Over the course of 107 baseball seasons, the New York Yankees have not just defined excellence, but redefined it. Twenty-six World Championships, 39 Pennants, and numerous superstars have passed through the Bronx.
But lately, that very same excellence is being redefined in New York once again. Except this time, it's not excellence that is carrying the team. It is the lack of excellence.
In February 1998, Brian Cashman took over as General Manager from Bob Watson. The Yankees would win three World Series (1998-2000) and appear in five World Series (1998-2000, 2001, 2003) during Cashman's time as General Manager.
But do not be mistaken. Cashman should not be associated with any of the success this team had during 1998 through 2000, and he shouldn't be associated with the 2001 and 2003 teams that won the Pennant.*
*The Yankee success of the late 1990s and early 2000s should be attributed to the work of former GM Gene Michael.
While George Steinbrenner was suspended, Michael had kept many prospects that Steinbrenner would have likely traded away, such as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams. These players were the core of the teams of the late '90s.
We know that Cashman shouldn't be associated with the acquisitions of guys like Jeter, Jorge, Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, so what should he be associated with?
How about the acquisitions of guys like Jaret Wright, Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson, Drew Henson, Jason Giambi, Kei Igawa, and other busts?
Cashman took over one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, and turned it into a good team. That is some demotion. To Cashman's credit, however, a team can't be great forever. There has to be some period of decline.
But some of the signings that Cashman made were just plain silly. For example, the only reason the Yankees signed Kei Igawa was to compete with the Red Sox for their signing of a Japanese pitcher, as they landed Daisuke Matsuzaka. Who did better?
In my mind, Cashman has done nothing good for this team. He should be fired, along with Joe Girardi.
Girardi has an "always positive" attitude, even when things are going badly. He doesn't have full support of his players, unlike Joe Torre, who commanded full respect of all of his players.
Girardi is terrible when it comes to taking pitchers out of games, as he always leaves struggling pitchers in a few batters too long.
While the Yanks have played pretty well this season, it is not a result of the managing of Girardi, it is the result of Cashman buying out the free-agent market, which I am not too happy about, either. They would be much better if they had a different manager.
I would fire Cashman and Girardi simultaneously, but not right now. I would wait until the end of the season, because firing the manager mid-season would make matters even worse. When it comes to looking for a GM, I would consider someone like Gene Michael, who knows how to take this team in the right direction.
We saw what he did with his conservative approach to maintaining top prospects, and we saw how it paid off. It would be nice to have him back doing the same things again.
As for a manager, I have two guys in mind, both who have spent time in New York as either a player, coach, or both: Tony Pena and Don Mattingly.
Pena did the unthinkable in 2003, bringing a winning record to the Kansas City Royals as manager, and he was the Manager of the Year in doing so.
The fact that, first of all, Pena has managerial experience, and second of all, he did such a masterful job, even if it was only for that one year, is what proves to me that he is deserving of this job.
The other name I have in mind is Don Mattingly. The former Yankee superstar was considered as one of the top candidates for the 2008 opening, along with Joe Girardi, but Mattingly dropped out before he could be offered a job due to marital issues.
Though unlike Pena, Mattingly has no managerial experience, Mattingly was loved by the players in his time as hitting coach for the Yankees, and in addition to being loved, did wonders for the Yankee offense.
In his first year as hitting coach, the Yankees responded with a franchise record 242 home runs in 2004. Mattingly is qualified due to his incredible knowledge of the game, and his ability to keep guys in order, as he has learned from the best, Joe Torre.
Brian Cashman must get out of New York. He doesn't understand that you can't buy a great team. He should have learned from one of his predecessors, Gene Michael.
Michael understood the importance of keeping top prospects, and the waste of trading them away for washed-up veterans, such as the acts of George Steinbrenner, which explains the failures of the Yankees during the 1980's and beginning of the 1990s.
Cashman does not understand that with money, you can only get so far. You can get a team to win 90-95 games and into the playoffs, but not to the World Series. Tell me, when is the last time you have seen a Brian Cashman team make it to the World Series?
Exactly, you haven't. Although the 2001 and 2003 teams were three and five years removed from when Cashman took over, the teams were mainly built by Gene Michael and Bob Watson.
Just for fun, let's take a look at the position players of the 2003 Yankees who made it all the way to the World Series against the Florida Marlins.
Catcher Jorge Posada was drafted in 1990 by Gene Michael.
First baseman Jason Giambi was signed prior to the 2002 season by Brian Cashman.
Over seven seasons on the Yankees, Giambi hit .260 with 209 home runs with 609 RBI. In the seven years prior to playing with the Yankees, Giambi hit .308 with 187 home runs and 675 RBI. In my opinion, a huge bust, though some disagree with me.
Second baseman Alfonso Soriano was signed by Cashman in 1998. So for Soriano, I give Cashman credit, because Soriano turned out to play excellent baseball in his time with the Yankees.
Shortstop Derek Jeter was obviously a result of Gene Michael.
The third base duties were shared by Aaron Boone and Robin Ventura, both acquired by Cashman. Ventura cost $13 million over two years, and wasn't very effective, hitting just .249, with 36 home runs and 135 RBI.
Boone was acquired near the trade deadline, but wasn't very good either, hitting just .254 with six home runs and 31 RBI in 54 games, but he will be remembered forever in Yankee history for his walk-off home run against the Red Sox in Game Seven of the ALCS to put the Yankees in the World Series.
Left Fielder Hideki Matsui was signed by Cashman. Over a seven-year career, Matsui has done relatively well, hitting .293 with 125 home runs and 546 RBI, so I give Cashman the benefit of the doubt on that signing.
Center fielder Bernie Williams, once again, was the work of Gene Michael.
Finally, the right fielder, Raul Mondesi. It is safe to say that Raul Mondesi is the epitome of a bust. Mondesi, who was known for his big bat and his fantastic fielding abilities, showed no ability whatsoever and played miserably as a Yankee.
In parts of two seasons in pinstripes, Mondesi hit just .250, with 27 home runs and 92 RBI's in 169 games. Though the offensive production looks decent, it wasn't, as he not only struggled on the field, but became a huge distraction off the field, to the point where he was traded just a year after being acquired.
In addition to the poor play and bad attitude, the Yankees paid him an incredible $13 million, and that doesn't factor in the 2002 season.
The point I am trying to make here is that Brian Cashman doesn't understand the true meaning of assembling a baseball team. He doesn't understand the means of how to win. Buying out a free agent market can only take you so far.
Of course, the Yankees have always been a team of big name players, but let's look at some of those players, and see how they got to the Yankees.
Okay, we all know Babe Ruth was bought from the Red Sox, and perhaps he is the greatest Yankee of all time, but lets look at some others.
Lou Gehrig? Result of the Yankee farm system. Joe DiMaggio? Same thing. Mickey Mantle? Yep. Whitey Ford? You betcha. Don Mattingly? Thurman Munson? Ron Guidry? Derek Jeter? Think about it.
Just about every true Yankee superstar has been a home grown player. Of course, there are plenty of Reggie Jacksons and Alex Rodriguezes out there, but they aren't in the same league as Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle. When is the last time you heard someone comparing Dave Winfield to Mickey Mantle?
To assemble and maintain a winning franchise, a general manager must understand the importance of that teams farm system.
He must understand that the young players of that team must play an important role in his decisions. Think about this.
How many starters do the Yankees have right now that are "home grown" under Brian Cashman?
In other words, how many current Yankees are the result of being drafted by Mr. Cashman? Let's count them.
You have Robinson Cano at second base, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner splitting time in center field and...Wait, who else? That's right. No one else.
There are eight positions on the baseball diamond (to make this easier, i'm not counting the pitcher), and only two of them have players that were either drafted or signed as an amateur free agent by Cashman.
Everyone else (Alex Rodriguez, acquired in a 2004 trade, Mark Teixeira, signed in the 2008 off-season, Derek Jeter, drafted by a previous GM, Jorge Posada, drafted by a previous GM, Johnny Damon, signed in the 2005 off-season and Nick Swisher acquired in a 2008 trade, and since Xavier Nady was supposed to be the starter, I'll include him; he was acquired at the 2008 trade deadline) who I just listed was a result of work not done by Cashman.
I feel like I am giving too many boring examples and not getting to the point enough. Cashman relies too much on the market around him, and on the fact that he is given an insane amount of money to work with. He doesn't rely enough on the farm system.
He doesn't understand that the best teams are not built from a lineup filled with superstars, they are built from a lineup with a variety of different players. A few superstars, a few stars, some decent players, and some role players.
Think of this in terms of the food pyramid. To maintain a healthy diet, you need to have a little of everything. You need to have the appropriate amount of bread, fruits and vegetables, dairy and poultry. The 1998 Yankees had everything, the perfect balance.
Gene Michael understood the importance of having everything. What Brian Cashman is doing is having 95 percent bread and five percent of everything else. He is trying to do too much of one thing, and in the process not doing anything else.
That is why he needs to go. We need someone who can come up with the perfect balance, and maintain a successful team, and I don't think that Brian Cashman is capable of that.
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