As expected, the Yankees’ bullpen swap of Andrew Miller for David Robertson was more about economics than an assessment of each pitcher’s potential performance over the next four years. By suggesting that Robertson priced himself out of the Yankees’ plans, GM Brian Cashman admitted as much. Considering the meaningful savings and relative competence of each pitcher, the penny wise choice doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn out to be pound foolish. However, more concerning to Yankee fans should be other statements made by Cashman that suggest both a level of dishonesty and disconnect with the team’s rank and file fan base.
The most eyebrow raising comment from Cashman was his admission that, despite statements to the contrary, the Yankees had no intention of signing both Miller and Robertson, and, in fact, never made their incumbent closer an offer. According to the GM, he did this to prop up Robertson’s market, which is not only a little condescending to the reliever, but also a big fat lie. Undoubtedly, Cashman isn’t the first MLB executive to manipulate the media during a contract negotiation, but his bold-faced admission and use of deception for the perceived benefit of a third party is more unique. What’s more, it’s also contrary to a code of conduct to which Cashman himself has professed to adhere.
In September 2008, Joe Girardi was wrapping up his first turbulent year as Yankee manager, and one of the most common complaints about his stewardship was a tendency toward deception when it came to addressing the media. These allegations came to a head when the media accused Girardi of misleading them about Mariano Rivera’s “cranky shoulder”. According to reports, the GM privately apologized for his manager’s conduct and forced Girardi to make a public apology. The end didn’t justify the means then, so why should it now?
Does Cashman owe the media an apology for his lie? Let them sort that out. Yankee fans should be more concerned about how the team’s GM regards their engagement with the team. After all, Cashman also led them astray, giving false hope to fans who might actually have an emotional attachment to one of the team’s longest tenured players.
Cashman’s dishonesty is only a small part of the story. The bigger issue is the franchise’s increasing disregard for tradition and gradual dissolution of the idea that there is a “Yankee Family”. Robertson is the latest in a growing line of popular Yankee free agents who have been dismissed without a competitive offer. Last year, a half-hearted attempt was made to keep Robinson Cano, and the year before Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were shown the door without an offer. Even before that, the Yankees played hardball with Derek Jeter, of all people. Although being a Yankee doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee, the team has rarely shown such disregard for factoring tradition into its decision making.
At the heart of the team’s new ambivalence toward retaining their own players is the notion that clothes do in fact make the man. “I would think the fan base is connected to the pinstripes”, Cashman stated in defense of the team’s new penchant for letting its own free agents depart, but what are the pinstripes without tradition, and where does that leave the fans?
Do the Yankees still believe they owe it to the fans to build the best possible team each and every season? Is cultivating the franchise’s tradition still worth spending a few extra dollars? Or, is a healthy profit margin just as important as a lofty winning percentage and proud tradition? To this point, the team’s brass has had all the right answers, but their actions have spoken louder than the hollow words. Yankee fans deserve the truth, and it’s time for the team to start telling it.