Matt Taibbi really hates Brian Cashman

Given the heat seeking missile that Matt Taibbi sends up Brian Cashman’s rear with this article in the May issue of Men’s Journal, I can only assume that Cashman ran over Taibbi’s dog and slept with his wife. Or vice-versa. Or maybe he had a threesome with them and then ran them both over:

. . . objectively speaking, the job of New York Yankees general manager should be the single most failure-proof position not only in sports but in all of human society. Giving a normal, red-blooded, pattern-baldness-suffering American male access to the Steinbrenner fortune and asking him to buy 25 baseball players a year in an unregulated market is no different, in any meaningful way, from handing Sarah Jessica Parker a blank check and asking her to fill a three-bedroom apartment with shoes and dresses. And we’re not even asking her to get good deals. All we ask is that the outfits match.

It’s obscene that a job like this even exists. But for someone to have this job and #### it up is just appalling, the kind of gross disrespect for our own good fortune that makes it hard for us Americans to look the Third World in the eye. What Brian Cashman has accomplished as GM of the Yankees over the past few years, in turning a perennial World Series champ into a third-place also-ran, is like walking into a backstage party for Led Zeppelin with a two-pound bag of coke and a 28-inch penis and failing for a whole night to get laid.

It just goes on and on like that. And I suppose it’s entertaining on some level to see someone work so hard to construct such complicated put-downs, but ultimately the piece is a showy, ignorant mess. Taibbi fails to grasp the same thing every other casual Yankee critic fails to grasp, and that’s that contrary to his premise, the Yankees’ GM is not responsible for “buying 25 baseball players a year in an unregulated market.” Indeed, it’s a highly regulated market, with many of the best players being completely off-limits to Cashman until they’re not quite as good anymore. Add in the fact that he answers to many masters and a rabid press corps. and fan base, and the notion that Cashman should be gone simply because he hasn’t picked better players from the allegedly endless player menu is rendered even more absurd. Almost as absurd as Taibbi failing to mention what, if anything, Cashman should have done differently over the past decade. Indeed, the whole piece reeks of smug hindsight.

Taibbi’s larger point — that Cashman has always played the Yankee political game well and has been safe because of it — is largely correct. I fail to grasp, however, how this makes him such a loathsome figure. To me it makes him kind of smart. Taibbi has one other valid point, and it’s that Cashman made a mistake in not trading the young arms and Cano for Johan Santana. Like everything else in the article, however, it’s a judgment aided by a hell of a lot of hindsight. I can’t remember what I wrote about it at the time, but as I sit here today, I kind of remember thinking that the Yankees should have pulled the trigger. But it wasn’t anything as clear-cut a case then as it was at the end of Kennedy and Hughes’ awful 2008. Certainly not clear enough to justify the derision Taibbi rains on Cashman here.

At least there is one small bit of value to this article: I now know that if I want to get published in Men’s Journal, all I need to do is drop bombs for 15-20 paragraphs and froth at the mouth a little.

Wait, a lot.

(thanks to Neate for the heads up)

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  1. Connecticut Mike said...

    I think the thing that has to be considered when evaluating Cashman is the impact that Big Steinbrenner, Little Steinbrenner, and their cronies in Tampa have had on his decision-making process over the years.  And the problem is, we just do not know what Cashman would have done had he been calling all the shots. 

    The Red Sox have emphasized building from within in order to control costs.  The Red Sox are probably a good model for what the Yankees should be doing so they don’t get burned on long-term contracts to declining/about to decline veterans, a la Jason Giambi, Posada, the way the A-Rod deal seems destined to turn out, and probably the upcoming Jeter deal. 

    This is not to imply the Yankees should totally eschew the free agent market, just that they could probably maximize their free agent budget by having some cheap homegrown players.  They do seem to be moving in that direction.

  2. Justin said...

    This is basically what Taibbi does—yell.  A lot.  Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s really annoying, but particularly knowing what he’s talking about isn’t a prerequisite.  That said, Cashman hating is a popular and unfair hobby.  I’m fairly amazed he made it this far.

  3. hermitfool said...

    A typical Matt Taibbi piece, develop a theme, cheapen the language, ignore whatever inconsistencies remain when you’re done., like for instance beating up Cashman twice, once for not signing veteran Santana and again for hiring hiring Tex and Sabethia. But above all, whatever else you do while writing the article, don’t get off your dead ass and do any real reporting, don’t talk to people in the business who might have informed opinions, don’t look at possible real world outcomes of different choices.

    Taibbi is not a credible reporter, no matter what the subject.

  4. pete said...

    I’ve long held the opinion that Taibbi is a smug, self-righteous dbag and this article only further cements it.

    Being Brian Cashman isn’t challenging in the same way that being, say, Mark Shapiro is, but it’s still a damn tough job. Yeah, he has unlimited resources, but:

    1. You’re limited to what other teams make available, either by way of letting players go or being willing to dump contracts.

    2. The fans, media, and ownership are pushing you to sign or trade for the biggest names available all the time, even if you know better. The first point makes this particularly problematic because the majority of players who become available over the course of a season or in free agency are fundamentally flawed.

    3. You get viciously attacked when you do the right thing and it doesn’t work out perfectly, like the ARod signing or holding onto Hughes, Kennedy, and Cano instead of trading for one year of Santana. Or like he will be for signing three of the best players on the market last offseason if they don’t win the World Series.

    4. He’s never able to take a step back to take two steps forward. Even if he had Casey Blake sitting on his bench last year, he couldn’t have traded him for Carlos Santana because guys like Taibbi would’ve run him out of town on a rail when the team missed the playoffs. Everyone else in baseball is stockpiling young players any way they can, and Cashman is always forced to pile on names. Yes, one of the driving factors of the move towards young players is cost, but there are many other advantages (like lower injury risk, short-term commitments, the potential to end up with superstars, etc) that the Yankees can’t just pay to go away.

  5. Vin said...

    Yeah, this is basically Taibbi’s shtick. Build a straw man, tear him down tortuously constructed and frequently vulgar put-downs. He’s actually quite good at it, and sometimes he’s funny, but it gets tiresome very quickly.

    I used to be a big Taibbi fan during his New York Press days because a) I was in college, and so susceptible to such shenanigans, and b) it was during the first Bush term, and seeing as there were some truly loathsome people doing some truly loathsome things, it actually seemed appropriate. Now, though, it just comes off as self-indulgent, petty, and annoying.

  6. Moses said...

    Craig you act like there is a standard or something. This reminds me how newspaper guys in the press box would talk about bloggers like yourself a few years ago now who assumes the elitest position. You don’t like his target Cashman, but you all have your pet people to attack because they don’t subscribe to your baseball belief system. The Kansas City Royals are a regular target -I still remember to GM bashing for signing Gil Meche 3 years ago.
    I agree this didn’t teach me anything but 99% of baseball posts I read don’t teach me anything new it’s the most glutted market on the net- and most of you are either writing stuff just to write stuff to hold on to your “expert” status or a few of you (ahem) think that you are writing something deep and meaningful- it’s not, at least this guy knows it.

  7. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Moses—the standard is reason.  Taibbi obviously has a gripe with Cashman. Great. He’s entitled to it. But rather than just showing off how vulgar and clever he can be, why doesn’t he actually set forth an argument with evidence and some level of persuasion? What should Cashman have done differently and when? Why is Cashman a schmo for going after high priced talent like Sabathia and Teixeira but also a schmo for not going after Santana? The common denominator in that criticism is not Cashman’s decisions, it’s that Cashman is involved, which makes it a driveby, not a cogent critique.

    To use your terms, what’s Taibbi’s belief system here that causes him to take such offense at Taibbi? There’s a small core of legitimate criticism of Cashman in that piece, bloated out with all kinds of showy putdowns.  That whole piece amounts to “Cashman sucks.”  Which is really damn empty when stretched out over 17 paragraphs.

    As for me, you bet I take issue with people with whom I disagree. And over the course of many thousands of posts in the past couple of years I have laid out what I feel to be a pretty obvious set of standards on which I base my criticism.  If I simply came out blazing with no basic set of ideals or philosophical grounding—mine being a lite version of sabermetric thinking and evidence-based arguments—you’d be right to dismiss me.  Just like I dismiss Taibbi here for providing no baseline against which he’s judging Cashman and no evidence for what he feels to be Cashman’s shortcomings as a GM.

    Ultimately you’re entitled to your opinion, Moses, but if you don’t think there’s anything worth reading around here, what are you doing here?

  8. moses said...

    Wow for a guy who makes a lot of snarky comments daily it takes some cajones to rip another for doing the same.
    It’s funny sorry – it is- and there is some truth to it hyperbole aside
    your’s however is just more self rightous same old same old

  9. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig—-Good call. It’s an ignorant, uncivil and unenlightening post, and about as far from your content in quality as one could imagine. And just because so many who write on the web refuse to observe basic standards of fairness, coherence, civility and respect doesn’t mean those standards don’t exist, or shouldn’t be defended.

    I can see why you would be moved to defend yourself against Moses’ attack (I seldom can resist bait like that myself), but really, it’s not necessary. The only way to improve the quality of what’s on the web is to call crap what it is. Keep up the good work.

  10. Moses said...

    You pull the most desperate card- “why are you here is you don’t like this”- guess the same reason you are reading a blog from a guy you have no respect for- I am not name calling as you are to this guy I’m responding to the “outrage” done to the noble baseball blogger-

    That’s my problem with Hardball- anyone I mean anyone raising a counter comment gets the slam-discourse is absolutely discouraged on Hardball- The elitism that has taken over sabermetrics is humerous. I get the turf wars as everyone and their cousin is now a baseball expert so you have to carve out the territory and this is how it goes. I’m not saying you are not a smart guy or don’t know anything about baseball. I’m saying you are guilty of doing the same thing you rail against except you are taking the “classy” road whatever that is. I can understand your stance but the personal attack on the guy is disingenious which only encouraged more blood from the peanut gallery comments. There are a million ways to make points on specifics that Cashman made mistakes and asking for the author to do so- you went for humor and sarcasam which is fine just don’t act like your above it all.

    Sabermetrics needs a new revolution- the country club is looking awfully familiar

  11. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Moses—As a certified expert in snarkology, I’d take issue with the assertion that what Taibbi is doing is actually snark in the first place.  Snark implies a sly and cynical cleverness.  Taibbi’s piece is about as sly as a sledgehammer to the forehead and about as clever as a 13 year-old boy losing a battle against his hormones.

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with snark as long as it’s employed to make a point or two.  What’s Taibbi’s beyond “Brian Cashman sucks”?

  12. J. McCann said...

    The Led Zepplin party line was funny, but 28” is too big.

    Two things:

    1. The playoffs are largely a crapshoot, and an average playoff team only wins the WS in 1 of 8 appearances.  (Even a dominant AL team has maybe a 1 in 5 chance).  The Yankees last won the WS 8 playoff appearances ago, so I guess they are due.

    2. Yes the Yankees need to show some balls with FA’s and their veteran players during contract negotiations, and they have largely done so in the last couple of years (but why pay 100M more to A-Rod than anyone else offered?).  But even the very best, rich teams need to miss the playoffs once in awhile to tear down and rebuild.  The Yankees superdynasty of 49 to 64 missed the playoffs twice and reloaded.

  13. Kelly said...

    I always have trouble with the “New York media” argument.  If he doesn’t want the media issue, then Cashman should seek employment in a smaller market.  As it is, he’s simply in the town with the most talking heads.  Having them “jump down his throat” shouldn’t be the major defense of how hard is job is.

    I was entertained by the article because I’m tired of pretending to care what the Yankees do and I think he has a valid point that, at this point in the country, watching greedy, overpaid suits fail wildly does sound like entertainment. 

    But yeah, I’ll take Craig over Matt any day because I’m just not that angry.

  14. Jake D said...

    Cashman’s job is a lot harder than what this guy makes it out to be.

    1.  He deals with a media market that is ready to jump down his throat if he makes a mistake.

    2.  He’s had a good amount of just sheer bad luck.  At the time of the trades,  everyone LOVED Jeff Weaver as an emerging ace.  Everyone loved Javier Vazquez, as an emerging ace.  Kevin Brown while healthy was a good pitcher.  The Boston RedSox and/or the Mariners reportedly outbid the Yankees for Carl Pavano, but Pavano wanted to play for the Yankees.  There have been reports that Theo Epstein threw chairs in his hotel room, when the Yankees got Jose Contreras.  People likes the Randy Johnson move.  Cashman reportedly wanted Vlad over Sheff, which was a clear Steinbrenner move. 

    3.  Elaborating on the last point, he has to deal with the Steinbrenners.  We all know about George, and if you learned anything from the Santana discussions last year,  Hank Steinbrenner isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and he’s someone who owns Veto power over Cashman. 

    4. He can’t afford to take 2 steps back, like others have mentioned.  The Rays built their team with the farm, the Indians took some years backward, the D-Backs, Dodgers, Marlins all do the same.  Cashman doesn’t have that luxury.

    5.  It ties into what he can’t do with prospects.  Hughes was the best pitching prospect in the minors according to BA.  With the D-Backs, he’d be in the rotation right now.  Cashman has to take risks with impact now prospects,  he can’t allow them to grow with the team, and we’ve seen time and time again that prospects struggle at the onset.  If the Red Sox had any other options at 2B, Dustin Pedroia would’ve been a bench player after his initial performance.  Zack Grienke would’ve been in the minors if he was with the Yankees. 

    6. The Yankees do have prospects, and in the future years have CC, Joba, Burnett, Wang, Hughes, Kennedy, Horne, McAlister, Betances, Brackman,Vizcaino and others in the system.  The Santana trade with the extension basically meant the Yankees were signing an ace, AND losing their top prospects. 

    7. Main problem for Cashman is that his main rival Theo has done a much better job, thus makes his works seem less legitimate.

  15. The Ghost of Phil Rizzuto said...

    I haven’t read the article yet but some things Cashman should have done differently (or more correctly, convinced the guys in the Boss Bunker down in Tampa to do differently):

    1. Sign Carlos Beltran in the 2004 off-season.

    2. Don’t let 3/5 of your starting rotation, especially Andy Pettitte, walk after the 2003 season.

    3. Get some better bench players instead of throwing big dollars at middle relief pitchers (Karsay, Farnsworth, Hammond, etc.) who are among the most fungible players in the game.

    4. DON”T SIGN KEI !#$&ING; IGAWA!!!!!

    For the record, I was on-board with the Randy Johnson trade and supported (and still support) the decision not to trade Hughes for Santana.

  16. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Moses: I gave you an open invitation to discourse with my previous comment:

    1. Why doesn’t Taibbi actually set forth an argument with evidence of Cashman’s poor choices as GM?

    2. What should Cashman have done differently and when?

    3. Why is Cashman a schmo for going after high priced talent like Sabathia and Teixeira but also a schmo for not going after Santana?

    Taibbi doesn’t answer any of these and you, as his defender don’t either.  I can’t speak for you, but I suspect Taibbi’s negligence on these points was because he didn’t care about actually analyzing Brian Cashman’s performance as a GM. Rather, he cared only about writing something incendiary and attention-grabbing. And good for him, he did it. Which, as I’ve said, is fine. There’s obviously a market for this sort of thing, and congratulations to him for exploiting it.

    But please don’t get into the bomb-throwing racket and then expect not to have a couple thrown at you.

  17. pete said...

    I always have trouble with the “New York media” argument.  If he doesn’t want the media issue, then Cashman should seek employment in a smaller market.  As it is, he’s simply in the town with the most talking heads.  Having them “jump down his throat” shouldn’t be the major defense of how hard is job is.

    Obviously he’s willing to deal with it, which is why he’s stayed there.

    The media isn’t just an annoyance. It stirs up public opinion and creates expectations that often make it very difficult for Cashman to do the right thing, even when he knows what it is, if it’s unpopular.

  18. haje16 said...

    this is written, afterall, by a boy who gave us “The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of The Pope”. a piece which ultimately saw the instant halting of an otherwise return to form for New York City alternative weekly, New York Press. rarely does Taibbi offer solutions or alternatives but he can rile a crowd that much is for sure..its just all too often more than a tad dull when all’s been said and done.

  19. Travis M. Nelson said...

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think there ever was a Cano/Hughes/Kennedy for Santana option on the table.  I think it was Hughes or Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Melky Cabrera for Santana, which makes it seem even worse that Cashman refused to pull the trigger. 

    So he’s wrong, and he’s a jerk.

  20. Petey said...

    I think Taibbi is out of line. Cashman has done a great job. The Yankees farm system is the envy of the league. That $275 mil deal for A Rod is a great move, assuming A Rod will return to form without steroids. The Sabathia deal was a great deal, even though the Yankees outbid the Brewers by $60 mil. Brilliant! How does he manage to get these deals done?

  21. dougj1 said...

    No GM in the game is luckier than Cashman. Can any of you give me the name of any GM with at least 10 years with the same club sho has never had to look for a; Starting Shortstop, a starting Catcher or a Closer?…….He is faced with having to look for less key personnel than anyone in the game, has a bigger budget, and still fails.

  22. Tom said...

    Remember that Cashman’s incompetence is all that is keeping baseball’s competitive balance.  Thankfully for the rest of baseball’s fans, he usually makes the wrong decision.  Sheffield over Vlad, passing on Beltran and then signing Johnny Damon the following year, not trading for Santana because he didn’t want to give up prospects.  Now maybe he was instrumental (or maybe not I have no idea) in drafting and signing one of the greatest cores in baseball history (Jeter, Rivera, Williams, Posada) but that doesn’t overcome his rather poor performance as a GM lately.

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