Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cashman's Legacy

Let's be honest; no organization, outside of maybe the Oakland Raiders, operates the way the Yankees do. Schizophrenic, money-saturated, ego-driven, three-headed, emotional, often bizarre, they are truly unique in the way they do business. So it is all the more amazing that it's been ten years since Brian Cashman was named General Manager of the New York Yankees—considering the Yankees had 5 general managers the previous 10 years. And it is even tougher to assess how well he has done his job considering that at times it is hard to discern who is really running the show.

Cashman works for the Yankees, which means a lot of hyperbole gets written about him, both good and bad. It's time to take an clear-eyed look at his career as GM of the Yankees. Since he's been named GM, the Yankees have been in 6 World Series and won 4, though none since 2000. However, it's fair to say that the foundation that led to the 4 World Series wins was in place before Cashman became GM: Jeter, Petitte, Rivera, Posada, etc. So, let's look at some of the bigger moves Cash has made over his decade in office. This list doesn't include every move Cashman made, it's just a look at some of the key decisions made by Cashman over the years, from the brilliant to the boneheaded.

The Brilliant:
Signed Orlando Hernandez
Signed Scott Brosius
Found Alfonso Soriano in the Japanese league
Signed Mike Stanton
Traded Hideki Irabu for Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook
Traded Geraldo Padua for Jim Leyritz
Signed Mike Mussina
Signed Ching-Ming Wang as a free agent
Signed Robinson Cano
Signed Melky Cabrera
Drafted Shelly Duncan
Drafted Chase Wright
Signed Hideki Matsui
Traded Robin Ventura for Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor
Drafted Phil Hughes
Traded Alphonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez
Traded Brian Myrow for Tanyon Sturtze
Traded Randy Johnson for Luis Vizcaino, Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson and Alberto Gonzalez
Selected Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 MLB draft
Claimed Darrell Rasner off waivers
Signed Brian Bruney
Traded Jaret Wright for Chris Britton
Traded Gary Sheffield for Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett
Signed Edwar Ramirez

The Boneheaded:
Drafted Mark Prior but did not sign him
Drafted Drew Henson
Traded Mike Lowell for Mark Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel
Let Jeff Nelson go in free agency
Traded for Denny Neagle
Signed Jason Giambi
Signed Rondell White
Signed Sterling Hitchcock
Signed Steve Karsay
Traded Damoso Marte for Enrique Wilson
Selected John-Ford Griffin in MLB draft over Noah Lowry
Selected Bronson Sardinha in MLB draft over David Wright
Traded Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver
Traded Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate for Javier Vasquez
Traded Jeff Weaver for Randy Brown
Let Andy Petitte go in free agency
Signed Gary Sheffield
Acquired Randy Johnson for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and cash
Signed Jose Contreras and later traded him for Esteban Loiaza
Drafted Jonathan Poterson ahead of Huston Street in 2004 MLB Draft
Signed Tony Womack
Signed Kenny Lofton
Signed Jared Wright
Signed Carl Pavano
Signed Kyle Farnsworth
Traded Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra for Shawn Chacon
Signed Kei Igawa after missing out on Matsusaka, and spurning Ted Lilly and Gil Meche
Signed Octavio Dotel
Signed LaTroy Hawkins

Looking at the brilliant and the boneheaded chronologically, one thing that becomes evident. And that is that the philosophy of the Yankees changed over the years of Cashman's reign—or rather, Cashman's philosphy changed, three times. When he was first hired as GM, Cashman's job was to find complementary parts for the championship juggernaut. They were low-risk, high-reward moves and generally, he did an adequate job. Scott Brosius, Mike Stanton, and the like were solid, low-risk moves. Around 2000-2001, however, the philosophy changed and the Yankees went for the big splash to get them back to being World Champions, as evidenced by the signings of Jason Giambi, the trade for Jeff Weaver, signing Pavano, Wright, and Sheffield. These weren't the best years for Cashman as most of his signings were big-money disappointments. And most recently, Cashman's philosophy has been to mostly avoid the big free agent signings and rather rebuild from the farm and to stockpile pitchers. That's not to say the Yankees won't be players in free agency, however, Cashman seems to want to build the bedrock of the team—especially the staff—via the farm system. Cashman rebuffed the Twins last year in the trade for Johna Santana; this would be an example of the Yankee's new philosophy.

To his credit, Cashman is aware of his past errors and is blunt in his change of philosophy, saying, "This is why we changed the process two years ago. It wasn't working the way we were doing it. ... Clearly we made mistakes in the past on how we went about our business, and we are trying to be better now."

We can only hope. Because he's certainly made his share of "mistakes," especially in the early part of this decade. Granted, Sheffield and Womack were signings made by Steinbrenner and cronies and not him, however, Pavano, Weaver, Brown, Vasquez, the Mike Lowell trade, and the 5-year contract for Igawa, just to name a few, were all Cashman's. As the list shows, more often than not these mistakes were trades for high-profile, big-money players (Weaver, Johnson) and big free-agent signings, but his successes were low-risk young talent signings (Robinson Cano, Ching-Ming Wang, Alfonso Soriano, Melky Cabrera, Edwar Ramirez) and drafts, especially pitchers. If Cashman deserves the credit for some of the moves he's made, and he does, he needs to own up to and learn from his share of mistakes.

And hopefully he has. Staying within and developing talent is a promising new philosophy. The Yankees last won when the developed their own players and built a core. Cashman seems to recognize this. If he truly is the sole voice of the Yankees now and can accept a slight downturn before developing a new core to build on, his legacy will be one of success.

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