Do The Mariners Want To Win Or Not?

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The following is from Nick Cafardo in his Sunday Baseball Notes:

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners — It would be a terrible burden to place on manager Eric Wedge, but the absentee Japanese ownership loves Suzuki and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the veteran get another contract. That is, if he wants it. Suzuki’s abilities have declined, and Wedge’s attempt to get him going by moving him from first to third and back to first in the lineup have only worked to a point. It seems that ownership would stick with a player for the sake of reputation.

If this is a legitimate possibility then Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik has to put his foot down and say enough’s enough with the interference from ownership and that he has to be allowed to run this team correctly if he’s going to do the job at all.

This love affair with Ichiro is a negative circle that has to be eliminated.

I’m not defending Zduriencik. Many of his moves have been disastrous; of spotty integrity; and made under specious, stat-based reasons.

Their offense has been historically dreadful.

But there are reasons for guarded optimism not because Zduriencik understands and implements advanced metrics and someday, someday, someday the math will work, but because there’s talent in the system.

With Felix Hernandez, they have a legitimate ace in his prime. Jesus Montero has massive power potential; Hector Noesi could be an innings-eater and a solid mid-rotation starter (his 2-10 record is horribly misleading). In the minors they have a load of pitching on the way. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, Andrew Carraway, Stephen Pryor, Chance Ruffin and Carter Capps either have dominant stats, high draft status or well-regarded potential.

They need bats.

Another year of Ichiro? As what? A showhorse? Someone on the roster to hang around and be Ichiro? Is he going to play regularly at the expense of a rightfielder who can bash? Instead of a DH who hits the ball out of the park? They need offense. Ichiro doesn’t provide offense. What’s so hard about letting him go?

Zduriencik is in his fifth year on the job and the team hasn’t practically improved in the won/lost record. This front office is getting a pass from the media-at-large because Zduriencik is a stat guy with old-school scouting experience. It’s a pass that few other GMs with Zduriencik’s record—on and off the field—would get.

How much longer is that going to last? The stat person’s loyalty doesn’t go further than advancing their supposed revolution. There are still a few holdouts that think Moneyball is real and try to portray it as such. Others are shifting its goalposts and the vast majority are using it as validation for their line of thought and faux credibility while adjusting the template from “this is how to do it” to “that’s how Billy Beane did it at the time”.

There’s a major difference.

If the Mariners were winning Zduriencik would be the toast of SABR, celebrated as one of “them”. Since they’re losing the remaining supporters are lurking with opaque defenses and “it’s not his fault” laments.

Will the seeds he’s planted will benefit him or the next GM?

Oftentimes it’s not the man who did the bulk of the building who gets the credit when a team’s youngsters begin to perform. We’re seeing that now with the Orioles and Andy MacPhail and the Mets with Omar Minaya. Both men did much of the grunt work with the rosters of the clubs that have vaulted into surprising contention, but they’re forgotten or dismissed because they’re no longer there or their tenures were pockmarked with failure and controversy. They’re blamed for what they didn’t do and not credited for what they did.

Maybe that’s the way it’s going to go with Zduriencik.

But if he’s going down, he’d be well-advised to go down his way and tell ownership that it’s enough with Ichiro; that he can’t win with him and he needs to go. Period.

They have to move on and find bats who can actually produce. If teams and executives want to be successful, they can’t retain players for what they were. The business is one of, “What have you done for me lately?” In the case of Ichiro, the answer to that question would be absolutely nothing.

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Off Season Winners In Retrospect

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Let’s look at the teams whose off-season moves are paying off so far in 2012.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Acquired:  Jose Molina, Hideki Matsui, Luke Scott, Carlos Pena, Fernando Rodney

Subtracted: Johnny Damon, Kelly Shoppach, Casey Kotchman, Juan Cruz, John Jaso

The Rays did what the Rays always do. They cut out the players that were getting too expensive or had been signed as a short-term veteran stopgaps and replaced them with youngsters or other veteran stopgaps.

Molina hasn’t hit; Pena is doing what Pena does with a low batting average, good on base percentage and power; Rodney has been brilliant. None of the players they dispatched—Damon, Shoppach, Kotchman, Cruz, Jaso—have been missed or are doing much with their new teams.

Baltimore Orioles

Acquired: GM Dan Duquette, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Lindstrom, Wilson Betemit

Subtracted: GM Andy MacPhail, Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott, Vladimir Guerrero

The Orioles have played over their heads but Dan Duquette got rid of Guthrie and acquired Hammel and Lindstrom who are under team control and have pitched well. Chen has been very good.

Chicago White Sox

Acquired: Manager Robin Ventura, Kosuke Fukudome

Subtracted: Manager Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre

Getting rid of the volcanic and tiresome personality of Guillen and replacing it with the laid back Ventura has been exactly what the White Sox needed. They cleared salary by getting rid of veterans Buehrle, Quentin and Pierre. They’re not as good as they look right now, but the AL Central is wide open and they have enough starting pitching to stay in the hunt. They underachieved horribly in recent years under Guillen and are overachieving now under Ventura.

Texas Rangers

Acquired Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan

Subtracted: C.J. Wilson, Darren Oliver, Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor

Darvish has been as brilliant as I expected. Nathan is having a good season. They haven’t missed Wilson on or off the field.

Seattle Mariners

Acquired: Jesus Montero, Hector Noesi, John Jaso

Subtracted: Michael Pineda, Josh Lueke, David Aardsma, Jose Campos

For Michael Pineda (disabled list), Jose Campos (hot prospect and on the disabled list), the Mariners got a top hitting prospect in Jesus Montero who’s still finding his way and showing flashes of immense power and a young starting pitcher who’s also learning his craft in the big leagues in Noesi. They got rid of the troublesome Lueke for Jaso who’s been contributing big hits of late.

Oakland Athletics

Acquired: Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, Bartolo Colon, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Cook, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, Seth Smith, Kila Ka’aihue, Manny Ramirez

Subtracted: Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Ryan Sweeney

Reddick has 14 home runs and is heading for the All Star Game. Cespedes was a silly signing for a team like the A’s, but there’s no denying his talent. We’ll see what Manny does and the young pitchers Millone and Parker are high-end arms.

Washington Nationals

Acquired: Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Perry, Mark DeRosa, Brad Lidge

Subtracted: Ivan Rodriguez, Todd Coffey, Jonny Gomes

Gonzalez has been terrific across the board and might deserve to start the All Star Game. Jackson has been consistent despite not accumulating wins.

Miami Marlins

Acquired: Manager Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Zambrano, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle

Subtracted: Javier Vazquez, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley, Burke Badenhop

Zambrano showed up in shape, has kept his temper in check and is showing why the Cubs gave him that contract in the first place (the majority of which they’re paying for him to pitch for the Marlins). Reyes is getting hot and Buehrle is a leader off the field and innings-eater on it. Bell’s been a disaster, but it pitching better lately.

Guillen was hired to draw attention and he did so negatively when he started trouble almost immediately with his idiotic comments praising Fidel Castro. Jeffrey Loria is under investigation for the stadium deal and looked silly using Muhammad Ali as a human shield to protect himself from getting booed at the regular season opener of the new stadium, but apart from Bell they’re getting what they paid for for the most part.

San Francisco Giants

Acquired: Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Clay Hensley, Gregor Blanco

Subtracted: Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Sanchez, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross

Cabrera’s not going to maintain this pace, but he’s still a good player and they got him for Sanchez who’s been hurt and had worn out his welcome with the Giants. Pagan is batting .314 with 10 stolen bases and has contributed several big hits to go along with his usual array of space cadet maneuvers. Blanco and Hensley have been solid, cheap pickups off the scrapheap.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Acquired: Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel, Craig Breslow

Subtracted: Micah Owings, Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill, Jarrod Parker

The Diamondbacks are struggling because they’re not getting the same above-and-beyond performances from the players that carried them to a stunning division title in 2011. That doesn’t diminish the work that Cahill, Kubel and Breslow have done. If the Diamondbacks don’t right the ship, it won’t be because of the players they acquired over the winter.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquired: Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark Ellis, Aaron Harang, Matt Treanor

Subtracted: Jon Garland, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda, Casey Blake, Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla

Capuano is pitching about 20 miles over his head; Hairston is hitting about 20 miles over his head; Ellis and Harang are respected, under-the-radar veterans.

The Dodgers didn’t spend a lot of money this past winter, but are getting far more than they paid for.

Off season losers and incompletes will be in forthcoming postings.

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The Twins Lost Their “Way”

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And General Manager Bill Smith was fired because of it.

You can read about the Smith gaffes everywhere—how he shunned the Twins reliance on trusted bullpen arms; spent terribly on Tsuyoshi Nishioka; traded a needed backup catcher and top prospect Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.

The Twins retreated from the template that made them an admired organization who functioned under a system and a budget by spending money badly and executing poorly conceived, desperation trades.

A change had to be made.

Former GM Terry Ryan is taking over on an “interim” basis that some don’t believe is all that interim.

If he’s taking the job, he should just take the job and say he’s taking the job.

Don’t think that Ryan is going to walk back into the GM chair and fix the 99-loss Twins immediately. Already they’re said to be cutting the payroll from an un-Twins-like $113 million in 2011; he has to address the backup catcher situation and decide exactly how many games Joe Mauer will catch and how many will be spent DHing or playing first base; they’re losing Michael Cuddyer and possibly Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan; Justin Morneau‘s playing status is in limbo after repeated concussions and other injuries; Nishioka is a disaster; the starting rotation is mediocre at best and the bullpen is in shambles.

With the defending division champion Tigers; the high-priced White Sox; and the rising Royals and Indians in the AL Central, it’s going to be next-to-impossible for the Twins to contend in 2012.

It’s not as if Ryan oversaw a quick-fix the first time he took charge as GM in late 1994 replacing Andy MacPhail.

The Twins were mostly terrible from 1995 through 2000; only in 2001—Tom Kelly‘s final season as manager—did the team finish over .500 and this was after threats of contraction and haplessness surrounded the franchise.

From 2002 onward, the Twins have been a case study in frugal and gutsy free agent signings and trades; Ryan adhered to the designated limits on payroll and weeding out players who didn’t behave off the field and execute fundamentally on the field.

His top-level drafts were shaky, but he did find some late-round sleepers who were integrated into that “Twins way”. He served the organization’s best interests in drafting Mauer over Mark Prior in spite of the insistence of armchair experts that they should’ve taken Prior; he selected functional late-rounders in Kubel, Danny Valencia and Pat Neshek; his picks of Denard Span, Jesse Crain, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing and Kevin Slowey yielded useful big leaguers who fit into roles; his trades for Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano and Nathan were strokes of genius.

Now he’s looking at a club not dissimilar to that which he took over in 1994. Rife with bloated mediocrity at the big league level, there are some young players with promise—Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson among them. Both make it less of an issue to let Cuddyer walk and to field offers for Span.

That’s what the Twins have to do.

Ryan’s first order of business will be to consider dealing Liriano and Span now or wait until the season is underway—the Twins must infuse the club with young, high-level and cheaper talent. That’s the way he built the club that dominated their division for most of the past decade.

It’s not something that can be done on an interim basis.

If he’s not in it for the long haul—loyalty to the organization or not—then he shouldn’t be entrusted with the all-important deals that can make or break a franchise.

He’s done it before.

Ryan has a lot of work to do and he needs to be all-in to do it properly.

Is he?

He and the Twins have to make that determination quickly and act boldly; and if he’s not, the Twins need to hire someone who is. Someone who knows and understands The Twins Way.

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Why Would Anyone Want To Be The Orioles GM?

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The problems are familiar and circular.

One recognizable and respected name after another has taken a job with the Baltimore Orioles and been mitigated by ownership meddling and circumstance.

Even with Buck Showalter in place, nothing much has changed; the enthusiasm and excitement from having a manager of his stature quickly receded into the abyss, drowned by vicious competition and a lack of talent.

Why doesn’t Showalter simply take over as GM?

It’d be much easier for everyone.

The club could hire someone to do the grunt work that no one ever realizes is going on with the rock star status that certain general managers enjoy nowadays; Showalter could pick the players and run the entire show doing things the way he wants.

The names that are coming in for interviews are young, impressive and irrelevant; the only benefit they’ll have is to be able to toss their hands in the air and say, “what could I do?” when things go wrong as they did for Pat Gillick, Frank Wren and Andy MacPhail.

In addition to that, the new “boss” won’t have any final say-so with Showalter as the guy in charge. That’s not an advantageous position for a GM to be in whether he’s onboard with it or not.

It’s a resume-builder to say, “I’ve been a GM before”. They can’t win on or off the field and if the Orioles somehow find a way into contention within the new GM’s tenure, the credit will largely go to Showalter.

The Orioles situation is a continuing saga of inertia.

They can hit, but have very little pitching and not much on the horizon in the high minors.

Jeremy Guthrie, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Jim Johnson, Alfredo Simon—all have talent; but in that division, the Orioles can’t compete unless they bring in some legitimate arms, but that leads them back onto that failed cycle of overpaying for veterans, seeing them come to Baltimore and fade, repeating the process all over again. If they want to get a “name” free agent like C.J. Wilson or CC Sabathia, they have to drastically overpay and even then they’re not guaranteed to be anything other than a bargaining chip for another club to match or beat their offer.

At this point, until they’re showing marked improvement, why would any free agent with options want to go to Baltimore? The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox have vast talent that the Orioles don’t; and mark my words: the Blue Jays are going to shock baseball in 2012.

Where does that leave the Orioles?

Where they’ve been for the past 13 seasons—on the treadmill. Going nowhere.

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GMs The Second Time Around

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With two big general managing jobs open—the Angels and the Cubs—let’s take a look at recognizable title-winning GMs and how they’ve fared in second and third jobs.

John Schuerholz

Schuerholz won the World Series with the 1985 Royals and moved on to the Braves after the 1990 season because Bobby Cox had gone down on the field and handled both jobs after firing Russ Nixon. It was Cox who drafted Chipper Jones (because Todd Van Poppel insisted he was going to college, then didn’t—he probably should’ve); Kent Mercker; Mike Stanton; Steve Avery; Mark Wohlers; and Ryan Klesko. He also traded Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz.

Schuerholz made the fill-in moves like acquiring Charlie Leibrandt, Rafael Belliard, Otis Nixon, Alejandro Pena and Juan Berenguer; in later years, he signed Greg Maddux and traded for Fred McGriff.

It was, in fact, the predecessor to Cox—John Mullen—who drafted Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, Dave Justice and Tom Glavine.

The idea that Schuerholz “built” the Braves of the 1990s isn’t true. It’s never been true.

Andy MacPhail

MacPhail was never comfortable with spending a load of money. When he was with the Twins, that was the way they did business and he excelled at it building teams on the cheap with a template of the way the Twins played and a manager, Tom Kelly, to implement that.

He put together the Twins 1987 and 1991 championship clubs. MacPhail became the Cubs CEO in 1994 and stayed until 2006. The Cubs made it to the playoffs twice in MacPhail’s tenure and came close to winning that elusive pennant in 2003.

MacPhail’s legacy running the Cubs—fairly or not—is that he was in charge while Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were pushed very, very hard as young pitchers trying to win that championship.

It was a vicious circle. If the Cubs didn’t let them pitch, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs; and since they let them endure heavy workloads at a young age, they flamed out.

MacPhail went to the Orioles in 2007 and the team didn’t improve despite MacPhail seeming to prevail on owner Peter Angelos that his spending on shot veterans wasn’t working; MacPhail’s power was usurped when Buck Showalter was hired to be the manager and his future is uncertain.

Sandy Alderson

Credited as the “father” of Moneyball, he was a run-of-the-mill GM who won when he had money to spend, a brilliant manager in Tony LaRussa, and an all-world pitching coach Dave Duncan. When the well dried up, the A’s stopped contending and he was relegated to signing veteran players who had nowhere else to go (sort of like Moneyball), but couldn’t play (unlike Moneyball).

Alderson drafted Jason Giambi and Tim Hudson among a couple of others who contributed to the Athletics renaissance and the Billy Beane “genius”.

Moving on to the Padres as CEO in 2005, Alderson created factions in the front office between the stat people and scouting people and appeared more interested in accumulating legitimate, on-the-record credit for himself as a cut of the Moneyball pie than in building a winning team by any means necessary within the budget.

He joined the Mets as GM a year ago. Grade pending.

Pat Gillick

Gillick is in the Hall of Fame. He built the Blue Jays from the ground up, culminating in back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993.

He’s retired and un-retired multiple times, ran the Orioles under Angelos and spent a ton of money and came close, but continually lost out to the Yankees.

He took over the Mariners and built a powerhouse with Lou Piniella; they came close…but couldn’t get by the Yankees.

He went to the Phillies, built upon the foundation that had been laid by the disrespected former GM Ed Wade and scouting guru Mike Arbuckle and got credit for the 2008 championship.

He says he’s retired, but I’m not buying it even at age 74. The Mariners are the job I’d see him taking if it’s offered and with another bad year from Jack Zduriencik’s crew in 2012, it just might be.

Walt Jocketty

Jocketty won the 2006 World Series and, along with LaRussa, built the Cardinals into an annual contender. He was forced out in a power-struggle between those in the Cardinals from office that wanted to go the Moneyball route and Jocketty’s people that didn’t. One year after the World Series win, he was fired.

At mid-season 2008, he was hired by the Reds and was given credit for the 2010 NL Central championship, but that credit was a bit shaky.

Wayne Krivsky was the GM before Jocketty and traded for Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo.

Dan O’Brien Jr. preceded Krivsky and drafted Jay Bruce and signed Johnny Cueto.

And it was Jim Bowden who drafted Joey Votto.

The common denominator with the names above and the levels of success or failure they achieved had to do with the groundwork that had been placed and, in part, what they did after their arrival.

The Cubs and Angels are both well-stocked for their choices to look very smart, very quickly; but the hiring of a “name” GM doesn’t automatically imply that the success from the prior stop is going to be repeated and that has to be considered with whomever the two teams decide to hire.

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MLB GM/Manager Merry Go ‘Round

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Let’s have a look at the GMs and managers who might be looking for work after the season ends and who might replace them.

First things first, Brian Cashman is not leaving the Yankees; Theo Epstein is not leaving the Red Sox. So forget it.

Baltimore Orioles

Andy MacPhail won’t be back as GM and Buck Showalter has pretty much taken control of the whole operation. Clearly things aren’t going to go as swimmingly as they were when Showalter took over a year ago and the Orioles went 34-23 and then got off to a 6-1 start this season.

Everyone started going crazy based on Buck and Buck alone; apparently they didn’t look at the Orioles’ roster and the division beforehand.

The Orioles are a long-term rebuilding project, especially in the pitching department.

They have to find a GM who’s agreeable to Showalter without said GM appearing to be a puppet for the manager.

John Hart has been mentioned. He hired Showalter with the Rangers and is a veteran baseball man who’ll stand his ground in a disagreement. He’d be a good choice.

Chicago White Sox

There’s speculation that both GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen could both be gone.

Williams isn’t going anywhere.

Guillen’s going to the Marlins.

I discussed this earlier and don’t think it’s a guarantee that Guillen bench coach Joey Cora takes over as the new manager. Cito Gaston and Tony Pena are two possibilities.

Los Angeles Angels

Tony Reagins was said to be in trouble after the disastrous Vernon Wells trade, but how can you fire a man whose team might win the division and, at the very least, will win around 90 games?

You can’t.

Oakland Athletics

I’m saying it now: Billy Beane is going to the Cubs (if they want him); David Forst will take over as A’s GM.

Here’s what’s going to happen: the A’s are going to have a good year in 2012; the Cubs are going to have a good year in 2012; all of a sudden, Billy will be a “genius” again after the fallout of the ridiculousness of Moneyball the film and Moneyball the book.

I’ll be a major facilitator of said fallout.

I can hear it now and almost go on a tangent before it even happens: “It turns out that Billy was a genius!!”

Um…no. He wasn’t. And isn’t.

Seattle Mariners

Jack Zduriencik signed what was referred to as a “multi-year extension”. I suppose a 2-year extension counts as “multi-year”, but it’s not brimming with confidence.

The extension is through 2013 and if the Mariners have a bad year in 2012, he’s going to get fired.

Just out of curiosity, for what purpose are the Mariners writing Willy Mo Pena‘s name in the lineup? They don’t have anyone else to look at instead of the journeyman Pena?

Florida Marlins

Ozzie Guillen is going to be the next manager of the Marlins…unless he gets into an immediate argument with team president David Samson at the introductory press conference. A legitimate possibility.

Buster Olney tweeted that owner Jeffrey Loria and Samson are going to take a more active role in player procurement this winter. Sounds like Jerry Jones with the Cowboys. Which is to say it doesn’t sound good.

St. Louis Cardinals

Tony LaRussa has a 2012 mutual option with the Cardinals. The White Sox would be a place for LaRussa to finish his career in a full circle move to go back where he started; if Albert Pujols leaves the Cardinals, it’s hard to imagine LaRussa wanting to deal with the Cardinals without Pujols, but I think Pujols stays and so does LaRussa.

Chicago Cubs

Beane’s going to the Cubs; given how little he thinks of his managers, it wouldn’t do any harm (in his eyes) for him to hire Ryne Sandberg to manage the team and it would automatically get him in the good graces of Cubs fans.

Houston Astros

The ownership change from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane is going slowly; either way, I believe both GM Ed Wade and manager Brad Mills are going to get fired as soon as it’s done.

Who knows who Crane’s going to bring in as GM? But re-hiring former Astros GM and now Rays executive Gerry Hunsicker is a good plan if Rays GM Andrew Friedman turns them down. If they hire Friedman or Hunsicker, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is a managerial prospect.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The McCourt ownership situation is what it is. There was talk that Ned Colletti might be a choice for the Cubs, but I doubt he’s leaving the Dodgers; if he does, Kim Ng would be perfect.

Don Mattingly not only deserves to keep his job, he deserves some Manager of the Year votes for keeping the team playing hard and respectably.

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Cash Out

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How much is Brian Cashman going to take as Yankees GM?

How much does he want to take?

For someone who’s been with the same organization since 1986 and worked his way up from intern to general manager, it’s not easy to say goodbye; nor is it easy to relinquish the cash and cachet that comes from being the Yankees GM, but when is enough going to be enough? When does it become a negligible risk/reward? When does the aggravation outweigh all the positives that come with the job?

Cashman has had a tumultuous few months going back to the messy negotiations with Derek Jeter. The front office sabotaged and interfered with everything he was trying to do in keeping the draft picks and money that were surrendered with the so-far disastrous decision made by Randy Levine, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to sign Rafael Soriano.

Whereas he was perceived to have full authority to do as he saw fit with the club, the panic that overtook his bosses when the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee might have been the beginning of the end for Cashman as Yankees GM.

The Jorge Posada controversy is another unnecessary irritation, but as far as the Bronx Zoo goes, it’s not an untenable occurrence—one that’s going to make Cashman toss his hands in the air and say, “that’s it”.

But the confluence of events—Soriano, Jeter, Posada, the Steinbrenners and Levine—could all conspire to do what few in a similar position as Cashman would choose to do.

Leave.

Don’t discount the fact that the Yankees look peaked and old; that even with the young pitching in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos on the way up, the onerous contracts and declining production of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have the potential to beget a couple of down years as the front office tries desperately to rebuild the dominant club they’ve been over the past 16 years on the fly, pushing him further out the door.

Spending on talent is impossible if the talent isn’t allowed to reach free agency to start with and the upcoming classes of free agents are limited and the Yankees are stuck with Jeter, A-Rod, Soriano and Mark Teixeira; they have to start thinking about an extension for Robinson Cano; CC Sabathia has an opt-out of his contract after the season, adding more headaches for the Yankees GM, whomever it is.

Has the Yankees GM job become a case of diminishing returns for Cashman?

Would he like to try his luck (and garner some legitimate credit and perhaps a Hall of Fame resume) by going elsewhere and building a club without the gobs of cash available when running the Yankees?

Some have implied that spending money is the only skill that Cashman has.

It’s unfair.

He’s made some mistakes especially with pitchers, but he’s a solid GM and smart baseball man. His newfound penchant for speaking his mind has not won him any friends among the players; in fact, it almost seems as if he’s made the conscious decision to say what he wants to say and no longer adhere to the corporate double-and triple-talk that was the hallmark of his earlier days as GM. He never actually said anything that wasn’t ambiguous or couldn’t be spun the way he wanted in its aftermath.

That changed with the Jeter negotiations; with the Soriano signing; with the Posada dustup.

There will be other GM jobs open after this season.

The Nationals are in a prime location with money; access to power; and a young foundation around which to build. Current GM Mike Rizzo’s signed through 2015, but that’s not a major obstacle. Naming Cashman club president or another high-end title would stickhandle around any firings.

Andy MacPhail isn’t expected to stay with the Orioles after this year; Cashman’s worked with Buck Showalter before; and after years with George Steinbrenner, he’d deal with Peter Angelos.

If the Mariners behave horribly again at some point and/or embarrass the ownership more than they did in 2010, Jack Zduriencik might be dismissed.

Depending on what happens with the Dodgers ownership, how enticing would one of the most historic franchises in baseball be? Located in Hollywood and with money to spend, he’d have all the ingredients to win big in Los Angeles on and off the field.

The Cubs are under new ownership, have young talent and are saddled with some messy contracts, but if Cashman was able to go to the Cubs and win a title, how would that look on a resume that already has 5 championships?

If he left the Yankees, Cashman wouldn’t be out of work long and he’d probably get a good job and the opportunity to truly run things the way he wants to.

Of course nothing can compare with the thrill and excitement of New York; in retrospect, the negatives will be viewed fondly after he’s away from the crisis-a-day atmosphere for a short while, but there are options.

With the team in its current state and the interference from above, it’s possible that Cashman is looking for a way out; that his newfound honesty is a conscious and calculated strategy to make clear that he doesn’t care whether he’s the Yankees GM after the 2011 season.

Levine dictating to Cashman which players he wants signed is a form of castration.

Would Cashman like to git while the gittin’s good?

It’s a bold act, but if he rappels out of Yankee Stadium, he won’t be out of work very long.

Is peace of mind and full power worth the pain of leaving his only baseball home?

It could if Cashman’s tired of the negatives that go along with the positives; if he wants to venture out on his own.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

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