Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"If I'm out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog." -- Herzog, by Saul Bellow

There was a time, long ago, when Brian Cashman distinguished himself as the voice of sanity and reason in the Yankees Front-Office.

Andy Pettitte would pitch poorly. Tino Martinez would slump. Boston would sign David Ortiz. Jose Contreras would lose again to the Red Sox.

The Boss would fume; the tabloids snicker. Joe Torre would sip green tea. And the Tampa Hill- Billies, Connors and Emslie, would wheedle and conspire, sabotaging the roster and robbing the farm.

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman would assume the role Gene Michael once played. He'd counsel patience and discretion. He'd espouse fiscal responsibility. He'd urge the Boss to re-invest below and hold fast to his prospects.

And when the Boss heeded his GM, wisdom, more often than not, prevailed in Yankeeland. Often enough, in fact, that Cashman even persuaded the Boss in late 2005 to subdue the renegade Tampa faction and to grant him the full authority he'd deserved all along. Finally, Brian could execute his plan for the Yankees future without impediment or subversion.

Was it a Pyrrhic victory? Ten years, after all, is a long time for any sane man to spend fighting turf battles inside the Yankee bunker without it warping his perceptions and distorting his judgment. Indeed, with the team staring into the abyss for the first time throughout Cashman's tenure, the GM's recent comments utterly baffle reality. They make one wonder whether the pressure, the criticism, the regret has gotten finally to Brian Cashman and whether he has become the very deluded, irrational agent he once had to fend off.

It is the job of a GM, no less than a CEO, of course, to defend his organization and to protect his personnel in the face of failure, ridicule, and crisis. But it's one thing to justify one of A-Rod's slump as unrepresentative or to reaffirm his steadfast faith in Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, despite the former's cavalier remarks and the latter's vulnerability to injury-- they're still 23 and 22 years old respectively; in baseball, just children-- but it's one thing to guard the kids and quite another to defend Carl Pavano, an overgrown child. By defending the defensible and vehemently so, has Cashman not suggested he has entirely lost his purchase on reality?

"Carl Pavano", Cashman told The Daily News' Anthony McCarron, "has worked his butt off. He's always tried. He just hasn't stayed healthy... He's one of the hardest workers we've got. People don't want to realize it or look at it, but that's true. He hasn't laid down on us..."

Wait, the pitcher who missed half of 2005 and all of 2006 and set the unprecedented example of spending 18 months on the disabled list without sustaining an operable injury; the pitcher who has managed to pitch 19 games in four years; the pitcher, the Yankees very own union representative, Mike Mussina, dismisses as a malingerer and upon re-signing with the Yankees, according to Josh Feinstein, told Cashman "You're not paying me less than Pavano" -- he is "one of the hardest workers [the Yankees] got."

Well, then, Brian your organization has a very serious problem, far worse than its performance this season. Either that, or in the "people" who refuse "to realize" the self-evident "it," the Freudians have themselves a superbly dramatic illustration of the telling "slip of the tongue".

In fact, to appreciate fully just how deluded Cashman's defense of Pavano makes him sound, compare them with how, just eight months ago, the Yankee GM characterized the work ethic of one of Pavano's teammates.

About the center-fielder who delivered the GM four championship rings, Cashman, recall, had this to say,"[He] got into his music and that took away from his play," and that as a consequence, in 2005, he'd had a "terrible season".

Bernie Williams, a foundational pillar to the Yankees late 90's dynasty, neglected his responsibilities and deserted his team in 2005. However, Carl Pavano, who declined to pitch through shoulder tendinitis after the Yankees lost Wang, "is one of the hardest workers [you've] got." Bernie Williams' season in 2005 was terrible because through 141 games his OPS was down 20% from the previous season. And Carl Pavano's 4.77 ERA during the half season he actually pitched, down 37% from 2004, we assess as terrific?

In what world is Bernie Williams remiss, a disservice to his team and derelict in his responsibilities and Carl Pavano, industrious and a credit to it? Well, like Jonathan Schell, once wrote about Nixon,

"Until facts intruded he lived in a closed world in which he rarely had any experiences he had not arranged for himself. As in a dream....his communion with himself would continue uninterrupted, and the world he saw would have been co-extensive with his thought processes... And, at the center, a perfect closed circle in which he talked into his tapes and his tapes talked to him."

I only hope Cashman is more cunning and less sincere than we realize. Otherwise, he will come to share with the former President more than their influence on George Steinbrenner's legacy in common.

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