With Hal Steinbrenner overruling him on the acquisition of free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, Brian Cashman is not quite the despot he might have thought following the death of owner George Steinbrenner.
Hal will take action when he deems necessary. And add team president Randy Levine as another check and balance over Cashman as reports suggest he also wanted Soriano.
Several years ago, Cashman was annoyed when a group of George Steinbrenner’s "baseball people’’ worked to their own ends in Tampa. Cashman cleared that up in a later contract, which seemed to give all the player decisions back over to him.
In an interview last winter, Cashman told nomaas.org, "I felt like we were the Roman Empire where our operations were stretched far and wide. We weren’t king of the hill in player development, king of the hill in amateur scouting, king of the hill on the major league side, king of the hill on the international side. . . we weren’t maximizing our resources at any level. We had department heads making decisions for other departments that weren’t their responsibility. Now, I have localized each department to their specific area and maximized their expertise in those areas for the greater good of the organization as a whole.
Even when George was ailing in later years, his sons had a mostly low profile. Hank barked a bit, Hal was legel headed and quiet.
Now, Cashman is learning, quickly, that his autonomy is no more.
Without the bluster of their late father, the Steinbrenners will do what they want. The style may be different, the substance is not.
In 1991, pitcher Brien Taylor was a hot draft prospect and then general manager Gene Michael was taking too long -- in Steinbrenner's esteem -- to sign the No. 1 pick. "I just don’t know what my people are doing or what they’re thinking," Steinbrenner told Newsday. "If they let him go, they ought to be shot."
Steinbrenner, who was banned from participating in baseball matters at that time, said it would be a mistake to let the No. 1 draft choice go over money. "He could be a Dwight Gooden or Roger Clemens," Steinbrenner said. "He could be the next great Yankee. He`s your No.1 draft choice; you have to treat it accordingly." Taylor was signed, got injured and never made it to the majors. But the Boss had it his way.
Just as Hal did with Soriano this time.
Cashman also had another telling comment on the farm system and free agents that could very well be applied to the Soriano situation. "…You can utilize homegrown talent for yourself or you can use it to get what you want. And that can keep you out of the free agent market, because you have to overpay in the free agent market. Having a farm system allows you to acquire talent in the most cost-efficient way…When it comes to major league acquisitions, I work with our pro scouting department and only include others when the circumstances warrant. By doing that, I limit leaks. I control what I’m working on and it’s less likely to get out. And it works to our advantage.’’