Blind And Blockheaded

Carl Pavano agreed to a 2-year, $16.5 million deal to remain with the Twins yesterday.

But that’s not the story regarding Pavano. There’s never a simple “player signs contract” thing with Pavano.

No.

The story behind this story is in fact far more interesting than any comeback Pavano has made; any rejuvenation of his tattered reputation after a disastrous four year tenure as a member of the Yankees.*

*I almost said “with” the Yankees; but he was rarely “with” the Yankees in any area but on the payroll and as the butt of cheap and laser precise satire from the entire organization.

The Yankees and Carl Pavano played remember when, apparently without remembering when.

In a Rod Serling-style, Twilight Zone episode that’s so ridiculous that it has to be true, Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledged pursuing Pavano to rejoin the Yankees—MLBTradeRumors Story.

The level upon level in which this idea is insane are many.

Let’s take a look.

Reunions and acceptance of mistakes.

It takes a secure executive to step back and admit a mistake.

Ruben Amaro Jr. is one such executive.

The Phillies GM tried to outsmart everyone and succeeded only in outsmarting himself as he traded Cliff Lee—whose free agency beckoned and was no sure thing to return to the Phillies (in December of 2009 anyway)—for Roy Halladay. It was a lateral move.

As the season got underway, the Phillies shortness in starting pitching was a gaping hole that risked the entire season. Criticism abounded of Amaro and his decision to simultaneously maintain the Phillies farm system, keep a reasonable payroll and win with veterans at the big league level. Rather than let his ego get in the way of proper decisionmaking, he traded for Roy Oswalt in what was a highly favorable deal for the club in all aspects. Then after the season, he swooped in and got Lee back as a free agent.

Amaro’s ego and perception was shunted in organizational interests.

Is Brian Cashman taking the same course? Or is he trying to garner credit for himself as the architect of the Yankees regardless of viable questioning of his maneuvers and “process”—his term of choice for, well, everything he does?

There’s always a sense of  “I want my name in lights too!!” from Cashman.With Billy Beane and Theo Epstein “star” GMs who are credited for their individual achievements, Cashman was always along for the Yankees ride. His personality is vanilla and charisma negligible to non-existent. Yankees money and Gene Michael’s foundation, along with Joe Torre‘s guiding hand were the basis for the dynasty. Cashman was just sort of there.

As time passed and George Steinbrenner receded into the background, Cashman took charge and did thing he wanted to do such as develop his own pitchers rather than purchase the property of others; he hired the manager he wanted in Joe Girardi—a manager who would follow organizational edicts rather than use his charm and resume to do his own thing as Torre did; and Cashman embraced statistics and the draft as the way to build an enduring and successful franchise.

This idea was all well and good until the young pitchers Cashman developed faltered as Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy did; Phil Hughes is the one of the three who’s an established and successful big leaguer.

It took one season of missing the playoffs, in 2008, for this plan to be adjusted on the fly. Throwing money at the problem with C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, the Yankees won another World Series.

Again, Cashman was drenched in champagne, held the World Series trophy and got himself a gigantic ring. But did he get the credit? Or was it the old standby of Steinbrenner money that did the trick?

Was his decision to bring Javier Vazquez back—despite his prior failure and baseball-wide belief that he can’t handle the pressure—for the benefit of the club or to prove something?

There are players for whom reunions work. David Wells was reviled in the clubhouse and throughout the organization as a human being, but on the field he was respected for his abilities. He made it in New York once; he made it in New York twice. He could handle the pressure and do his job.

What was Vazquez?

I thought it was a mistake to bring Vazquez back, but never conceived that he’d be as awful as he was in 2010. With the Yankees, their lineup, bullpen, Vazquez’s durability and pending free agency, there was every reason to believe the Yankees would get a serviceable year from the righty. That his 2004 collapse was said to be, in part, due to pitching injured could only bolster the contention that they could use Vazquez for a year as a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater and let him leave.

I still wouldn’t have done it, but it wasn’t absurd.

Carl Pavano is absurd. It would be pure and utter arrogance and ignorance of ancillary factors such as team reaction, personal history and reality—not stat-based, “objective” reality that the stat zombies love to preach—but reality reality.

Is this objectivity?

Blindly, examining Pavano’s 2010 numbers with the Twins and not knowing who the pitcher was, yes he’d be a great risk for the Yankees to take. In fact, it wouldn’t be considered a risk at all. Pavano was terrific for the Twins last season, but that’s beside the point.

This is the second time in his career that he’s been staring at free agency dollars. The first time was with the Marlins and he went 18-8 and was one of the most sought after free agents in baseball the winter of 2004-2005.

Never once have I given the Yankees and Cashman a hard time for misjudging Pavano and his suitability for New York. No one could’ve known that he’d be such a disinterested disaster; and had the Yankees not paid him, the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners were prepared to.

After the way his Yankees career disintegrated, that Cashman would harbor any inkling on bringing him back is lunacy and only highlights the disconnect Cashman has developed when looking at statistics and ignoring all other player positives and negatives.

Why?

After the contentious Derek Jeter negotiations and the bizarre admission that he didn’t want Rafael Soriano, was Cashman ready to put his job on the line—because that’s what would’ve happened—and brought Carl Pavano back?

Is he that obtuse?

And trust me, given his history, I would not want Carl Pavano at my back in a dark alley unless there was a modeling agency next door to a beach next door to a Porsche dealership on the other side.

Looking at Pavano’s 2010 season, you could justify bringing him in, but the problem with stat-based analysis is that it tends to discount human beings. Taken to its logical conclusion, you see such maneuvers as the re-acquisition of Vazquez and the idiotic kicking the (Porsche?) tires of Pavano. These are not faceless, nameless automatons plugged into a computer to get the desired result and the Pavano-New York marriage didn’t just fail, he was quite possibly the worst free agent signing in the history of baseball.

Did they want to try that again? Even for a low base salary and heavy incentives?

The mere suggestion should’ve yielded the following response from Cashman: “I don’t care if the team loses 100 games and I get fired, I am not bring Pavano back here.” No one—not baseball people, analysts or fans—would’ve disagreed. He was honest about Soriano, why would this brand of honesty be out of line in the current atmosphere?

You can’t reinvent the wheel and you certainly can’t reinvent it with stupidity.

The necessary check.

As the Yankees dynasty was dismantled and replaced by hired mercenaries and glossy names, the blame went to the Tampa faction and “shadow government” installed by George Steinbrenner to oversee and occasionally overrule that which Cashman and the New York baseball people wanted to do.

But what if George was a necessary check on his GM?

What if some of the things that Cashman wanted to do were just as dunderheaded as the prospect of a Pavano-Yankees second go-round?

Cashman’s pitching decisions have been horrible when he hasn’t been going after the superstar. C.C. Sabathia is a given—one of the best, most durable and guttiest pitchers in baseball; he’s building a Hall of Fame career and is a no-brainer.

The others?

Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth, Kevin Brown, Vazquez, Chan Ho Park, the awful strategies used to “develop” the youngsters? This is all Cashman.

And he wanted to bring back Pavano?

The public and media reaction to this was emotional and angry. I can only imagine what was coming out of the mouths of Derek Jeter—who never failed to openly humiliate Pavano in the confines of the clubhouse because of his settlement and satisfaction of being on the disabled list. Or what was said and thought by Andy Pettitte; Mike Mussina; Alex Rodriguez; Jorge Posada; Mariano Rivera—warriors all who gave everything they had on the field while Pavano whittled away the hours with injuries from the real to the laughable.

The guy missed an entire season with a bruised buttocks.

Cashman wanted to bring that back?

He can spew all the garbage about not affording the luxury of emotion in his “process”, but this is different; it’s ignorant of history, perception and performance.

He wants the credit, but along with that comes the blame too. That blame would’ve fallen squarely at his desk if this had come to pass. And if it was the predictable nightmare that it would likely have been, he might not have been able to survive it as the Yankees GM.

Nor would he deserve to.

Cashman was not to blame for missing out on Lee. The Yankees pursued him aggressively and lucratively; he chose to go elsewhere. It happens. It also happens that the current market for other pitchers is terrible and the next best free agent option was Pavano; but Pavano never, ever should’ve been considered for the Yankees. Ever.

I’d be very concerned about this if I were a Yankees fan. Their GM is losing touch and once it’s completely lost, it’s hard to get it back.

Carl Pavano?

The Yankees?

Really?

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  1. #1 by Jane Heller on January 20, 2011 - 5:29 pm

    I agree that it would have been lunacy to bring Pavano back. Cashman really revealed his desperation on that one.

  2. #2 by Jeff on January 20, 2011 - 6:15 pm

    Forget the idiocy of Pavano talks, how ’bout Cashman’s candid “this isn’t my decision” speech during the Soriano press conference. Um… can you say… awkward? I imagine if Mozeliak did that to DeWitt, Mozeliak’s ass would be gone. Why does Cashman get a pass?

  3. #3 by Gabriel Gutierrez on January 21, 2011 - 3:21 am

    What Jeff mentions is what shocked me the most. As an employee, how do you react to your boss saying that he didn’t want to hire you? Terrible PR.

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