The quote-a-minute GM of the New York Yankees made news yet again this week. At a press conference announcing that newly acquired Pedro Feliciano was heading straight to the DL, Brian threw former Yankee manager Joe Torre under the bus. Answering a question about the Yankee organization’s own abuse of their various relievers, he said this:
“If you want to get Joe Torre on the phone, you’ll know that I’m not a hypocrite,” Cashman said before the Yankees’ 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles. “I dealt with our pitching coach, I dealt with our manager, and we have new people here that utilize people a certain way now.”
This has led to more speculation about Brian not caring about his future. Taking on the new MLB Vice President of Baseball Ops, the person in charge of on-field discipline, would be something that most GMs would steer clear of if they cared about their job status. Especially given the fact that the two had a very public falling out in recent years. To outside viewers who don’t follow the team closely, it looks like the type of thing an employee does on his way out.
Let’s put a few things on the table to begin. Brian is verbose, and always has been. That’s nothing new. But he used to ramble on in interviews without saying very much that was noteworthy. Now it seems every time the Yanks hold a press conference, Brian steals the show. Things he might have alluded to behind the scenes in the past are now being said on-mike, in front of his bosses. Whether its the way he distanced himself from the Soriano signing, said the Mets “abused” Feliciano, played bad cop in the Derek Jeter negiations, Brian seems to spend a lot of time grabbing headlines.
But is his approach really any different than other Yankee execs? Other members of the Yankee brass are not exactly wilting wallflowers. Recently, Yankee VP Jean Afterman publicly attacked Keith Olbermann after he posted some pictures which appeared to show a Yankee employee flashing signals to the bench. If you do a Google search of “Randy Levine attacks” you’ll come up with numerous stories of him being outspoken about the MLS President, Chuck Greenberg, unauthorized documentaries, the owner of the Brewers, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, etc, etc. Brian Cashman may talk to the media more than some other Yankee officials, but he is certainly not alone in his outspokenness.
It comes down to the difference in how the Yanks operate now under Hal Stienbrenner as opposed to the way they did under his father George. Hal is very reticent to talk to the media, whereas George embraced it and played the game for all it was worth. Under George, if there was something out there that needed to be addressed, he was going to address it himself and take the criticism that comes with being a lightning rod. Hal’s management style is very different. Since taking control of the team in 2008, he’s done very few interviews, preferring to let his officials deal with the day to day nonsense that follows the Yankees everywhere. A quote from a NY Times profile of Randy Levine as the Yankees new voice was particularly revealing:
No other Yankees executive — not Steinbrenner’s sons, Hal and Hank; Brian Cashman, the general manager; or Lonn Trost, the chief operating officer — is as willfully aggressive.
“Part of Randy likes to fight,” said Hal Steinbrenner, the managing general partner. “He has a history of not backing down. He likes to be the bad cop. I’m the good cop.”
The family has never asked Levine to restrain his style. Hal Steinbrenner said he “absolutely” applauded Levine’s castigations of Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a persistent critic of the stadium’s financing.
From a business perspective, in the new media environment Hal doesn’t need the local newspapers to sell the Yankees the way his father did. The Yanks own the Yes Network, so they can get their message out directly to the public without the media filter mischaracterizing what was said and sensationalizing every misplaced word. As such, when Brian says something that grabs headlines, I don’t think Hal really cares. This team doesn’t run the way it did under George M Steinbrenner III, and we need to get used to it.
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