When Brian Cashman first became the Yankees general manager in 1998 he inherited a powerhouse. For the first three years he got a lot of credit, which he probably didn't deserve. In the years since, he's taken the heat for a series of questionable moves, but he probably didn't deserve all of the blame for that either.
The Journal News has a good piece today about how Brian Cashman is finally enjoying his job. In a nutshell, the article says that Cashman is finally allowed to make the moves he wants to make with the Yanks, and Steinbrenner's Tampa "braintrust" has been cut out of the loop.
OK, so Cashman has the reins. That, in and of itself, doesn't mean much. How he handles them does. Last month I commented on a rumored trade the Yanks were supposedly considering, sending Melky Cabrera to the Braves in a three-team deal which would've delivered Mike Gonzalez to NY. I was extremely critical of Cashman for the deal. In the end, it didn't happen (or at least it hasn't happened yet). This is great news for the Yankees. Trading prospects for unproven relievers is exactly the type of move the Yanks would've made over the past 6 years, and exactly the type of deal which they have to avoid as they try to build their next dynasty. The fact that Cashman didn't pull the trigger tells me something.
Beyond the moves Cashman hasn't made, (Soriano, Lilly, Marquis, Zito, etc.) you also have to look at the moves he did make: Sheffield, Jaret Wright, Randy Johnson gone. In place of their $30M in salary, bad back, bad attitude and less than 6 IP per start are 7 young players. If one or two of them pan out, these moves were genius. Even if they don't, I think an argument can be made that the Yanks will be better this year because of them. Before we anoint Cashman as a baseball genius, let's first recognize that this isn't revolutionary thinking. All he's doing is bringing the Yanks back to the point they were at before he took over as GM.
It's been 6 disappointing seasons since the Yanks throttled the Mets in the 2000 series. Over that time guys like Jeter, Posada and Mo Rivera have languished as the core of the team was infused with bloated salaries, bad attitudes and underachievers. They've been in pretty much the same situation as Don Mattingly was for all but the last year of his career. Let's hope Cashman can turn this ship around before it's too late for this crew of homegrown Yanks.
UPDATE: This story from Fox Sports.com, which ranks GMs based on the writer's twisted logic is laughable. Theo Epstein is #5, Cashman #12.