Brian Cashman was persuaded by Yankee uber-fan Albert Hamrah to speak at a breakfast of the Middlesex (CT.) Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 3.
Hamrah is a Yankee fan of some 70 years. He persuaded dozens of Baseball players to speak at Charity Baseball Dinners for decades.
There’s something different about being a Red Sox or Yankee fan in central or northern CT.. Fans near Boston or New York will never understand the local electricity.
Every day Sox and Yankee logos are worn by neighbors shoveling snow, strangers standing in the grocery check out, friendly or not-so-friendly partiers standing side-by-side at the local bar.
New Yorkers and Massachusetts dwellers do not live with the same innate potential for judgment, disparagement and conflict that exists in Connecticut.
You cannot hide from the rivalry. It makes the world turn here.
30 years ago there was bitter hatred. Today, there is mild resentment between the tribes. Given the talent on each team, there is opportunity to touch the heart of the other side by acknowledging the excellence of a Pedroia or a Rivera – between digs about how Posada has donkey-like ears, or Big Papi is fat and actually 39.
The crowd at the Chamber breakfast was overwhelmingly a Yankee-one in spirit. The Sox fans present were polite and reserved.
The entire crowd was courteuous and supportive of Cashman.
And why not – he’s intelligent, down-to-earth, and long winded. Perfect.
Cashman first acknowledged the UConn victory over Louisville the night before, citing a childhood opposition to the Cardinals that stemmed from his Kentucky upbringing, which also spawned a love for the Dodgers, dislike for the Yankees, and hatred for the Reds.
Young Cashman was a Yankee hater.
Cash bonded with the audience. He said he recognized many faces in the crowd, including the guy who looks like Veritek and freaks him out. He acknowledged Connecticut’s divided heart; the tension gives him a body tick the further north he drives up I-91. He says he has moved around quite a bit, but Connecticut is the greatest place that he has ever lived.
Cash said that even though we have a great rivalry, it doesn’t mean the Yankees do not have the utmost respect for other people. Two weeks ago, the Yankee GM presented Dustin Pedroia with the A.L. MVP Award in New York. “It’s important to show respect for others and the great things they do and what they accomplish.”
Cashman’s path to the GM job was not unlike that of Theo Epstein’s rise in Boston.
They paid their dues, baby.
The big difference was that Epstein wanted the power. Cashman is too smart to want to be George’s whipping boy.
The Boss is legendary for tough love. Cashman believes Donald Trump stole “You’re Fired” from George.
While an undergrad at Catholic U., Brian got an internship at the Yankees. He worked in player scouting during the day, and security at night.
GM Woody Woodward offered Cash a full time position after graduation. Brian followed the contrarian strategy of taking the work that others avoided. He became an expert in player immigration issues, scheduling, and the Instructional League.
He became well rounded.
In 1992, Boss George took a sabbatical from his hands-on style of team management. In George’s absence, GM Gene Michael gave Cash an Assistant GM’s position, which he worked for 6 years.
In 1998, GM Bob Watson pulled Cash aside on Ground Hog Day and told him he had submitted his resignation and recommended Cashman to be his replacement.
Cash told the audience, “…..and my first reaction was – Bob, is there anyway we can work this out ? I kid you not. I tried every which way to talk him out of it because at this point in my life I never wanted to be the GM of the New York Yankees……And…there are times….to this day….I still don’t want to be the Yankees GM….I say that not half-joking because it is such a difficult position. At times it is a no-win position….because when you win it’s (due to) George’s money…..When you lose — it’s your fault. The truth is always somewhere in between.”
Cash saw things that had prejudiced him against the job. Like when Woodward — known as The Pharmacist for the bounty of vitamin supplements that helped him deal — got his beatings from George. For one, there was the time that Woodward traded Joe Niekro for catcher Mark Salas. George had heavily pushed Woodward to make the trade. But Niekro, now a Twin, came into the Stadium and shut out the Yankees for 7 innings. After the 7th, George had Woodward on a conference call in a place easily overheard, and a passing Cashman heard George tell Woody that “This is an embarrassing situation. You are going to go down and take full responsibility.” George was typically loud about it. Cash remembers walking by and thinking, “I would NEVER, EVER want to be the Yankee General Manager.”
But George did accept Bob Watson’s endorsement of Cashman and invited him to the Regency Hotel in Feb. 1998 to have a life changing meeting.
Cashman was not excited about the job as he drove in to meet George.
He told his wife that he would accept the job. And that “this would be the first day…of the last days….of his Yankee career.”
He mustered a squeaky, “I’m your man.”, when George offered.
Cash says he believed the GM job – and the franchise – is bigger than himself or any one person, and thus was unsure if the job would work out. He didn’t want a multi-year contract. He asked George for a handshake on one year deal. A 1 year try out.
Cash explained further, “As an Assistant GM, I was out of the spot light, behind the scenes. The GM position is a public job.” One way of explaining the good with the bad is that “the higher a monkey climbs a tree, the more you can see of his ass.”
Cashman did damn well when he climbed the tree. Soon after accepting, he traded for Chuck Knoblauch, the Yankees won 120 games in a season plus a World Series, and Cash signed a 3-year deal.
Cash had learned plenty from his associations with Yankee Managers Dallas Green, Bucky Dent, Lou Pinella, Stump Merrill, Bucky Showalter, Joe Torre and Billy Martin.
He learned plenty from former GM’s, including Bob Quinn, Syd Thrift, Gene Michael, Arnie Peterson, Clyde King, Woody Woodward, and Pinella.
On What is Needed:
Cash heads into his 12th season as GM with XX World Championships in his pocket and a new turn-back-the-clock Stadium that fans will love.
He recognizes that it is the team performance, not the Stadium that counts.
The constant effort to always be the best carries on. They aim to erase the memory of a 3rd-place finish in 2008.
Here is what Cashman is looking for:
- For Sabathia, Burnett & Teixeira to blend in
- For a healthy Posada and Rivera; both are coming off shoulder surgery.
- For a healthy Wang, who suffered a bad foot injury last year
- For a healthy Matsui, coming off his second knee surgery in two years
- For A-Rod and Jeter to be A-Rod and Jeter
- For Cano and Melky to have bounce back years
- For a Right Fielder to emerge from a group including Nady & Swisher
Cash said the competition is difficult – to say the least. He told Hartford Courant writer, Dom Amore that yes, the Yankees won the Winter. But the Yankees usually do win the winter. It’s the Summer that counts. And the competition is waiting to have their say.
On Joe Girardi:
“He did a fantastic job on the field managing through injuries and player performances that needed improvement….his area of improvement is dealing with the media……Joe will have more tools to go to battle with this year…”
On Melky Cabrera:
“He had a tremendous winter ball…2008 was an off year, he’s better than that…he has to come in now and compete with Brett Gardner for the Center Field spot….Brett is hungry, he wants it, Brett is a lot like Pedroia, undersized but done it at every level, A, AA, AAA, showing people……Melky is working on being more selective at the plate, he’s a heck of a defender, a switch hitter, can run a little, and can throw…..I think the fan base questions Melky (talent-wise) more than we do….Melky has a challenge he’s got to face….(either way) we expect the offensive output at Centerfield to be better than what fan’s expect, (it will be) at or above league average…”
The Good Ones Find A Way
“We need more guys like Mike Mussina….he had to figure out what went wrong in 2007….he went back….he figured out a way…he came back to win 20 games after not knowing if he could ever pitch again and win….We need more of what Mike Mussina did.
“I believe if you are a competitor and you care about what you do, and you take pride in what you do…and if you stumble and fall you get back up.
“The good ones always find a way.”
“The bad ones always find excuses.”
As a Sox fan, I can’t wish Brian too much luck. But he’s a worthy opponent. An intelligent man doing an impossible job for an impossible family.