The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Pinch hitting: High and Tight

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Jan 06, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

January is usually a slow month for baseball news. But fear not, we’ve lined up a series of guest bloggers to entertain you. Next up is Mike from High and Tight.

Mike grew up in Bergen County, went to college in Tennessee and now lives in San Diego. He has been blogging for six years and plays semi-pro poker. He says Mariano Rivera is his favorite Yankee but admits to a man-crush on Joba Chamberlain.

Here’s his post and it’s a topical one given Brian Cashman’s comments on Saturday:

Almost 35 years ago to the day, George M. Steinbrenner III purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $10 million dollars. The power stricture of the club remained mostly the same during this time (with the notable exceptions of Steinbrenner’s two suspensions in 1975 and 1990-1993): George ran the ship, and while the faces filling other front office roles rotated in and out like busy shoppers through a revolving door, that one fact remained the same. It was George’s club, and the Boss ran it however he saw fit. Everyone else was mostly superfluous.

Brian Cashman took over as general manager in 1998, and at first his tenure was no different than that of his predecessors. Cashman would orchestrate trades and signings, but the real power in the organization was still headquartered in Tampa, with George and his “baseball people.” Trades and signings would be often overruled from Tampa, and reactionary “get me this guy, now” edicts would be handed down. Who could forget George demanding Raul Mondesi in response to Enrique Wilson misplaying a fly ball in right field?

In 2005, Cashman negotiated a new contract giving him more discretion and control of the club, and solidifying a chain of command within the organization that led directly to him. He began to focus more on developing players, signing international free agents that weren’t eligible for the draft and cost the team no draft picks, and drafting talent that may have fallen “below slot” for fears of signability or lingering injuries. Cashman focused on using the club’s monetary muscle in ways other than big name free agents who have passed their prime. This was probably the first sign that George was less interested in the daily grind of running the club – he was willing to cede some of his power to Cashman, while retaining final say on any decisions.

In recent years, Steinbrenner made fewer and fewer trips to New York and has remained mostly in Tampa. Once a man who would call reporters in order to give quotes, he had become much more reclusive, instead choosing to release written statements to the press. Eventually, he would turn over control of the organization to his sons, Hal and Hank.

So where does the real power lie over personnel decisions in the Yankee organization today? Hank certainly seems to be his father’s son: talkative, interested in speaking with the media, making statements that could border on tampering. Hal tends to stay in the background, while Cashman seems content to let Hank make the public statements. The public perception is that Hank is the one calling the shots. How accurate is that in reality?

John Harper of the Daily News quoted an agent who said of the Boras/Rodriguez negotiations “Hank and Hal didn’t play up to him. Hal, especially, was tough with him. Boras didn’t like dealing with Hal.”

Hal then would seem to be more involved than is visible on the surface. Personally, this is how I see the power structure: Cashman has gone on with business as usual, allowing Hank to be the mouthpiece for the organization. His goals and duties haven’t changed with the transfer of power to the Brothers Steinbrenner. Most of Hank’s statements have followed along Cashman’s talking points, although sometimes he tends to run a bit at the mouth (he is, after all, a Steinbrenner).

Hank mostly seems to buy, however, what Brian is selling but takes the spotlight when it comes to public statements and appearances. Hal holds the pocketbook, and reports have been made regarding Hal’s reluctance to acquiring Johan Santana due solely to the amount of money it would take to secure a new contract for the lefty.

It’s no secret that George’s health has been in decline in recent years, yet some reporters still hounded him for quotes and statements. That’s been what Hank has changed with his public persona – he’s given his dad the gift of peace and quiet, no longer having to sneak in and out of the Stadium to avoid reporters. Now he can simply defer questions to his son. That is what I believe Hank’s presence has given his father – it’s given him his dignity back.




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