CROMWELL – Yankees’ Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman shared stories of struggles and strides at Tuesday’s Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting at Crowne Plaza in Cromwell.
Cashman reflected on his 24 years with the team, starting in 1986 when he was a 19-year-old intern with the Yankees scouting department.
Since then, his accomplishments in 11 seasons as general manager – the longest-running Yankees general manager under Steinbrenner— make him one of the most successful in baseball history.
Cashman was the youngest general manager to win a World Series when the Yankees won in 1998, and he is the only general manager to win a World Series in his first three years (1998 – 2000).
He has led the Yankees to the postseason in his first 10 years with the team (1998-2007).
But 2011 seems to be a turning point. The Yankees are no longer the favorite and don’t pull down the highest salaries in baseball – qualities that reflect Yankee rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
“We’re not conceding anything,” said Cashman. “We know the Red Sox are picked to win, but we’ve been in that position before, too.”
Now that Steinbrunner, known as, “The Boss,” has died, he is not forgotten in the Yankee franchise or in Cashman’s eyes.
“The legacy George left is he created a bunch of other Georges,” Cashman said. “The man was so dedicated to winning. [George’s] family is dedicated to winning. Everything I am is because of The Boss.”
Winning might be harder for the Yankees to do this year after losing the deal. With Cliff Lee and stars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez leaving their prime, the Yankees are searching for the right fit to keep them relevant this year in the playoffs.
The biggest blow to the Yankees’ pitching would be Andy Pettitte, retiring after a great 2010 season.
“Andy has talking about being home for years,” said Cashman. “Being from Texas and having to be in New York for six months out of the year can be hard because he has kids and he’s missing important time with them. He’s opting not to play right now but that might change it might not. I told him don’t ‘Brett Favre’ us. You got to be all in and fully dedicated to play. Do I need him? I need him, but I don’t want him to play if his heart’s not in it.”
To prepare for 2011 with hopes of making the playoffs for the 11th time in his career, Cashman developed a mental training program as part of spring training.
“They are learning things like being a good teammate,” said Cashman. “We bring in navy seals to talk to our guys. We want to make sure that the guys know that the guy standing next to them is as all in as they are.”
In his time with the Yankees, the American League East has been the most dominant force to be reckoned with in all of baseball, but Cashman thinks this year will be different.
“It’s not just about the East,” he said. “As we saw last year in the West with the Rangers, other divisions can propose a threat.”
Cashman knows how to win baseball games. The 2011 season has not started and the Yankees always find a way to put money together and bring in exceptional talent to guide them to October baseball.
“My job is all about winning,” said Cashman. “You have to make tough decisions, like when I let Bernie Williams go, Matsui, and Johnny Damon. But when you’re trying to win you can’t think about anything else. You just need to put the best team you can out there.”