At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Posts Tagged ‘George Steinbrenner’

Brian Cashman: I didn’t want the job.

Posted by athomeatfenway on February 4, 2009

 

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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.

 

George jumped.

 

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.

 

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REVIEW: PRIDE AND PINSTRIPES MEL STOTTLEMYRE

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 11, 2009

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PRIDE AND PINSTRIPES, The Yankees, Mets, and surviving life’s challenges.  By Mel Stottlemyre with John Harper.   Harper, 2007. 269 pages.

 

 

Mel’s baseball journey broaches three baseball dynasties:  one that was ending (’64 Yankees), one that should have happened but did not (the 1980’s Mets), and one that did come to full fruition (the Jeter era Yankees.).

 

The portrait he paints of what the Mets could have been and should have been alone makes the book worth reading.

 

*************

 

Stottlemyre doesn’t waste anytime painting George Steinbrenner as a meddling, former Assistant Football Coach (Northwestern 1955, Purdue 1956) who secretly believes the Yankees “….should win all 162 games in a season, or at least come close, the way a powerhouse football team might go 11-1 in college, or say 14-2 in the NFL.”

 

Stot dances right up to the cutting edge of brutal, fire-breathing honesty about George.  Then, so as not to totally offend, he backs off, softens his stance, and points out that George has a good side. 

 

Then he points out that the good side only comes out when things are generally going George’s way. 

 

The hatred burns quietly.

 

Mel joins the late Bobby Murcer in having written a recent memoir that reveals Steinbrenner as a Baseball amateur who attracts talent with his millions, and drives talent away with his personality.  

 

It appears that George has no loyalty to his team.  His true loyalty is to burnishing his legacy as the Yankee owner who bought all the booze and then stirred the drink, too.

 

The only thing new about any of this is to hear it directly from a classy guy like Stottlemyre.

 

 *************

 

Mel Stottlemyre’s playing career is well known to 50-something fans.  Hailing from little old Mabton, Washington, he excelled in High School Baseball while avoiding Football, which his disciplinarian Dad simply forbid.

 

Mel threw in the mid-80’s while at Mabton High where his Class of 1959 numbered 24 Seniors.  Yankee Scout Eddie Taylor signed Mel out of Yakima Junior College, signed him right in a Mabton mint field in the midst of crop workers and farm equipment, for no bonus, $400 a month, and a roster spot on the 1961 Harlan (KY) entry in the Appalachian League.

 

God granted Mel a naturally occurring sinker.  He put it together with a little slider and minor league hitters were flummoxed from Day 1.  He went 9-4 in Harlan and Auburn in 1961.  Them he notched a 17-9 record with 8 shutouts in Greensboro (1962).  He spent the 1963 season in AAA Richmond adjusting to the demands of pitching to adults, producing a 7-7 mark.  Then in 1964, emerging from the Richmond Bullpen to which he had been demoted, Mel notched 10 consecutive wins as a starter.  He had learned to set up hitters, getting them to think slider and then throwing sinker.

 

By July, 1964, the Yankees were in a pennant race with the Orioles and White Sox and were in need of pitching.  On Aug. 12, 1964, Stottlemyre walked form the Concourse Plaza Hotel to Yankee Stadium, where he made his MLB debut.  He induced 19 ground ball outs, winning a complete game 7-3 victory over the White Sox.  Mantle, who hit two home runs that day, one a 500 footer, graciously stood with Mel for photos.

 

An untouted rookie in a pennant race, Mel became a sensation.  He finished 9-3. He made 3 World Series starts, all against Bob Gibson

 

1964 was the last good year for the Yankees until 1970.  Aging stars, the first MLB draft, and a lack of young talent all took their toll on Yankee fortunes.

 

Mel was instantly the ace on a bad team.  How do these number sound to you ?  20-9, 2.63 in ’65.  12-20, 3.80 in ’66.  15-15, 2.96 in ’67.  21-12, 2.45 in ’68.  20-14, 2.82 in ’69.  15-13, 3.09 in ’70.  16-12, 2.87 in ’71.  14-18, 3.22 in ’72.  16-16, 3.07 in ’73.

 

Stottlemyre would make $13 million a year today.  Regardless of the W’s and L’s, his ERA and 272 IP average per year would make him a #1 starter almost anywhere.

 

 

 *************

 

 

A torn rotator cuff ended his career 16 games into the 1974 season.

 

The Yankee Doctor caring for Mel’s shoulder was woefully inadequate.  First, they rested him, then they ordered him to pitch through the injury.  Later, in Spring of ’75, the Yankees sent Mel for dangerous X-Ray therapy.

 

Perhaps fostering what would become a full blown grudge against George later in life, the reckless X-Ray therapy became in Mel’s mind the potential cause of his son Jason’s death in 1981 from Leukemia, and his own Multiple Myloema in 2000.

 

 

 *************

 

Stotlemyre’s story also includes 10-years stints with the Mets and Yankees as their pitching coach.

 

He reminds us of what a cocky and powerful team played at Shea in 1986……..

 

“….Davey set the tone….the players took it from there, playing with a swagger that rubbed some people the wrong way, making us a hated club as the wins began to pile up, but we weren’t interested in making friends that year.  In fact, our guys were more than happy to brawl…”

 

Mel brings us back to young Doc Gooden, before the drugs, when he threw a 97 mph heater and a 12-to-6 curveball that froze batters.  At age 21, he simply made men look like boys.  He looked to be a sure fire HOF’er, no doubt.

 

Stot also recalls the improbable Mets comeback in game 6 of the 1986 World Series  — a little too clearly for this Red Sox fan.

 

 

 *************

 

The Yankee Years were glorious.  He was tight with Zim, had a great relationship with Torre, was close to the Pettitte’s and Jeter’s while getting along with the David Wells types.

 

On David Wells:  “Sometimes perfect, sometimes perfectly exasperating.”

 

 

On Andy Pettitte:  Anti-Pettitte ramblings reverberated constantly within the Yankee organization, dating back to the very start of his career and emanating from Tampa.  His soft body must mean that he is lazy.  No matter Andy’s real world results, the whisper campaign persisted:  He could not be counted on to be a consistent winner.  The whisper continued right up until he left in 2003.

 

When Pettitte was at a low point in his Yankee career circa June 1999, meddling George wanted to trade the lefty.  Stottlemyre went to Cashman.  “Brian…look at Andy Pettitte as if he was on another team, not the Yankees.  Look at what he has done during the season and in the post-season, and let’s say you had the opportunity to make a deal for him and have him pitch in Yankee Stadium, where you love having left handers.  You’d give up almost anything to get a guy like him.  Yet, we already have him and there’s this talk about trading him.  I can’t understand it.”

 

Cashman:  “I can’t argue your point.”

 

After lobbying by Mel and Torre, Pettitte survived the trading deadline.  And George’s comment to the press was none too supportive:

 

“He should be very relieved…Certain people put a lot of faith in him.  Now we’ll see what kind of man he is.  This is a very defining moment for him.”

 

That was classic George, trying to motivate people by challenging their manhood.

 

 

*************

 

 

Stottlemyre crosses an entire era of baseball history in this memoir.  There is much more on his sons Todd and Mel, Jr., the Mets, Zimmer, Jeter and Joe.

 

He also shares his personal ordeal of losing his son, Jason to leukemia.  Stottlemyre is a man of character.   He explains how he made it through the loss and then continued on to more challenges and conquests.

 

When facing his own cancer challenge in 2000, he received letters from others with multiple myloema.  They said they watched the Yankee games hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the dugout.  They wanted to see the man who had the disease that they had, who did his cell therapy and chemo, and now was back at work trying to win a championship.

 

At first, Mel wrote letters back to these people.  Then, it occurred to him that a telephone call would have a greater effect.  His call startled them.  Who would think that the Yankee Coach would take the time to reflect on their letter, never mind respond to it ?

 

He chatted with them, exchanging info on how their cancer treatment was going and how they were feeling.

 

He set a great example.  He used his special status as a baseball hero to bring hope.

 

The inclusion of his cancer battle in this book was intentionall.  He wanted to help others with multiple myloema resist giving in to the fear of imminent death.

 

Mel is a character guy.  That come through loud and clear.

 

Always focused.  Always professional.  Loyalty.  Family.  Perseverance. 

 

*********.

 

 

I give the book 4 stars out of five.  Regardless of your team loyalty, you’ll find this book worth reading if you remember watching Joe Pepitone or Thurman Munson play.

 

Younger Yankee devotees will enjoy the insights from the 90’s.

 

Current Mets fans, having suffered unspeakably for the last two years, should wait until the Mets win another Division before reading this book.  The memories of what should have been are only salt in the wound, at present.

 

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