The New York Yankees have made the trade for Alfonso Soriano and they desperately needed him. However, news has come out by Joel Sherman that general manager Brian Cashman did not favor the deal and that it was instead the doing of the ownership led by Hal Steinbrenner. This is very disconcerting and continues a trend that should be very worrying to fans of the Yankees.
Yankees fans might remember the power struggle that took place between Cashman and then-owner George Steinbrenner that resulted in Steinbrenner promising to give his general manager more autonomy in making baseball decisions and less interference. That was in 2005. Since then, Steinbrenner has passed away and his son, Hal, has taken over.
Originally, Hal seemed disinterested in running the team. He left baseball decisions to Cashman and was rarely seen or heard from. That began to change and Hal and his team was behind the signing of Rafael Soriano. Then, the Steinbrenner team was behind the hotly contested negotiation with Derek Jeter.
This past off-season was filled with Hal Steinbrenner and company decisions. Ichiro Suzuki was re-signed to a two-year deal when Cashman wanted to keep next season’s commitments to a minimum for maximum financial flexibility. Cashman desired to spend the money on catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Now, Steinbrenner and company are responsible for bringing in Soriano.
It’s not like these deals weren’t good deals. Perhaps Steinbrenner overpaid for Soriano and treated an icon like Jeter with less respect than was warranted. However, giving Ichiro a two-year deal was a bit overzealous after only two months of good baseball. Suzuki has been okay this season but he is certainly not the same player he was four years ago. Because the money went to Ichiro, the Yankees had to pass on Martin and Schierholtz. Those two players would be significant upgrades over what the Yankees have been trotting out this season and might have precluded the Yankees trading for Vernon Wells and Soriano in an effort to find a right-handed hitting outfielder with pop.
Moving forward, this dynamic cannot continue. One side or the other has to have firm control over the baseball decisions to ensure a fluid and cohesive team is put on the field, unlike this season which has featured 47 different players, mostly the result of injury but also ineffectiveness of those replacements.
If the Yankees wish to return to being the class of the AL East they must have an ownership and front office that are on the same page. Yankee fans remember all too well how George Steinbrenner’s middling cost the Yankees the likes of Willie McGee, Fred McGriff, Doug Drabek and Jay Buhner, three players who went on to have prestigious MLB careers. It also cost the Yankees any shot of competing until then-GM Gene Michael was given full control of the team during George Steinbrenner’s suspension.
With George out of the picture the Yankees were able to draft or sign and develop and keep young players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. With a two-headed front office disaster is the only eventual outcome.
Cashman might decide to take on the front office once again this off-season, demanding the autonomy that was promised to him by George. However, Cashman might also just let it ride and walk away after the 2014 season when his contract is up. Either way, this situation will come to a head and if Cashman loses it could be like the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Bronx all over again.