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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Case closed: Brian Cashman, Yankees don’t need Goose Gossage distraction

The last thing a first-time manager like Aaron Boone needs is to deal with controversy before spring training even starts.

New York Yankees Goose Gossage during a Spring

New York Yankees Goose Gossage during a Spring Training game vs the Houston Astros at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida on March 2, 2011. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Janes

TAMPA, Fla.

Around the Yankees, there are plenty of grenades you don’t see coming. It’s just part of doing business in the Bronx. But those who survive this pinstriped arena long enough tend to anticipate where the threats are percolating and work to extinguish them before they become full-blown distractions.

Even in spring training.

Which is why Goose Gossage wasn’t invited back to Steinbrenner Field this year to reprise his role as a guest instructor Despite his Hall of Fame standing, Gossage figured to be more trouble than he’s worth, based on his past rants against Mariano Rivera, of all people, and anything remotely connected to analytical thinking about the game.

Picking a fight with Brian Cashman, however, was the surest way to seal his fate.

We’re not positive just how much Gossage was keeping up on current events from his Colorado home, but since we last gathered in Tampa, Cashman was named Executive of the Year by Baseball America and was rewarded with a five-year, $25-million contract extension.

Being that Hal Steinbrenner still signs the checks, Cashman is bulletproof, as Joe Girardi found out the hard way at the end of last season. Now Girardi is a TV personality for MLB Network and Aaron Boone will be sitting in his old chair Tuesday for the new manager’s kickoff news conference.

Cashman took a big leap in plucking Boone from the ESPN booth to pilot a Yankees team that went from scrappy underdog a year ago to a World Series favorite, with the trade for Giancarlo Stanton restoring their Evil Empire status. And Boone, who has never managed at any level, will have plenty of challenges in this unfamiliar role regardless of his high baseball IQ. Cashman is fully aware of this, so it was a prudent first step to remove any possible clubhouse arsonists, such as the volatile Gossage.

Nobody wants to see a Hall of Famer go down in flames, especially with the Yankees, a franchise that treasures its history like no other. But repeatedly bashing the way the modern game is played, as well as those responsible for updating the sport’s age-old concepts, is not only out of touch but self-destructive, as Gossage finally discovered.

And to have Gossage attack Cashman yet again Monday with a series of expletive-filled rants only reinforced the fact that the GM made the right decision in cutting him off. It’s Cashman’s show now, and he’s wise to protect Boone as much as he can.

Maybe Gossage doesn’t qualify as a four-alarm fire, but in the big picture, he’s expendable.

Cashman didn’t reply to a text seeking comment Monday, so we don’t have his side regarding the Gossage ban. Gossage wasn’t shy about letting us know how he feels, though, and the verbal assault he launched at Cashman should make him persona non grata both in Tampa and the Bronx for quite some time.

“I don’t like Cashman,” Gossage told Newsday’s Erik Boland. “The lack of respect for the game. Period. It’s just total lack of respect for The Boss and everything The Boss stood for.

“He doesn’t have any respect for coaching. He doesn’t think it’s necessary. He would have a nerd in the dugout managing if he had any [guts]. He doesn’t think there’s any professional expertise that needs to be applied. Anywhere.”

That’s just a sampling of what Gossage had to say, and there’s really no purpose in belaboring the point. He’s repeatedly made it clear where he stands on these subjects, so going on and on about “nerds” ruining the game isn’t a very productive conversation. But to say Cashman is an “embarrassment” to the Yankees, or that he has the Steinbrenners “fooled,” as Gossage did, doesn’t have any basis in reality.

Cashman doesn’t need to hear it anymore, and he definitely doesn’t want his team to be bothered by any more Gossage brush fires. As we said, plenty of other headaches will surface, ones we haven’t even thought of yet. It happens every spring with the Yankees, every season.

Scratch Gossage off that list, and it’s too bad. Having the guest instructors around the current players helps maintain a living bridge to the Yankees’ glorious past, and Gossage was a big part of that. But he’s turned himself into a much bigger problem, one that Cashman’s vision of the future can do without.

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