We put the word out for questions for Brian Cashman last week and a record 512 e-mails came into blog headquarters from around the world.
I narrowed it down to nine questions (it wasn’t easy) and Cash was gracious enough to answer them in Tampa a few days ago. We were in the clubhouse leaning on an equipment trunk in the hallway next to Joe Girardi’s office.
My thanks to Brian for doing this, it’s a testament to what he thinks about you fans. Hopefully we can do it again later in the season. Here is the interview, complete with audio:
Alex and many others asked: What advice would you give a college student interested in becoming a GM one day?
Brian Cashman: “The most important thing is to try to get your foot in the door somewhere and donâ€™t exclude â€¦ donâ€™t limit yourself to just major league teams. There are a number of different ways to eventually get yourself into the game. My assistant GM (Jean Afterman) was an agent. So I hired her in that capacity and stole her from the agency side. I came up as an intern in player development and scouting and did security at night. John Ricco, whoâ€™s the assistant general manager for the New York Mets, was a media-relations intern when he started. There are so many different roads to get there. If you canâ€™t get within baseball operations of a major league team, try and get into a major league situation regardless of whether itâ€™s media relations or tickets, it doesnâ€™t necessarily matter. I know this is a long-winded answer but donâ€™t limit yourself just to clubs. Commissionerâ€™s office â€¦ it could be an internship with the commissionerâ€™s office. It could be an internship with an agent. Because ultimately people gravitate to â€¦ to make yourself better you gravitate to people you think can help you out. And successful people stand out even though they might not be working in the same arena at the moment in time you notice successful people. And you want them to be on board with your situation to help you elevate your game. So throw those resumes all over, sprinkle them. Just because you might not get on the doorstep on the first try doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t do it a different route because itâ€™s happened too many times.”
Evan and many others asked: How have new statistics and methods of analysis changed the Yankees scouting and evaluation methods since you became GM of the Yankees?
Brian Cashman: “Iâ€™d like to think that â€¦ (his phone rings) Excuse me a minute.”
(At this point, he walked out of the room with his phone and I was left standing in the clubhouse. After five minutes, I went looking and found him in the batting cage on the phone. He finished up and we continued the interview back in the clubhouse. No, I have no idea who was the phone.)
Here is Part 2 of the interview and the audio, the remaining eight questions:
Back to Evanâ€™s question: How have new statistics and methods of analysis changed the Yankees’ scouting and evaluation methods since you became GM of the Yankees?
Brian Cashman: “Iâ€™ve been educated. Sometimes your eyes can, you have a perception of a player or of a season or seasons that take place and statistics, thereâ€™s a number of statistics I believe, I have learned and been educated that can challenge your perceptions and thatâ€™s, if you come across some statistics that â€¦ Iâ€™m trying to think of the how the best way to say it, essentially the end game is thereâ€™s a number of statistics that Iâ€™ve learned through people like (Yankees director of quantitative analysis) Mike Fishman that have opened my eyes, that have led me to understand that certain players arenâ€™t necessarily what you perceive them to be. And itâ€™s prevented me from making acquisitions and saving me from losing a certain prospect as well as taking on money that would have been a waste that earlier in my career I would have done. I donâ€™t want to name a player, but for instance, thereâ€™s a left-handed reliever with some arm strength that I know earlier in my career I would I have gravitated to more because heâ€™s left-handed and the arm strength was there and he had a reputation. But when you walk through the statistical analysis of the actual consistent performance of that player it kind of broke down those perceptions and reality set it. It made me stand down and I saved more than a few million dollars and a player that was a young prospect whoâ€™s considered an asset. Early in my years that was something I probably would have finished off rather than did the extra time to study and dissect and then back down or stand down.”
Rob M. and many others asked: If you could have a do-over on one move you have made in the past ten years, which would it be?
Brian Cashman: “Itâ€™d have to be Mike Lowell to the Marlins for three pitching prospects (Ed Yarnall, Todd Noel and Mark Johnson) as we rebuilt our system. We did like those three pitchers we got back, but they went up in smoke with injuries and a lack of performance. That turned out to be â€¦ we re-signed Scott Brosius to a three-year deal. In an attempt to rebuild the system with something we were lacking heavily at the time, we werenâ€™t good at producing pitching so we tried to go outside the organization to acquire pitching and we acquired some high-end, talented pitching that didnâ€™t work out. That was a bad deal.”
Sanjay asked: Can you name the minor league position player who you believe will make an impact with the Yankees this year? Anybody in particular who has caught your eye?
Brian Cashman: “Brett Gardner.”
Giselle asked: When did you first become interested in working in baseball and at what point did you realize that you wanted to be general manager of the Yankees?
Brian Cashman: “Wow, I can answer that. To this day you wonder if you want to be the GM of the Yankees. Itâ€™s such a difficult position. I love what I do, donâ€™t misunderstand me, but itâ€™s a great responsibility. I never aspired to be the GM of the Yankees. If anything, I saw enough times how difficult that job was. Youâ€™d say to yourself, â€˜Man.â€™ Thereâ€™s a number of occasions as I worked my way up the ladder â€¦ it wasnâ€™t with, â€˜One day I want to get to that position.â€™ It never crossed my mind until George offered it to me. And at that point I was trying to convince Bob Watson to change his mind about stepping down before I accepted. So â€¦ at what point? There was probably never a point I thought about being the GM of the Yankees.”
My follow-up: Did you want to work in baseball when you were a kid?
Brian Cashman: â€œI wanted to play. I played four years of college ball (at Catholic University in Washington) and probably up until my senior year I had visions of taking the next step and seeing if there was a potential pro career in there. But after a few tryouts I started to learn that wasnâ€™t the case and after working with the Yankees as an intern in the pro scouting department, I realized how great the talent is nationally and how I was just a big fish in a little pond so to speak.â€
Mike from North Carolina asked: Do you ever look at fan web sites or blogs or read the media to see what their feelings about the team are. Does that ever impact anything you do?
Brian Cashman: â€œNever impact. Well, you know, I wonâ€™t say that. Iâ€™m open to good ideas. So I connect to LoHud, I want to see what youâ€™re writing. But I also read NoMass.org. Iâ€™ll … Scouts.com. Iâ€™ll read blogs now and then. You can get a good idea in many forms. It doesnâ€™t matter to me if itâ€™s someone whoâ€™s a member of my coaching staff, my pro scouting staff, a member of the media, Joe Fan. If itâ€™s a good idea, itâ€™s still a good idea. It doesnâ€™t matter where it originated.”
My follow-up: So what people think doesnâ€™t necessarily influence you?
Brian Cashman: â€œWell if people are mad at something we choose. If I pursue what I think is a good idea and people donâ€™t like that, I donâ€™t care. If thatâ€™s what youâ€™re telling me, I donâ€™t care about that. It bothers me that people are upset. But itâ€™s not going to â€¦ Iâ€™ve think Iâ€™ve proven now over time that Iâ€™ll go against the grain.”
Chris asked: When you’re dealing with a player agent or a GM, and he tells you that he’s got such-and-such an offer on the table from another team. How do you know thatâ€™s the truth? Is there a way to verify it, or do you go on the honor principle?
Brian Cashman: “If youâ€™re dealing with an agent, I canâ€™t verify it until after the fact. Every time I close out a negotiation with somebody with a signing or if that player eventually signs with somebody else, I will talk. What agents will typically do or say is, â€˜Hey, I got the following offer from the following club.â€™ I write everything down and I crosscheck that information after and I keep a list of who tells the truth and who doesnâ€™t tell the truth and here are the examples. Iâ€™ll call out the agents on it. Iâ€™ll say, â€˜I found out you lied to me. I talked to Joe Blow and they said thatâ€™s not true and you said it was and Iâ€™m just letting you know I take notes to this stuff. Now I know that youâ€™re a bullshitter.â€™ Or it builds your credibility. If somebody says they got this and for five years every time I crosscheck the guyâ€™s never been wrong, heâ€™s always told the truth, then he goes up the credibility scale. Heâ€™ll be more believable down the line to me when weâ€™re negotiating. General managers have different ways than other clubs when they present things. You have your scouts; we all have our connections in other organizations to tend to find out and verify whether theyâ€™re down the tracks with a particular trade. But in terms of potential players or free agents, thereâ€™s nothing you can do. You have to fly blind.”
Tommy asked: Can you tell us a little about your day-to-day dialogue with both Hank and Hal? Are they hands on guys? Do you enjoy working with them?
Brian Cashman: â€œIt varies depending on where weâ€™re at, if itâ€™s home or road. Theyâ€™re involved with varies different business entities. I talk a few times a week, basically. Itâ€™s not a daily, hourly dialogue. Iâ€™m still more engaged with George Steinbrenner and Randy Levine. I certainly keep Hal and Hank abreast of every situation that develops but weâ€™re not in touch on every little aspect. Itâ€™s more, â€˜Hereâ€™s a decision that might be coming. Hereâ€™s something that was just presented.â€™ You do approvals on the following issues. â€˜What do you think? Hereâ€™s my recommendation. The media, should we take them (on the charter) to Virginia Tech?â€™ I would call and ask Hal and Hank if they minded that. Stuff like that. But on the little stuff, no.â€
My follow-up: â€œHave you enjoyed working with them so far?
Brian Cashman: â€œYes.â€
Neil asked: What do you think is the most significant move you have made as GM of the Yankees? For good or bad?
Brian Cashman: â€œI donâ€™t know if you can say oneâ€™s significant over another. This is how many years I have done this? Ten or 11? This is my 11th year. It varies. It depends on where the organization is. There are a number of moves we made to finish off championship runs. Like 2000, when we built that team on the run. In 2000, we changed over a big part of that roster in season to get our third championship in three years and then our fourth world championship appearance in five years. That was pretty special. But I think after 05, making the tough decision to take the steps back to rebuild the farm system and be patient and try to teach patience where patience doesnâ€™t exist within the recent history of this franchise. I think thatâ€™s going to be a big turning point for this franchise for a long time.â€
My follow-up: So there wasnâ€™t one significant â€¦ getting Alex (Rodriguez)? There wasnâ€™t one big move you look back on and say that was the biggest think youâ€™ve done?
Brian Cashman: â€œNo. Weâ€™ve been involved in so many big moves. Alex was such a big move. Roger Clemensâ€™ acquisition was such a big move back after the â€˜98 season where were 125-50. In 1999 we changed that club in spring training because I felt honestly we were going to be stagnant and no one worked as hard as Roger Clemens. I thought, â€˜All right, David Wells was running around that winter partying and enjoying himself and he was going to come in out of shape.â€™ I was like, â€˜Weâ€™re going to move Roger, bring him in. Bring new life, bring new energy and we won in â€™99 and went forward. You can talk about Alex. You can talk about Roger. You can talk about David Justice. I canâ€™t pinpoint one to be honest. Weâ€™re involved in so many.â€
Me: That was it. On behalf of the people who sent in the questions, thanks for doing this. We appreciate you doing this.
Brian Cashman: â€œYou got it. Thanks, bro.â€
Thanks again to everybody who e-mailed in questions. Please don’t be offended if your question wasn’t selected. There were so many good ones
Please see our previous Q&A session with these Yankees:
and Phil Hughes.
We’ll be doing this again later this season. Jorge Posada is on my list of candidates along with Johnny Damon. I’m also hopeful that Joe Girardi will agree as well. I’d love to get A-Rod involved but I’m not sure he would agree to do it. But we’ll see.