The Yankees promoted Brian Cashman to general manager in February of 1998.
Dan Duquette was GM of the Red Sox at the time. Mike Port, Theo Epstein (twice), Ben Cherington (twice), Dave Dombrowski, and Chaim Bloom have followed him with various titles. That doesn’t count Jed Hoyer, who was co-GM with Cherington for 44 days when Epstein briefly quit after the 2005 season. Or the 48 days that four assistant GMs — Raquel Ferreira, Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero, and Zack Scott — ran the team last fall after Dombrowski was fired.
Outside of what amounted to nine seasons for Epstein, the Red Sox have had a parade of executives come and go while Cashman has lasted 22-plus years in New York.
The Yankees are 2,098-1,462 under Cashman, the best record in baseball in that time, with four championships. The Red Sox have the second-best record at 1,978-1,585, and also with four championships.
The Yankees have 13 division titles under Cashman, the Sox five in that time.
“Obviously, the Red Sox have had a lot of success with how they run their operation,” Cashman said. “Whether they make changes or don’t make changes, the bottom line is Boston has been successful.”
As somebody who competes with the Sox, Cashman pays close attention to the comings and goings of executives at Fenway Park. In a way, it makes his job harder.
“I know that John Henry and Tom Werner and Sam Kennedy aren’t afraid to make tough decisions if they think it’s the right thing to do,” Cashman said. “From afar I’ve always respected that.
“It’s always easy to do what everybody expects you to do versus doing what you think is the right thing to do and dealing with the slings and arrows while you’re doing it. They’ve always shown no fear doing what they think is the best thing. Moving forward rather than staying in the past.
“That doesn’t mean they have a perfect record. None of us do. But I do respect their no-fear factor.”
Dombrowski built a championship team in 2018 by trading top prospects to acquire Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, and signing free agents David Price and J.D. Martinez to expensive deals to supplement a strong homegrown core.
Bloom plans to build the farm system and create a deeper, more sustainable roster.
Cashman is curious to see how the differences will play out.
“I’m always watching how people run their operation just in case I can learn something from it and grow from it and see how that style may work or not work,” he said. “You want to cross-check how we do our business.
“I think Chaim Bloom is going to be a fantastic general manager. From my interactions with him, he’s got intellect. He’s got personality. He’s got empathy. I just feel like all of those attributes are going to serve him extremely well as he navigates running a big-market operation, one of the best franchises in the industry.”
Cashman is a good model for Bloom. The Yankees’ farm system produced Miguel Andujar, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino, while along the way flexing their financial muscles for Aroldis Chapman, Giancarlo Stanton, and most recently Gerrit Cole.
The Yankees have done it both ways, building a strong pipeline of prospects and spending piles of money when needed. Gone are the days of George Steinbrenner impetuously throwing money at every problem. Cashman has proven adept at minor moves that create smaller edges and improve the overall roster.
Over the years, the fierce rivalry between the teams has kept Cashman from being too friendly with any of his Red Sox counterparts.
“Theo and I always had a really healthy relationship,” he said. “But at the same time he wanted to beat me and I wanted to beat him. There was always that side of it.
“It’s so much easier now that he’s with the Cubs. I can actually make trades with him. I’ve got a great relationship with Sam Kennedy that has maintained since he was [with the Yankees] as an intern.”
Outside of Billy Beane, who became Oakland’s GM in 1997, Cashman has the longest tenure in the majors. He survived working for Steinbrenner, a demanding fan base, and some long droughts between championships.
The Yankees last won it all in 2009, and expectations will be high once baseball starts again. After signing Cole to a nine-year, $342 million contract, the only acceptable finish is a championship.
“I know how I’ve maintained. I’ve been open to change,” Cashman said. “One thing I’m very proud of is demanding that we change and grow and hire people who have that type of mind-set, to be progressive.
“You walk around our stadium and you see the tradition we have, all the rings. None of that serves us in the present. That’s the past. What are we doing in the present to secure a bright future?
“We didn’t have a mental-skills program. We didn’t have an analytics department. We have those now. We have a performance-science group. We try to make sure that if we’re not in the forefront, we’re not far behind.
“That’s why spending time with teams in the NBA and NFL and the Premier League is important. What are they doing? Why are they doing that? That’s something we can utilize to make us better. You have to stay connected.
“What serves us well is not being arrogant and thinking we have it all figured out. You have to be out in the marketplace and see what you need.”
Cashman, 52, still enjoys the chase and wants to keep doing it as long as he can.
“I love it,” he said. “I love being part of a team that’s all pulling in the same direction trying to do something special in a competitive environment. We get graded on a daily basis.”
The ethics of surgery
Chris Sale of the Red Sox, Tyler Beede of the Giants, and Noah Syndergaard of the Mets have all had (or are scheduled to have) Tommy John surgery since baseball was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some states have prohibited elective surgery because of the crisis, yet major leaguers are still being operated on.
A few things are at play.
Surgeons who treat major leaguers often work for a private orthopedic clinic, not a facility that would treat patients with COVID-19.
The Florida branch of the Hospital for Special Surgery, where Syndergaard went, lists ligament tears as essential surgeries because of the possibility of long-term nerve damage. The same would be true for Beede and Sale.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a Los Angeles-based surgeon, was blunt.
“I know that I’m going to get criticized for taking care of these kinds of guys, but it’s essential to their livelihoods,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “If you have somebody’s career at stake and they lose two seasons instead of one, I would say that is not a nonessential or unimportant elective procedure.”
An argument can certainly be made that any medical equipment should be dedicated to COVID-19, even a small amount. But it’s also unrealistic to think that surgeons who make their living caring for professional athletes will put that aside for months at a time.
For Sale, who has a long-term contract, finances aren’t an issue. But Beede, a former first-round pick with less than a year of service time, would lose a potentially lucrative period of his career if he missed two full seasons instead of one. The same is true for Syndergaard, who is two years away from free agency.
There is no easy answer. It would be noble if a player passed on surgery for the greater good of a few surgical masks being repurposed. But how much would that accomplish?
My solution: If a player truly needs surgery, the team should explain why that is and donate a healthy sum to a hospital in its city that is treating victims of the pandemic.
Even if Sale is requesting it, the Red Sox hiding the details of his surgery is a terrible look.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ One of the 2018 champions, Ian Kinsler, joined Team Israel to prepare for the Olympics. Kinsler, 37, retired after last season and joined San Diego’s front office. But he still hopes to play for Israel in the Olympics, which have been pushed back to 2021.
By virtue of winning the Africa/Europe qualifier, Israel has a spot in the six-team field. Two other former Red Sox players, Ryan Lavarnway and Danny Valencia, also are on the roster.
▪ A tour through social media shows Sox players are doing the best they can to stay in some kind of baseball shape during the pandemic.
Mitch Moreland installed a batting cage in his new barn. Xander Bogaerts is working out in Aruba with his twin brother, Jair, a retired minor leaguer.
Michael Chavis and Christian Vazquez are hitting the weights. Chavis also slammed a home run off his girlfriend, Sarah, with a plastic bat in their backyard, then paraded around the bases.
“She’s competitive,” Chavis said.
▪ Lefthander Trey Ball, the seventh overall pick of the 2013 draft, remains a minor league free agent. Bell landed a $2.7 million bonus from the Sox but was 33-46 with a 5.02 ERA.
The Sox resorted to trying him in the outfield, but he was 3 for 23 and struck out 10 times.
Players taken after Ball in the first round that year include Tim Anderson, Aaron Judge, Michael Lorenzen, Sean Manaea, Austin Meadows, and Hunter Renfroe.
Owners, players plan for future
Relations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association have been, at best, frosty for some time. But the pandemic forced the sides together to come up with a plan for a shortened season.
The alternative — bickering about money during a national crisis — would have been unseemly for everybody involved.
The good news for Mookie Betts and other pending free agents is that they will receive credit for service time even if no games are played this season.
MLB and the MLBPA agreed that players would receive the same service time they did last season. If any part of the season does get played, service time would be prorated.
But Betts will almost certainly not get the $27 million on his contract. As part of the agreement, owners paid the players $170 million now. But that is the extent of their obligations if no games are played.
Players with guaranteed contracts would receive $150,000. If games are played, salaries will be prorated.
The players had little leverage there as commissioner Rob Manfred had the right to suspend salaries in the event of a national emergency. The victory for the players was in gaining the service time and securing their future earnings.
The draft could be pushed back to July 20 and limited to as few as five rounds. Any player who signs after that would be limited to a $20,000 bonus.
The 2021 draft could be dropped to 20 rounds.
This is good news for college coaches at all levels, as more players will likely elect to delay their professional careers. Owners also earned the right to pay out signing bonuses over time.
Owners have long wanted the draft changed. This is the start of that, with more to come when the sides work toward a new collective bargaining agreement. This is tied in with MLB’s desire to decrease the size of the minor leagues. Fewer drafted players means less need for lower-level teams.
Teams selected 1,217 players in the 40-round draft last year — 167 in the first five rounds.
Teams also can postpone the international signing period from July to January.
In addition, the owners and players agreed on the possibility of a different format in the postseason and playing games at neutral sites, if needed.
For now, the season will not start until games are determined not be a health risk for fans to attend. Given that the coronavirus has hit some parts of the country harder than others, flexibility could be needed.
There also will be a temporary freeze on transactions, which explains why the Red Sox and other teams made a flurry of moves Thursday.
If the season is delayed into the summer, the belief is teams will furlough some full-time staff members. For now, they are guaranteed pay only through the end of April.
Two prominent Yankees — Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — should be ready to play when the season starts, which wouldn’t have been the case otherwise. Judge’s broken rib and collapsed lung are healing. “This is hopefully a time where he can get that proper rest to allow that rib to heal properly. Hopefully when it’s time to play ball again, Aaron is with us,” manager Aaron Boone said. Stanton is over a right calf strain and would be able to play if games were going on . . . As MLB makes plans, you wonder if it will matter. In Japan, the NPL scheduled its Opening Day on April 24 and teams were playing exhibition games in empty ballparks to prepare. But three members of the Hanshin Tigers tested positive for the virus . . . Edwin Jackson is with Arizona on a minor league contract. The 36-year-old righthander is hoping to play what would be an 18th season in the majors. Jackson, who has played for 14 teams, has pitched 1,960 innings — 980 at home and 980 on the road. His 1,040 earned runs and 318 starts are split right down the middle, too . . . Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright donated $250,000 to More Than Baseball, a nonprofit organization that is aiding minor leaguers with day-to-day expenses during the pandemic. Good for Wainwright. But it remains an embarrassment for baseball that so many minor leaguers have to take what amounts to a vow of poverty to pursue the dream of playing in the majors. It would be a competitive advantage for teams to pay minor leaguers a living wage so they can focus on development . . . What would have been a fun event this coming Friday had to be called off because of the pandemic. Former Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster planned to bring his “Off The Mound” show to “Big Night Live” as a fund-raiser for the Foundation to be Named Later. Pedro Martinez, Bronson Arroyo, and Mike O’Malley were on the guest list. The event will be rescheduled . . . Happy birthday to Pat Light, who is 29. The Red Sox took Light with the 37th overall pick of the 2012 draft. He appeared in two major league games in 2016 before being traded to Minnesota for lefthander Fernando Abad. Light retired after the 2018 season.