An evening with Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman’s charity discussion out in Pleasantville, N.Y. for Ed Randall’s ‘Bat for the Cure‘ ran long tonight, but if you were as passionate about the Yankees as most of the audience seemed to be, it probably wasn’t a big deal. Just about the only topic Cash wouldn’t discuss was Joe Torre’s book, but there was plenty to go around. Some of the highlights to chew on:
Manny to the Yankees — officially dead: The Yankees are done with their big spending and have no room left to pursue Manny Ramirez. Sorry, folks, but right now the Yankees are trying to sign more guys like Angel Berroa. The Yankees payroll will be reduced in ’09 and Manny’s bat isn’t going to change that.
“Ultimately, we’ve made our decision,” Cashman said. “We chose to put that money into Mark Teixeira to play first base. I do hear rumblings about people actually expect us to get in on Manny. That’s not going to happen. We respect his abilities, there’s no doubt about it, but we’re now in the non-roster invite mode.”
Cashman knows the Yankees have been anointed the Hot Stove champs. It doesn’t mean anything: “I don’t care about headlines in December or January. What ultimately translates is getting enough W’s to be the last team standing.”
Career paths: Cashman wasn’t one of those kids who lies awake at night dreaming of being the Yankees GM. Actually, out in Kentucky, young Cash grew up a Dodgers fan and a Yankee hater. In fact, when Bob Watson gave up the GM post in ’98, Cashman first begged him to stay. Then he asked George Steinbrenner not to give him a contract, instead operating on a handshake agreement so Cashman could be easily dismissed if it didn’t work out.
Tough crowd: Cashman is very wary of the Rays, of whom he said has seen the talent coming for years. On the traditional 20 to 80 scouting scale (50 being an average big leaguer), Cashman said too many of Tampa Bay’s young prospects are coming in around 80. Such is the advantage of smart drafting and terrible in-season results.
But the Yankees have some names Cashman is excited about — he thinks the ’06 crop of Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson could go down as an all-time great one. The Yankees are still top-heavy in pitching prospects and would love to develop more big bats, but most of the really promising position players are at the A-ball level and below.
What if: Yes, the four-year, $40 million deal to Carl Pavano was a bust. But Cashman said Pavano turned down even more money from the Tigers, Mariners and Orioles. The Red Sox were also hot on Pavano.
Flight cancelled: Cashman almost flew to Baltimore from Houston to meet with A.J. Burnett after his meeting with Andy Pettitte in December. It turned out not to be necessary – things had progressed far enough with Burnett that the Yankees were confident it’d get done.
Will the Melk-man deliver?: As of right now, it’s Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner for center field. Cashman believes Melky is a better player than he showed in ’08 and will be out to prove that. But here’s an ominous warning: “The ones that are good enough will find a way. The ones that aren’t good enough will find excuses.” Cash compared Gardner to “Juan Pierre, who takes a walk.”
Better days?: Cashman said he’s not a big souvenir guy, but one of the things he’s kept was the lineup card from his first win as Yankees GM – April 5, 1998 at Oakland. Cash was actually in Oakland the day earlier, but Steinbrenner had called him back to New York in a fit after the Yankees started the year 0-3. They won 125 games.
The inscription on the lineup card from Joe Torre reads: “Crash – the first of many.” That’s not a typo. The nickname ‘Crash’ stuck to Cashman in his younger, wilder days.
Driving Mr. Steinbrenner: Cash told a great story about his early days back in the Yankees organization, when George Steinbrenner’s personal drivers were all out shuttling around dignitaries or guests. Cashman got stuck with the assignment and found himself on the FDR Drive with the Boss, who wanted to get a quick haircut before flying to Tampa out of Teterboro.
Long story short, Cash tried to get cute with a shortcut and wound up hearing a full-on assault of the 1980s Steinbrenner in his right ear for the whole rest of the trip. Steinbrenner actually threatened at one point to “just take the subway.” He got the haircut with Cashman but found a different driver to take him across to New Jersey.