Yankees: On Second Thought – Is Brian Cashman The Real Culprit?

Brian Cashman holding on for dear life as the Yankees 2023 season unfolded

Yankees principal owner Hal Steinbrenner was the subject of yesterday’s column that labeled him as “not caring” – readers have me re-thinking.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner took a pretty good grilling here yesterday, with a piece titled the Yankees Are Doomed Unless Steinbrenner Unties Cashman’s Hands.

Mainly aimed at this season, many readers disagreed, applying a larger scope to the theme, which argued that Steinbrenner needs to allow his GM to exceed the $210 million payroll tax limit, as set by MLB for this year. Otherwise, the Yankees have little or no chance to secure Number 28 with the team they have.

Yankees Luxury Tax 2021 (Photo: Bronx Daily Digest)
Yankees Luxury Tax 2021 (Photo: Bronx Daily Digest)

Here’s a small sample of the comments received, objecting in disagreement:

Chris Justus  Well, actually this statement is false. We have already spent the money. We have a good team. They are underperforming and getting injured way too often.

Money doesn’t always mean talent. The Rays and Jays dominate us this year, and their total team salaries are nowhere near ours. Maybe we need new scouts? Better farm system? Better management? I don’t know the solution, but money hasn’t proven to be it!

Frank Rivera Jim Kulhawy Jim, you are exactly correct; if you can’t put a decent team on the field with money you are allotted, Cashman needs to go, sure blow money in Hicks, take in Stanton’s ridiculous contract, keep Sanchez around until you can’t get anything for him, mess up Frazier, get rid if Didi, move Gleyber to short when he isn’t a shortstop, have a ridiculous amount pitchers and hardly any bench players.

If you can’t within the payroll limits, what are you proving should you win something, a few years down the line, a team like the Padres will look for sympathy because they have outrageous contracts of Machado and Tatis and others they have, so if they win now and cry later that us their problem.

Yankees: Is Brian Cashman The Real Culprit?

While I refuse to back off on my point that the Yankees, without an influx of money from Steinbrenner, will once again make the playoffs, only to die in the first or second round.

Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman - Blending Perfectly Photo Credit: The Captain's Blog
Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman – Blending Perfectly? Photo Credit: The Captain’s Blog

Moreover, if the Yankees were to exceed the limit by as much as $40 million, the cost in tax money to Steinbrenner is a mere $4.8 million, the same as he is paying Jacoby Ellsbury‘s $5 million, as the final installment of his contract – the points made by these and other readers are significant and deserve more attention.

Interestingly, in December 2020, a column I wrote pointedly posed the question – is Brian Cashman getting stale and in need of replacement?

Answering the question myself, I argue in the affirmative, adding he is not only getting stale – he has been stale for several years, years now, making him the Yankees longest-tenured GM in their history.

Beyond that, however, is the point readers alluded to or made by arguing that all Hal Steinbrenner can do is provide Cashman with a budget, which is always at the top or near the top of team payrolls the league.

From there, Steinbrenner drops out, leaving the chore of putting a winning team on the field to Cashman.

That’s where the problems begin because the number of successes has had over the years (think Gerrit Cole, Gleyber Torres, for instance) – the number of disasters involving wasted money spent far outweighs the positive moves Cashman has made.

Hal and George Steinbrenner - the last Hurrah. (Photo:
Hal and George Steinbrenner – the last Hurrah. (Photo:

Not to gang up on him, but that litany includes but is not limited to Jacoby Ellsbury, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Sonny Gray, James Paxton, Carl Pavano, etc. bring a sour taste in mouths of most Yankees fans.

If I took the time, I’d imagine the total outlay for these players alone would close in on a billion dollars.

Similarly, looking at the players Cashman let getaway, fans can only lament by what could have been. Didi Gregorius heads that list, but he’s followed closely by Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, and even Justus Sheffield and Michael Pineda, both enjoying their careers with the Mariners and Twins, respectively.

Now Brian Cashman doesn’t pitch or play for the Yankees, so some level of responsibility must lay with the players, including a few who currently have a locker in the clubhouse.

Still, the decision, for example by Cashman, to give a raise to Gary Sanchez for this year is inexcusable and certainly not warranted, as proven again this year by Sanchez’s declining production.

Yankees: Passing Of The Torch Is Not Likely

Regrettably, for many Yankees fans, the chances of seeing regime change are not likely.

Steinbrenner appears to be comfortable with pleasing his shareholders, and with Cashman in the fold, he knows his marching orders will be obeyed.

As for Cashman, what will his future hold if he steps down, bringing in Theo Epstein as one reader suggested, before taking his rightful place in the Yankee’s hierarchy to die a peaceful death, while his legacy and future consideration for the Hall Of Fame are digested?

Please, for Cashman to do something for nothing this year are visions of Santa Claus landing on your roof.

The Yankees do not get Joey Gallo in a trade with Texas for nothing ($) unless they follow Cashman’s former practice of giving away the farm (think those top pitching prospects), and even then they’d be responsible for the bulk of his $15 million salaries this year.

With less than $2 million left before exceeding the luxury tax limit and expectations rising from the Yankees faithful for him to “do something,” I would not want to be in his shoes today.

Brian Cashman Gets His Just Desserts

But then again, what comes around, goes around, and time has caught up with Brian Cashman.

Brian Cashman Slipping After All These Years (Sports Illustrated)
Brian Cashman Slipping After All These Years (Sports Illustrated)

With the pile of money, Cashman has always had (until recently), you or I might have handled the job as good, if not better than he has, and before anyone says it, I will – that pile of money has been substantial – and one can only wonder what Cashman’s standing in baseball would be if he were the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays, or Oakland A’s, both with winning track records than his Yankees.

In retrospect, then, although the buck stops with Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman’s job is to be his shield from the public, using the generous sum of money granted to him to field a winning (translation – Championship team) to Yankees fans.

Despite a quick jump at the gun way back in 1996, Cashman has failed to deliver in that endeavor for Yankees fans.

Only an uprising from Yankees fans, similar to the one raged by Mets fans to oust the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen, will disable and finally bring about a much-needed change in leadership in the Bronx.

Until then, if you see a ray of hope, please share it.

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Frank Rivera The thing with Cashman either he or somebody in the organization is great at finding the hidden gems like Urshella, but when it comes to spending his track record is terrible, Stanton, Ellsbury, Hicks, Ottavino. And yes Hal has made him feel comfortable like he is untouchable

Matthew June Yes

Jl Lofty  poorly constructed team needed a good lefty bat since didi left and they never went out and got one

David Finkbeiner  This is ownership. They hold the money and the final say on a deal that they consider big such as Cole. If Steinbrenner is going to treat this team only as a business then please sell it to someone who gives a damn.

Jeff Dellolio  Yes. Cashman built the team with the highest payroll in the AL. It’s on him!

Harry Bednar  Absolutely Cashman is the culprit. He has so many bad contracts signed and it’s time for him to go. He has wasted enough money

Jason Orange  Both the problem !!!

Andrew Pal  Cashman has been the wrong guy to run a Hal Steinbrenner-led team for a long time. He always seems to act like he’s the smartest guy in the room, yet his track record indicates otherwise. When you have the kind of money this team has, but you can’t afford to fix the many things wrong with your roster, you are far from the smartest guy in the room. Hal’s budget is just part of the problem. Cashman’s way of spending it has been a train wreck.

Chad Landsman  Good article and I can hear George tell Brian your fired, lets face it as you broke the contracts down, Brian signed a slew of them, such as Ellsbury, agreeing to the Stanton deal, Hicks for starters. Not a fan of Coles’s deals as well because unless he opts out, you have 7 more years to join Stanton and the team has to competitive such as a WS or you could have built this team like Tampa with more payroll than they spend.

Now we have to see if he botches up any future contract of Judge. He did do a good job fleecing the Cubs on trades and good pickups along the way. Brian put himself in this hole and only he could dig his way out of it. I feel bad for Boone to inherit this injury saga. George would always move mountains for players any way that he could, he was the ultimate closer on deals. If he had to he would rename his ships as part of a deal and use theirs.

Mark Gardner  Cashman is not and never has been a “baseball man”. A 12-year drought in NY is unacceptable. How he remains GM is also an indictment on Hal Steinbrenner

David Finkbeiner   Steinbrenner will never sell the team. If you don’t like him as owner time to become a fan of another organization

Kevin Garber  He got lucky in the 90s. Except for Cole, name a long-term contract that has worked out for the team.

Mark Malmut I’m going to take a different tact here. I think you’re looking for the monster under the wrong bed. Cashman has, for the most part, done a great job on putting a championship-level team together. Yes, he’s had some bad deals blow up in his face, but he’s also had some help with that. As I recall, he didn’t want the Ellsbury deal; that was forced down his throat, as was the Arod deal, and re-signing CC after he was past his prime. The real culprit is Boone, who is the most inept manager in baseball. He is singlehandedly responsible for meltdowns in the playoffs against the Astros & the Rays in years they had the right talent to win it all. He’s the one who pulled Montgomery in the playoffs against the Rays, when he was dominating them, only to replace him with an overused, worn-down bullpen too early in the game. And his insistence on running out 5 or 6 guys in the batting order who are hitting under 200, night after night, shows he is a creature of habit, inflexible and clueless about managing a team through rough waters. We are 2 months into the season, and we still have Odor, Sanchez, Frazier, Ford, and Gardner hitting under 200. He is a slave to metrics, so while he’s looking at bullshit like launch angles, exit velocities, and OBP to justify sticking with his lineup, the Yankees are dropping 2 in a row tho the Tigers, getting abused by the Rays & Jays, and struggling to edge out wins against the Orioles. Boone is responsible for “his” players underperforming. It’s not Cashman’s fault that these players are not playing up to the backs of their baseball cards. It’s the players, the hitting coach, and the manager, the people on the field who are responsible for underperforming. If Kevin Cash was managing this team they’d be leading the division by 7 or 8 games.
Andrew Pal  I don’t dispute many of your (Mark Malmut) valid points here. However, Boone is Cashman’s guy. He’s the one who hand-picked Boone to run the team in Cashman’s unique vision. As usual, Cashman tends to give a very very long leash to the people he puts into place, even if they continually underperform. It’s almost as if he’s unwilling to admit that they might not have been the right moves. I tend to agree that Boone is a less than ideal, and perhaps even a very poor manager, but waiting for Cashman to cut ties with his guy is going to be a very, very long wait. Another reason why not much will ever change here until Cashman himself is gone.

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.