With all of the big personalities running around the New York Yankees over the last 25 years, it's been pretty easy for Brian Cashman to avoid the spotlight. Even after he became general manager of the team in 1998, Cashman was seen as a placeholder for the whims of George Steinbrenner instead of an executive capable of making his own decisions.
He'd been with the team since an internship in 1986, his survival on the job meant staying out of the way when Big Stein wanted to make a splashy, stupid acquisition and there were times when it seemed like hot dog vendors had a bigger say in the day-to-day operations of the team than Cashman. After Wednesday's signing of Randy Winn, it's safe to say that those days are long gone.
If they weren't, Johnny Damon would be a member of the Yankees right now and not just because he's a better hitter with a longer Yankee history than Winn. There are a million baseball ways to spin the decision to go with Winn, but when push came to shove, Cashman was willing to let Damon walk so that he could make a larger point about how the Yankees will negotiate going forward. They aren't going to be a soft touch for any free agent that interests them and they aren't going to be used as a way to get more money from other teams.
This is how determined Cashman was to make his point: By giving Winn $2 million, he essentially conceded the point that Damon was worth something close to the $6 million he said was too much money to spend on Damon. It isn't hard to see how differently this game would have gone if Scott Boras hadn't played his games with mystery teams, excessive praise of Damon's abilities and public scorn for anyone who suggested the player wasn't going to get the same $13 million he made in 2009. The Yankees weren't in the bluff-calling business, until Cashman made it part of their operations this offseason.
Call it the Cashman Doctrine, if you're of a political bent, and feel confident about it because there's no other voice in the Yankees that matters right now. Hal Steinbrenner controls the purse strings, but is so removed from the baseball decision making that he's going to acquiese to Cashman every time. Hank Steinbrenner disappeared after tripping over his tongue a dozen times, the rest of Big Stein's old crew has been marginalized and no one else registers on the radar of Yankees power.
It's been Cashman's team in name for a long time, but it is Cashman's team in fact starting right now.