Yankee fans are warned in advance. This one is going to send you up the wall, assuming you pay attention to hockey. I’m starting to see parallels between Yanks General Manager Brian Cashman and Sabres GM Darcy Regier.
All right, so Cashman has won championships and usually reaches the playoffs. He inherited the great 1998-2000 teams, which were built by Bob Watson. Give Cashman credit. His teams have made the postseason in 11 of the last 12 seasons and managed to win a World Series in ’09, thanks partly to the rare heroics of Alex Rodriguez.
But after 15 years, it’s a wonder Cashman is still around. Like Regier, he has been blessed by upheavals in ownership – in his case, the decline and death of George Steinbrenner, who as a younger, more impetuous man would have fired his GM the first time his team choked in the playoffs, or when Cashman was caught cheating on his wife.
Cashman, like Regier, has the convenient excuse that ownership has prevented him from expressing his true genius. His friends in the New York media are quick to remind us that Cashman didn’t want to give A-Rod that $275 million contract extension. What was it Terry Pegula said about Darcy, that someone was “holding the painter’s hand?”
I’ll say the same thing about Cashman as Regier: If ownership was compromising him, he should have done the noble thing and quit. It’s easy to point to your mistakes and say, “My hands were tied.” But I suppose nothing is Cashman’s fault.
Is it his fault that he assembled some of the worst October lineups in history? How could he predict that Mark Teixeira would hit .196 as a Yankee in the postseason? That Curtis Granderson would go 3-for-30 in last year’s playoffs? Or that Nick Swisher would hit .162 in eight pinstriped playoff series? Or that A-Rod would go 9-for-64 in his last four series?
Mostly, of course, this is A-Rod’s doing, Cashman was quick to remind us last week during a public spat initiated by A-Rod’s arrival into the Twitter universe.
Rodriguez, who is recovering from hip surgery and hasn’t played all season, used one of his first tweets Tuesday to update his followers on his condition: “Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news — the green light to play games again!”
It seemed like a harmless enough tweet. The Yanks prefer to control all information about injuries. But there was no outcry when Granderson and Teixeira issued similar reports on their rehab. This was A-Rod, though. Cashman flipped out to a reporter the next day.
“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something,” we will, Cashman said. “Alex should just shut the f--- up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”
Whoa! The Sabres brass has said some dumb things, but no one has ever publicly dropped an F bomb. Later, Cashman said he regretted his choice of words. I’m sure he was glad to get his basic point — that A-Rod is a clown who is again under investigation for steroid use and he wishes the guy would go away.
There’s good reason for that. The Yankees owe A-Rod $28 million this year, and he’s on the books for another $86 million through the 2017 season. There have been reports that A-Rod is afraid the Yankees want to keep him off the field and declare him injured so they can recover some of the money through an insurance claim.
Others believe A-Rod is eager to begin a rehab stint so he can be deemed medically unfit to play and get the rest of this year’s contract before Major League Baseball concludes its investigation into Biogenesis and suspends him for using steroids.
So the situation is ugly. But Cashman managed to make it worse. He came off looking like a bigger jerk than A-Rod, which is an achievement. It’s Cashman who should have shut his trap. But he’s accustomed to playing the media game. One thing about Regier, he never stoops to currying favor with the media behind the scenes.
Then there’s the Yankees’ on-field performance. One member of management said they could actually use A-Rod, whose slugging percentage has dropped five years running. Their hitting has been dreadful, especially against left-handers. As of Wednesday, Yankee third basemen were batting .240 with four homers. They’ve dropped into third place.
Rangers lefty Derek Holland shut them out on 92 pitches last week. The Yankee order looked like something you’d see at Coca-Cola Field. Vernon Wells, who recently had a 9-for-87 streak, batted cleanup. There are injuries, of course. They’re without Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, Granderson, Teixeira and A-Rod.
The Yanks have done an admirable job of hanging in the AL East race, despite their injuries. Cashman gets credit for that. He had the luxury of taking on Vernon Wells’ inflated salary, and Wells did well for a month. But where is the future of this franchise? Where are the prospects who’ll take over when the old crowd finally moves on?
Name one Yankee star under 30. Name an exciting young pitcher in the system, a potential ace. And don’t say Michael Pineda. At a time when young stud pitchers are popping up like weeds around baseball, the Yankees are lagging behind in the development of young arms.
Cashman once said he doesn’t keep much on his office walls because he can’t get too comfortable. He’s only too comfortable with the Yankees. Anyone who curses a player who helped him win a World Series can’t be very fearful of the consequences.
I’m not saying he hasn’t done anything right. You don’t make the postseason 14 out of 15 years if you’re a dummy. It doesn’t make him a genius, either. Any fantasy owner could have shelled out money for C.C. Sabathia, Teixeira, A-Rod, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina and Granderson, to name a few. Or, for that matter, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson or Carl Pavano.
Under George Steinbrenner, it wasn’t good enough to almost win it all. There was a higher standard. Good managers, coaches and personnel men lost their jobs. The fact that Cashman has lasted this long shows that OK is now good enough.
A lot of creative young GMs have made their mark in recent years. Guys like Tampa’s Andrew Friedman, Oakland’s Billy Beane and St. Louis’s John Mozeliak have found ways to do more with less.
More and more, Cashman reminds me of Regier, as a man lucky to still have his job.