Big Bri On His Skydiving Action Playset

History, Management, Media, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, World Series

A Yankees executive whose position owed more to his presence (just showing up) than overt and noticeable skill has become something of a legend with his on and off field misadventures. The players raise their eyebrows, shake their heads, smirk and occasionally laugh at the predicaments he finds himself in; the odd way he speaks; the ego underneath the humdrum and unchangeable averageness. A bespectacled nebbish whose capabilities were in question from the beginning was constantly one step ahead of the sharks nipping at his feet be they expectations, unavoidable ravages of age, or a new reality from which he can’t escape, this particular person was forever under the raving mania of George Steinbrenner. Somehow he survived. In some circles, he’s judged to be competent—even good at what he does. In others, there’s a shrug at the underlying duplicitousness; at his arrogant and hidden bewilderment that there are people functioning in the world that believe him and his flexibilities with the truth.

Of course I’m referring to one George Costanza, former traveling secretary for the New York Yankees on Seinfeld.

Costanza was, among other things, committed to an insane asylum by Boss Steinbrenner; accused of stealing and selling Yankees merchandise; and eventually traded for a fermented chicken drink and chicken snacks (according to ESPN).

George Costanza is a fictional character. The real Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, is having his own midlife crisis that has led to the latest escapade of breaking his right fibula and dislocating his ankle skydiving. That it was for a good cause (the Wounded Warrior Project) is irrelevant. In recent years, the vanilla personality, almost opaque to the point of invisibility, has been replaced by a man who was caught in a reported affair with a woman who was also married; who got divorced; who was involved with a woman who supposedly stalked and blackmailed him (after he wrote a reference letter on Yankees letterhead on her behalf); who has been doing all sorts of adventurous stuff indicative of searching for fulfillment. For some, it manifests in debating whether or not to have an affair, to get a hair transplant, to change a wardrobe. Cashman, however, has been expressing himself with activities that would make Sebastian Junger step back and say, “Whoa!”

As for his job, his main attribute has been to spend money. In ambiguous circumstances, it’s impossible to know how much credit or blame one individual should receive for what’s gone right or wrong. Could other GMs have done as well as Cashman’s done with four championships as a GM considering the amount of money available? Or has he navigated the terrain as well or better than anyone else who might have had the opportunity? It can’t be forgotten that his predecessor, Bob Watson, won a World Series as well and left after two seasons opening the door for Cashman, so his survival skills are just that—a skill for which he deserves credit even if his recent baseball maneuvers such as Michael Pineda have been disastrous. Apparently he’s decided, as part of his exploration of the limits to his abilities, to rappel down walls and jump out of airplanes. Now he’s hurt himself.

At what point do his employers tell him it’s enough? The Yankees, under the Boss, would have put a stop to all this nonsense a long time ago. And writing a reference letter for a woman who, by most accounts, is crazy on Yankees letterhead? He seems too secure in his job. From the open criticisms of the organization for the Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano signings, to basically telling Derek Jeter to leave if he doesn’t like the offer they presented to him when he was a free agent, he’s making the club look foolish and he’s doing it repeatedly. This is still George Steinbrenner’s team, but the sons are not running it like a Steinbrenner. If that’s okay with them, they should continue on this current course; if they’ve had enough of the humiliating headlines, they need to express that to Cashman. If he was a player with this track record of questionable success and off-field mishaps, he’d have been dispatched. The GM is far more replaceable than most players. Why are they tolerating this?

I’m not one for telling someone how to live his life—I really don’t care what Cashman does—but it’s gone far past the point of embarrassment and has entered satire. He’s lucky he didn’t kill himself while skydiving. Writing a check for charity and writing his name on Yankees letterhead for a good cause is just as effective, if not more, than jumping out of a plane or scaling buildings. These activities are hindering his job whether they admit it or not. The Yankees need to tell him to either rein it in or he can leave and travel the world as an X-Games participant and not be the Yankees GM anymore.

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The Geek Chorus and Disappearance of Jose Campos

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As the final out of David Robertson’s first save chance in replacing Mariano Rivera was recorded, YES play-by-play man Michael Kay delivered a familiarly preplanned and predictably terrible speech. He did the same thing when Derek Jeter recorded his 3000th hit.

Kay injected such words as “crucible” and referred to the save as “A.M.” for After Mariano.

For some reason, he thinks these postscripts are good.

They’re not.

As religious as Rivera is, the biblical undertones would probably be quite offensive and he’d bristle at his deification by others.

Robertson got the save, but it wasn’t easy and he’s not going to slide neatly into the role as is foolishly and ignorantly believed.

On another important note, Jose Campos has apparently disappeared.

Mike Francesa (amid his redundant entreaties for the Mets to give Terry Collins a contract extension, apparently unaware or uninterested that Collins’s 2013 contract option was exercised last September and another extension is unneeded) had WFAN Yankees’ beat reporter Sweeny Murti on the show and they were discussing the Yankees’ pitching problems. Along with the news of when Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start (Sunday) and other matters, they utilized a pretzel-twist defense of GM Brian Cashman and the presently nightmarish and possibly long-term disastrous trade of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda (out for a year with labrum surgery) and Campos (on the minor league disabled list with elbow inflammation).

Basically the line was, “We’ll have to wait a few years to truly be able to judge the trade.”

Would it be a similar circumstance if Pineda was 5-0 for the Yankees and Campos was blowing hitters away as he did in his first few starts before he got hurt?

Campos was the lifeline, constantly mentioned as the most important and shockingly available piece to the trade…until the injury. Now the storyline is that with young pitchers, it’s a crapshoot.

You’d like a baseball team to be run like a business?

Okay. Let’s run it like a business.

Say you have a company and the person running the day-to-day operations of said company has made a multitude of mistakes in one imperative department—a department that is widely believed to be the key to success.

Then that person was romantically involved with an someone who was, at best, mentally unstable and he chose to use his office to write a reference for that person on company stationery, essentially giving company approval to a dangerous individual.

Then a deal is made that turns out to be bad practically and financially in the short-term and has the potential to degenerate to catastrophic proportions in the long-term.

What would be done to that person?

They’d be forced out.

Yet Brian Cashman is still defended with such silliness as this article in today’s NY Times about the pitching issues the Yankees have had and comparisons to the far more successful Tampa Bay Rays’ method of building pitchers, keeping them healthy and productive.

Here’s the relevant quote from the piece:

“I know they have a lot younger guys, but Pineda’s young and he just went down,” Cashman said. “I know the innings here are more stressful than the innings there, no doubt about that. Throwing 100 pitches in New York versus 100 pitches in Tampa are two different stresses. The stress level’s radically different on each pitch.”

Cashman neglects to add why the Yankees’ young pitchers have been so stressed. The Rays don’t go start-to-start for a rotation spot with one bad game cause for a demotion—and they have the depth to do it if they chose to.

The Rays don’t cause a media frenzy when a pitcher isn’t throwing 99-mph fastballs as expected on March 5th as the Yankees did with Pineda.

The Rays don’t have a cookie-cutter program for their pitchers that they cling to in the face of repeated mistakes. They see what works and when it doesn’t, they try something else.

And the Rays treat their pitchers with an personal concern for the mental aspect of the game that the Yankees clearly don’t.

Currently the only thing preventing that trade from being called the aforementioned catastrophe is that Campos’s diagnosis (so far) is elbow inflammation and Noesi and Montero are still finding their way in the big leagues. If Campos is seriously hurt and Noesi and Montero get past the nascent phase of their careers and start to come of age, then what? Are we going to get another series of caveats that “you never know with pitchers”? Or are we going to hear that Montero and Noesi didn’t have the “makeup” for New York?

No one wants to hear about the “process” anymore. The Yankees are not “process” driven. For an organization that views any season that doesn’t end in a championship as an overt failure, there’s no room for “well, we’ll see” with pitchers like Pineda who was going to be a key component for this year’s championship run. No one wants to hear about a 19-year-old kid, Campos, when the Yankees have faltered in developing every hotshot young starter that’s been touted as the next big superstar over the past fifteen years.

It’s enough with the parsing.

The arrogance is stifling and tiresome. There’s a perception that even when the Yankees lose, they still win. Cliff Lee beat the Yankees with the Rangers in 2010? Okay, we’ll just sign him and he’ll be with us. But he didn’t want to sign with the Yankees. Maybe it wasn’t because he didn’t appreciate the privilege of being part of the rich tapestry of history inherent with the world’s most recognizable franchise; it might be because he didn’t appreciate his wife being spit on and cursed at during the ALCS; or maybe he just preferred the Phillies and the National League.

He doesn’t have to give a reason.

But it still comes back to controlling the story; to twisting reality to fit a narrative as Kay does with his insipid soliloquies.

And it goes back to searching the YES Network website for news about the injury to Campos and coming up with absolutely nothing as if the pitcher doesn’t exist.

Go on. Search it. Click here and see what comes up when conducting a websearch on the site of the YANKEES owned broadcasting arm by typing “Jose Campos”.

Nothing.

In their world, he’s whitewashed. That’s at least until they can use him to validate their continued delusions. Then we won’t stop hearing about him. Until then, he’s a ghost.

Such is life under an out-of-touch dictatorship whose glossy façade is coming apart piece-by-piece.

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The Yankees Adhere To Conservatism

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With their conservative persona stemming from George Steinbrenner’s rightist agenda and continued with the current regime under Hank and Hal Steinbrenner (military school graduates both); Randy Levine (worked for the Rudy Giuliani New York mayoral administration and recently created a controversy by donating money to the reelection campaign of republican Massachusetts senator Scott Brown); and Brian Cashman (the newly minted bon vivant GM with a sex scandal to call his own), the Yankees are holding true to one of the tenets of the Republican Party by adhering to the rules of succession.

The Republicans nominate their presidential candidates based on who came in second in the prior election cycle.

This is the way it’s always been and we’re seeing it with a candidate that neither the evangelicals nor the hardline wants—Mitt Romney.

They did it in 2008 as well with John McCain.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless of the simplistic “when we go to the right, we win” mantra espoused by the talking heads on Fox News and the agenda-laden talk show hosts, there are numerous variables in the success or failure of the strategy including the turnout, the opponent and current societal circumstances.

The influence of opponents and circumstances are transferrable into baseball.

With their decision to use David Robertson to pitch the ninth inning last night in the Yankees’ 6-2 win over the Royals, their intentions have become clear as to whom is going to replace Mariano Rivera as closer for the rest of the season.

They’re going with the “next in line”. The next in line is Robertson.

Watching Robertson, I’d be very concerned.

His motion is, always has been and always will be a nightmare. He throws off an entirely stiff front leg and his arm recoils with extreme violence. He’s mentally tough enough to deal with the ancillary aspects of closing, but the “trying too hard” factort could lead to overstressing his arm and causing injury. The Yankees’ braintrust will tell him not to treat the ninth inning any differently than he did the seventh and eighth, but that’s easier said than done.

Given the decision to use Robertson last night, here’s what I suspect is going to happen. Robertson will close and they’ll use Soriano to set-up…for now. They’ll watch and see how Phil Hughes pitches tomorrow in Kansas City and if he pitches poorly, move him back to the bullpen for the rest of the season. Andy Pettitte is set to return and David Phelps pitched well on Thursday. They have options to fill out the rotation with Hughes in the bullpen.

At first, Soriano will get a chance to pitch the eighth inning, but if he struggles, they’ll flip him and Hughes and Hughes will pitch the eighth as he did in 2009.

The Yankees’ expectation of automatically being in the playoffs on an annual basis is partially leading them to using Robertson as the closer.

I would not trust Rafael Soriano as the closer in the playoffs. He’s pitched 7.2 innings in the post-season and allowed 3 homers—two of them backbreaking to his clubs, the Rays and Yankees. But they have to make the playoffs first—not a small feat—and there’s a small chance that Rivera might make it back for the playoffs.

If that happens, Soriano or Robertson closing is a non-issue; in fact, it would be easier to demote Soriano than it would Robertson and perhaps the confidence Soriano accumulates by doing well as the closer would extend to the playoffs and he’d be more than a “we hafta hold our collective breaths”, mentally weak, self-interested and overpaid pitcher not fit for the Yankees’ lofty expectations commensurate with his absurd salary.

After the season, that self-interest would come to the Yankees’ rescue in the form of the opt-out in Soriano’s contract.

Robertson is under contractual control until after the 2014 season; Soriano is owed $14 million for 2013 with the opt-out and possible free agency after this season. If he opts out, they’d pay him a $1.5 million buyout.

Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras. Boras has a history of convincing his clients to take free agency when it suits them and is undeterred by prior failures. Because Francisco Rodriguez and Ryan Madson both listened to Boras’s sweet nothings, expected huge riches on the open market and didn’t get them won’t stop Soriano from doing as he’s told and entering the free agent market again looking for more money, more years and a guarantee to close.

How much would it benefit the Yankees to get out from under that onerous and ridiculous deal to which they signed Soriano over the public objections of Cashman?

If Rivera’s coming back for 2013; if Robertson is there; if Joba Chamberlain returns; and Hughes proves himself capable of relieving full-time, what’s the value in paying Soriano that kind of money?

There is none.

The advantages of giving the ninth inning to Soriano are multiple and obvious, but the Yankees are making the safer and more explainable choice.

In the short and long terms, it might work.

But it’s still a mistake.

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