tweets suggested that the Yankees’ catcher had thrown a fit and refused to play. That news was followed by reports about the Yankees placing a call to the commissioner’s office about possible disciplinary action. Not to be outdone by the one-sided flow of information, Posada’s wife Laura tweeted that her husband was suffering from a sore back. Meanwhile, the rest of the Yankees were busy losing another game by exhibiting the same brand of impotent offense and sloppy defense that has become a hallmark over the last three weeks.

The original lineup card with Posada batting ninth (Photo: Getty Images).

Before the game, the decision to drop Posada in the lineup seemed like more of historical footnote than a burgeoning soap opera. In retrospect, however, Girardi’s decision to drop Posada in such a high profile game on national television seems at least a little shortsighted. After all, what real benefit could be derived from moving Posada down from eighth to ninth? With Nick Swisher batting just as poorly, would anyone have batted an eye if he was slotted last? Considering Posada’s prideful reputation and Swisher’s happy-go-lucky personality, reversing those two players would have provided the path of least resistance.

Although Girardi shares some blame for the imprudent implementation of an otherwise justifiable decision, Posada also bears some blame. His emotional reaction to the slight is perfectly understandable. For years, he has been an instrumental part of the Yankees’ success, but now he finds himself watching the sands of time fall through the hourglass. It’s a long way from starting catcher to last man in the lineup, so if Posada needed a mental day off, what’s so wrong with that? Having said that, he should have been more honest with Girardi once he decided he could not play. By failing to do so, he contributed to the chaotic course of events that ensued.

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Pedro Feliciano didn’t make this much news when he was almost literally pitching every day for the Mets, but in his short tenure with the Yankees, the once durable lefty has become a hot topic because of his inability to take the ball.

Scott Proctor led the American League with 83 appearances in 2006. Since then, his career has been plagued by various arm injuries.

When the Yankees signed Feliciano back in January, the reliever market had exploded and quality left handers were a scarce commodity. So, although the two-year, $8 million deal given to the reliever was a bit of an overpay, it still appeared to be a worthy signing. After Feliciano’s most recent MRI, which revealed a tear in his shoulder capsule, that no longer seems to be the case.

It’s easy to slam Brian Cashman for sinking so much money into a 34-year old pitcher coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, especially after the Yankees’ GM stated that Feliciano was abused during his time as a Met. Such a statement naturally led many to wonder why Cashman would pursue the signing if he felt Feliciano might be damaged goods, but the issue is much more complicated. After all, Feliciano’s workload could just as easily have been interpreted as a sign of extraordinary durability instead of evidence that his shoulder was a ticking time bomb. Based on the other options available, Cashman took a calculated risk. Unfortunately for him, it exploded in his face.

The Yankees aren’t strangers to signing free agent relievers with a history of heavy workloads. In 2003, the team inked Paul Quantrill to a two-year deal following three seasons in which he too led the league in appearances. In his first season with the Yankees, Quantrill led the league for a record fourth straight time, but after bouncing around with three teams in 2005, his career was over. Steve Kline was the only other reliever to lead the league in appearances for three straight seasons with a minimum of 80 games in each year, but he showed no ill effects from the workload. Following his trifecta, Kline pitched in at least 66 games over the next six seasons.

Seasons with Over 80 Appearances

Pitcher Yrs From To Age
Paul Quantrill* 5 1998 2004 29-35
Kent Tekulve 4 1978 1987 31-40
Pedro Feliciano* 3 2008 2010 31-33
Peter Moylan 3 2007 2010 28-31
Ray King 3 2001 2004 27-30
Steve Kline* 3 1999 2001 26-28
Mike Stanton 3 1996 2006 29-39
Mike Marshall 3 1973 1979 30-36


*Led the league with at least 80 appearances in three straight seasons.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Update: Minutes after this post was published, Law also released his top-100 prospect rankings. Angels’ outfield prospect Mike Trout topped the list, just ahead of 2010 draft wunderkind Bryce Harper and the Phillies’ Domonic Brown.

As for the Yankees, Jesus Montero ranked highest on the list at number four. According to Law, Montero’s ability to hit is without question (he invoked Frank Thomas as a comparison), but concerns about his defense as well as the durability of catchers his size remain. Also appearing in the top-100 were four other Yankees, most notably Manny Banuelos, who not only ranked 12th overall, but also fourth among pitchers. Despite his young age, Law stated that his advanced physical development means Banuelos isn’t far from helping the big league club. Perhaps, he will be the Yankees mystery fifth starter by midseason?

Also ranked in the top 100 were Gary Sanchez (68), Dellin Betances (73) and Andrew Brackman (88), while Austin Romine just missed the cut. Rounding out Law’s list of the Yankees’ top-10 prospects were Graham Stoneburner, Slade Heathcott, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren.

Keith Law’s latest MLB organization rankings have been posted at ESPN.com, and the Yankees find themselves inside the top-10. Law singled out the team’s catching depth, which includes Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez and Austine Romine. Law was also impressed with the development of Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, both of whom made significant strides in their recovery from injury. Also mentioned were Manny Banuelos as well as a mystery player selected toward the end of last year’s draft. On Friday, Law intends to publish a profile on that player, so all readers with an ESPN insider account should mark it on their calendars.

Most Yankees fans are familiar with Jesus Montero, but fellow catching prospect Gary Sanchez is not that far behind.

Law’s high opinion of the Yankees’ farm system echoed Jonathan Mayo’s prospect rankings, which were unveiled at MLB.com on Tuesday.  The Yankees placed three prospects –Montero (9), Sanchez (32) and Banuelos (35) – on Mayo’s list of the game’s top-50 prospects, while Betances just missed the cut at 53. Like Law, Mayo also rated the Royals (six prospects) and Rays (four prospects) highly. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mets, Marlins, Brewers and A’s were the only four teams not represented.

Law’s and Mayo’s findings validate Brian Cashman’s strategy of paying almost as much attention to the minors as the major league roster. Even as the Yankees have been able to maintain a championship caliber team, Cashman has simultaneously gone about rebuilding and then fortifying the team’s farm system, which is why the general manager was so reticent to surrender a first round draft pick with the signing of Rafael Soriano. The strength of the farm also provides insight into why Cashman has been so patient this offseason. As Steve S. at TYU noted in his excellent recap of Cashman’s WFAN breakfast chat, the Yankees’ general manager believes Banuelos and Betances both have “Phil Hughes or better ceilings”, and all levels of the minors will feature legitimate prospects in their respective rotations. Cashman even relayed Gene Michael’s belief that David Phelps and Adam Warren could be better than Ivan Nova.

Although Mayo’s list is available in its entirety at MLB, Law’s work (which is probably the most exhaustive and informative in the field) remains behind ESPN’s pay wall. So, listed below is a brief and select summary of his conclusions.

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Brian Cashman was the guest of honor at WFAN’s Breakfast with a Champion, a question and answer session hosted by sports talk host Mike Francesa at the Hard Rock Café in Manhattan. ESPNW’s Amanda Rykoff attended the event and provided “live tweets”, from which the following key points emerged:

  • The Yankees need another starter, and their ability to obtain one will determine their chances at winning a 28th World Series.
  • Cashman believes the Red Sox are a better team on paper, but feels the addition of Soriano gives the Yankees a better bullpen.
  • Joba Chamberlain has been limited since his injury in 2008, and as a result, the organization’s plans for him have been altered.
  • Derek Jeter is not expected to remain at SS over the entire length of his current four-year extension.
  • Being a general manager in New York is hard work.

Is Brian Cashman Fed Up Being the Yankees' GM?

Although some of Cashman’s candor was worthy of a raised eyebrow, none of the opinions expressed were particularly groundbreaking. The revelation about Chamberlain represented the first time the organization has used injury as justification for its handling of the once prized pitching prospect, but otherwise, most of the observations were fairly benign.

One remark that was somewhat of a concern, however, was Cashman’s comment about the media in New York having the ability to “wear you out”. Taken alone, it’s really a very mild remark, but in the context of his conduct this offseason, it does make you wonder about whether Cashman really wants to be in New York after his contract expires in 2011.

Last week, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden wrote about Cashman possibly wanting to leave the Yankees for an opportunity in which he would have less scrutiny and more autonomy. Also hinted at in Madden’s column was Cashman’s desire to operate without the “burden” of the Yankees’ significant financial resources. In a sense, it seems as if Cashman wants to make it on his own…almost like a child of wealth might desire to get out from under his parents’ shadow.

Although Cashman has sometimes bristled at the implication that his success is directly the result of the team’s high payroll (usually by doing so in a self-deprecating manner), he has always seemed content toeing the party line. In fact, Cashman has developed a politician-like reputation for being able to say nothing by saying everything. However, that has all changed this offseason.

Cashman’s conduct during the Derek Jeter contract negotiations was the first sign that something was amiss. Not only did the Yankees’ GM take an early hard line with the team’s superstar, but he also openly discussed the negotiations, even going so far as to lob a few criticisms in Jeter’s direction. Then, after adamantly stating that he would not surrender a first round pick for Rafael Soriano, Cashman was overruled by Hal Steinbrenner, and wasn’t shy about saying as much during the reliever’s introductory press conference. When Cashman talked about having Soriano “forced down his throat”, he was trying to make a point about the positive influence of the Yankees’ resources, but the way he chose to express the thought didn’t seem very flattering.

One can get carried away reading too much into comments, but in this case, it seems like something is up. Is Cashman fed up with the Yankees, and New York in general? Is he tired of the scrutiny and weary of being thought of as “director of spending” (as Madden claims he referred to himself at the recent Winter Meetings)? Does he feel diminished by ownership’s intervention in the Soriano signing, and perhaps even the Jeter negotiations (and, by extension, could there be a split between general manager and short stop)? Finally, has the charm of being a smaller fish in a big pond worn off now that the Boss is no longer the head shark? Regardless of the reason, if Cashman is strongly considering a change of scenery, the Yankees have to consider how that realization will affect his approach during the season.

I’ve always been a fan of Brian Cashman, and see no reason why the Yankees should look to make a change…unless, their GM has already made that decision. If Cashman really would prefer the challenge of a smaller market team with less pressure, less media and less money to spend (i.e., a pasture with less “green”), then it might be better if he and the Yankees part company sooner than later. The Yankees not only have significant challenges facing them before the start of the season (and likely leading up to the trade deadline), but there are also some long-term transition issues slowly emerging. The Yankees need to make sure their general manager is committed for the long haul, and if not, the team might be better off finding that out now.

In a perfect world, the best approach for the Yankees would be to offer Cashman a “take it or leave the organization” contract extension. Because of his long and meritorious service to the organization, however, Cashman deserves the benefit of the doubt as well as every opportunity to decide upon his future. Having said that, it might be time for Hal Steinbrenner and his general manager to have a frank discussion about each man’s respective vision for the future. If it is determined that both paths will not converge, then Cashman and the Yankees might be better off going their separate ways.

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Joe Girardi welcomes Rafael Soriano at his press conference, but the sentiment of Brian Cashman’s comments was not as warm (Photo: MLB.com).

Rafael Soriano may not be asked to save many games for the Yankees, but at the press conference announcing his signing, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was forced to save face.

The biggest news from yesterday’s media gathering was not the player being introduced, but the back story behind his acquisition. As has now been widely reported, Brian Cashman was not on board with the decision to sign Soriano because he wanted to protect that first round pick that was ultimately forfeited to the Tampa Bay Rays as compensation. So, it was with great anticipation that media members gathered at the press conference to grill Cashman, and not the Yankees’ new reliever.

Let me put it this way, I think 29 GMs would love their owner to force Rafael Soriano down their throat. I don’t think that’s something that anyone would want to complain about. I took a stance and I’m not running from that stance. It doesn’t mean I was right, or that it’s the best approach, but that’s who I am and still am. But we are better in 2011 for this, there’s no doubt about it.” – Brian Cashman, quoted in the New York Daily News, January 20, 2011

Despite his frankness, yesterday’s media event couldn’t have been very comfortable for Cashman. After all, it’s not easy to listen as your authority and autonomy are called into question. Although he seemed at ease with the decision, the now public split could put both Cashman and the organization in line for more uncomfortable questions as the general manager enters the final year of his three-year contract.

For Soriano, the introduction must have been a little surreal. Not only was he forced to play second fiddle at his own press conference, but then he had to sit by as the team’s general manager talked about having him forced down his throat. Hopefully, the Yankees instructed the interpreter (Soriano answered all questions in Spanish) to not use a literal translation. If he is even the least bit sensitive, a comment like that could make Soriano’s transition to the team a little more uncomfortable.

Perhaps anticipating some of the potential awkwardness, the Yankees decided not to air the press conference on YES. Of course, that did little to quell the stories about the latest bizarre happening in what has been a very unorthodox offseason for Cashman and the Yankees.

Immediately after the signing was announced, I noted the potential negative ramifications that could result from the emergence of a split in the Yankees’ baseball operations. As Craig Calcaterra of NBC’s HardBall Talk  replied, however, the decision by Hal Steinbrenner to override Cashman’s recommendation really wasn’t unprecedented. Both before and since Cashman demanded more autonomy from the Boss, the Yankees utilized a committee approach to making decisions. As evidenced by the Joe Torre situation, Cashman has not always gotten his way, even on matters as significant as hiring a manager. Viewed in that light, the Soriano signing really shouldn’t be considered so ominous. As he noted at the press conference, Cashman was fully aware of the negotiations, despite not being in favor of the transaction. In other words, he was not bypassed in the process, as had been the case during the days of Billy Connors and the Tampa faction (not to mention signings like Gary Sheffield and David Wells that were almost exclusively transacted by the Boss). As long as the Yankees maintain a chain of command in which Cashman presides over all baseball recommendations, it shouldn’t be an issue when the owners of the team decide to go in a different direction.

Finally, because of the uniqueness of the situation, it’s easy to see why Cashman and the Yankees have been held to more scrutiny on the matter, but the reality is every single ownership group plays a role in baseball personnel decisions. The only difference is that with 29 other teams, ownership’s constraint revolves around saving money, not spending it. As Cashman noted, it really isn’t a negative when your owner is willing to spend beyond your recommendations. If the Yankees had given Cashman a mandate to cut spending, no one would view it as a blow to his autonomy, so the same inference shouldn’t be made because the Yankees collectively decided that signing Soriano was an affordable cost of doing business.

If Cashman had expressed concerns about Soriano’s ability or his clubhouse presence, then there might be reason to worry about the Yankees’ decision making process. However, when the owner overrules the general manager on what essentially amounts to a financial decision (and does so in order to spend, not save, money), the organization and fans alike should be grateful. After all, there’s nothing wrong with having your cake and eating it too…even when it’s forced down your throat.

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