Isn’t Brian Cashman the Best GM in Baseball?

New York magazine is publishing their annual series titled “Reasons to Love New York,” and as of this writing, there are 47 reasons. Why there would need to be any reasons beyond the cronut, Shake Shack, and 24-hour dim sum (or Korean barbecue, take your pick) is not the focus of this discussion. Rather, we’ll discuss reason #26, authored by Will Leitch: Because Sandy Alderson is the Best G.M. in Baseball.

I can hear Izzy’s head exploding right now, followed by the sound of keys mashing right down into the motherboard of his laptop.

Upon seeing the headline, I thought, “oh my, Will Leitch has confused Sandy Alderson with Brian Cashman.” Then I read the story and realized that no, Leitch indeed anointed Sandy Alderson as “the best general manager in baseball.”

Then I thought, “well wait — Leitch is the godfather of snark and sarcasm on the internet, so perhaps this article exhibits his trademark sense of humor.” No. Wrong again. He really DOES believe Sandy Alderson is the best GM in baseball. Or at least, he believes that a post with such a headline will generate a ton of clicks. That IS, after all, the job of today’s online journalist.

By way of my own “click bait” headline, I ask: is Alderson even the best MLB GM in New York? Not because I think Alderson is bad — in fact, I think he’s the ideal fit for current Mets situation — but because Brian Cashman is so good.

Since Cashman took over the GM role in February 1998, the Yankees won 7 AL pennants and 5 World Championships. The team made the playoffs in all but two of those 16 years, and finished first 12 times. If winning is not the way to judge a baseball general manager, then perhaps I overestimate Cashman’s abilities.

Oh, I know what some of you are saying: “but the Yankees also had the highest payroll in baseball most of those years!” True dat. Curious, are you also in the camp that defends the Wilpons with the argument, “you can’t buy a championship, look at the (insert team here that won with a low payroll / lost with a high payroll”? And/or, do you support the other Mets excuse, that “it’s not about how much money you spend, but HOW you spend it”?

Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, can you?

For those that DO believe money equals winning, and that’s why the Yankees win so much, you still have to give Cashman credit for a) staying in one job this long; and b) delivering a playoff contender every single year. But you may discount Cashman’s performance because he has more financial resources than many third-world nations. So, I ask you: who is the best GM in baseball, and why?

Fire away in the comments.

Today’s Mets Item

With Christmas so close, I’m going to suggest several Mets gift ideas:

For those who still read, and/or own a bookshelf: Total Mets: The Definitive Encyclopedia of the New York Mets’ First Half-Century


The easy gift for anyone: New York Mets Coffee Mug


This one seems apropos: New York Mets Piggy Bank


(oh yes I did!)

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies December 17, 2013 at 7:31 am
    It doesn’t take brains to pay for an All-Star team, so I’ll chalk most of the Yankees’ success up to dollars. That said, when he’s needed non-All Stars to contribute, Cashman’s often done an excellent job acquiring the right guys. His signature moves in my mind were Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon in 2005.

    Without Cashman, the Yankees still would have had plenty of years when they dominated, but the seasons where they just barely made it might have gone differently.

    As for the article that inspired this, Leitch is a lazy moron, repeating the narrative that Alderson has given the Mets an elite farm system, without bothering to check the Mets’ actual ranking — between #10-#15 by most sources. Oh, and Wheeler’s not our opening day starter. Does this dude get paid to babble on the internet? What separates him from all of us half-assed posters? Where’s my check? Frustrating.

    • Notsofast December 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm
      Cashman is a horrible GM!! Without Brian Sabean setting the Yankees up in the late 90s with Jeter, Mo rivera, Pettite, Posada, etc the Yankees would have been average with Cashman at the helm. He’s squandered hundreds of millions of dollars year after year with some of the most historically bad deals in history.
      • Joe Janish December 27, 2013 at 1:12 am
        Absolutely agree that Sabean helped build the Yankees’ farm system. But it was Cashman who made sure they held on to the good youngsters, rather than sending them away. There’s also the matter of the Yankees contending for the postseason for the past 17 years – in spite of all of those historically bad deals.
  2. CleonJames December 17, 2013 at 10:19 am
    Maybe he was before he signed Fregosi. I mean Foster. I mean Bay. I mean Castillo. I mean Vaughn. Sorry I meant Granderson.
  3. DanB December 17, 2013 at 10:31 am
    1) I’d take Cashman over SA. When more money means more problems, he has handled it. 2) Don’t matter because Yankee ownership is heads and shoulders better then Met ownership. While the Mets were burying themselves with Madoff, the Yankees built an institution that prints money. Their son is a business man. Met’s son is an idiot and an embarrisment. Don’t matter who is GM, as long as the Wilpons are involved, the Mets will never have prolonged success.
  4. Matt December 17, 2013 at 10:39 am
    @DanB your spelling and lack of grammar is an embarrassment. I agree that the Wilpons are awful owners, but look at the bloated contracts Cashman has given out. Cano is quite literally the first person he has refused to give one to. I guarantee if SA were the Yankees GM, their farm system wouldn’t be depleted, their team wouldn’t all be past their prime using walkers, and he would still attract top talent
    • DanB December 17, 2013 at 11:16 am
      If I was sitting at a desk using spell check, I promise exact proze. But I am outside in the snow typing on a smart phone with frozen fingers so forgive the embarrisment. So what Cashman gives out bloated contracts? His teams win and specifically they win championshiips. And his team generate more revenue then any other team in baseball. His bloated contracts create winning and money. Alderson’s reasonable contracts create 75 win seasons and deficits. Which is a better business plan? If SA was the Yankee GM (As if he could convince Yankee ownership that 7 year rebuilding plans work in NY), their farm system might be better and they would have 75 wins and lose fan interest. Cashman plays the game that Alderson has so far failed at — winning in NYC.
      • DaveSchneck December 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm
        I agree with your conclusion. In a perfect world, teams maintain a high caliber farm system that delivers quality players regularly, which allows the team to be competitive almost every year (barring an injury-laden disaster that is virtually unavoidable). However, the world is far from perfect, and there is more than one way to skin a cat. The Yankee system delivered an incredible core in the 90s that led to 4 titles in 5 seasons. Since then, it has been a bust, but they still have managed to win a WS in 2009, been in the playoffs almost every year, and in a “disaster” year of injury and underperformance like 2013 they put up a winning record. That sure looks to me like sustained winning. Now, they have risk and could collapse sooner or later, or they could continue to spend their way out. Just like the teams that “commit” to the system can draft guys that don’t pan out, like many teams have proven (see Pittsburgh Pirates/KC Royals 20 year plans). No way guarantees success or guarantees failure.
    • Chuck December 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm
      Cashman is being made to take responsibility for contracts and trades that he did not authorize. He is making more of his own decisions this offseason, and is putting together a team with fewer bloated contracts. Time will tell if it works out, but he really needs to be given the chance to show that he’s as good a GM as I happen to think he is. We’ll see.

      As for if he’s better than Sandy Alderson, that’s totally relative – and open to opinion.

  5. DaveSchneck December 17, 2013 at 11:11 am
    There are few certainties in this world, but one that I suspect we can virtually all agree on: Will Leitch is not Izzy’s pen name.
  6. Tommyball December 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm
    Your premise is wrong in saying Met fans defend the Mets by saying “you can’t buy championships”….of course you can and Met fans are mostly disgusted with the way the Mets haven’t spent money…and I’ll qualify, money doesn’t buy you the World Series because anything can happen in 4 to 7 games….but the Yankee outlandish spendthrift ways does buy a ticket to the postseason playoffs…over 162 games money and payroll matter a lot….examples when this isn’t true are just examples of incredibly bad GM’s, like Cashman – those contracts to Arod, Tex, Jeter, Sabathia are ridiculously bad…..he just thinks he will eventually buy his way out of any problem…..
    • crozier December 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm
      Yet the Yankees, with the highest payroll in baseball, didn’t win anything in 2013. And of the 14 $100 million (or so) dollar clubs, exactly five advanced to post-season action.

      I don’t disagree that money can make a difference in a club’s ability to compete, but it’s far from a sure thing.

      • izzy December 17, 2013 at 5:38 pm
        Sure, the old well the big spender didn’t win in 2013. a very simplistic approach, ignoring a mssive amount of injuries. Bu hey crozier, you demanded i pout my money where my mouth is and you just keep spewing out cliches without any substance. So why don’t you give us a detailed exlanation and out your money where your cliche is.
        • crozier December 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm
          “You demanded I pout my money where my mouth is.”

          No, Izzy, I asked you to put some rationale where your pout is.

          I’m not offended, just confused by your accusations. I wasn’t offering either analysis or cliches in my comment to tommyball. Just noting, accurately, that spending, relative to the rest of the league, doesn’t necessarily get you into the playoffs, or even to .500. I’ll provide more detail if you want – do you, really? – but it isn’t clear from your mangled sentences what you’re looking for.

          Anyway, do we actually disagree on my comment? I know you hate Alderson, but I never gathered that had anything to do with his spending constraints.

          [I’m perfectly willing to take this offline, btw. I’ll gladly trade emalis to spare the rest of the community our “debate”].

        • Steve Hussy December 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm
          Izzy is being very coy about giving me the number of wins he’s predicting for 2014.

          Given that Joe is predicting 75 and Izzy’s disgust at everything the Mets do, I think an over/under of 72 wins is fair. It’s a race to 90 losses to make Izzy happy and burst into the masochist playoffs.

          Once I get a break from the dayjob over Christmas I’ll put a chart together to gauge Izzy’s progress. I’ve also got a bunch of choice Izzy quotes to accompany it.

          I coughed and vomited a little at the idea of Alderson being the best GM in baseball. But maybe Loserson will become a Winnerson in 2014. I hope so.

        • crozier December 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm
          Joe is predicting…what? Did I miss something? Don’t we usually wait until March?

          I swear the acceleration of timelines will be the ruin of everything.

    • crozier December 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm
      Leitch’s column was designed to spark controversy in a way that, say, “Cashman is the best GM” would not.

      In any case, his piece was useless. Alderson hasn’t earned anyone’s high praise any more than I believe he’s earned derision. For the first time, things are possibly — I said possibly — moving in a positive direction. Should the Mets improve in 2014 and compete in 2015 (or sooner), the credit goes to Sandy. Good for him.

      As for Cashman, regardless of how put off some may be by his spending, he’s consistently fields good teams, and that does take more than money to accomplish.

      • Joe Janish December 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm
        Or Leitch is a socialist. It’s all the rage these days to embrace socialism and put down capitalism.
        • crozier December 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm
          Born in 1975, Leicht arrived at the tail end of Generation X, but he acts more like a classic Generation Y guy, where everyone in grade school got a trophy regardless of where they placed. This isn’t a case of Socialism; it’s one of “you are all winners!”

          Real life is different, and Alderson isn’t best anything yet. Not in New York.

          Izzy’s twisted Boomer ethos of “You are all losers!” doesn’t resonate with me either, though.

        • Jason M. December 18, 2013 at 10:58 am
          Leitch is not a socialist, he’s just a contrarian. I’d have more respect for him. Say what you will about the tenets of socialism, but at least it’s an ethos. Leitch is the guy who wrote the puff piece on Dr. Ronan Tynan AFTER the Yankees fired him with great cause. He’s defended steroid users. He gave a platform to John Rocker. He’s the Internet’s version of Mike Lupica.

          Alderson is the best GM in basebal only l in a narrow, sabermetric view, where on-field results don’t matter but following the statistical orthodoxy DOES matter because it is the only way to achieve success on the baseball field (remember, no team ever won a World Series or surpassed 100 wins before 2002). Like Reaganomics. It’s a statistical idea, and thus it Must Be Followed, even if it doesn’t work in the real world.

          In our own non-click-bait universe, nobody can call Alderson the best anything. He overspent on Granderson and Colon. Even given the fact that he’s holding the Wilpon/Madoff bag and being funded only by the Amway pyramid and the last few remaining corporate suite sales… he’s not even doing a good job with the money that he DOES have.

  7. DanB December 17, 2013 at 4:53 pm
    We all agree that spending money properly is as important as having money to spend. We all agree the Mets don’t have money. So, how do the Mets improve how they spend money? I would save money for midseason pickups. Who was the last player the Mets acquired at the deadline? Second, the Mets can’t be satisfied with good players. They should always strive to improve. Third, Bay contracts happen. Be prepared to move on from bad contracts. Keeping someone just because they make a lot is like throwing good money at bad money. The most successful business men I know have all failed at times but they are prepared to move on to other direction.
    • DaveSchneck December 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm
      I do fully buy the notion that the Mets have no money. The Mets have money, and the will need to spend money in order to have more money for future payrolls. The question in 2014 is where they set the baseline. I as much as anyone fully expect them to field a playoff contender on opening day 2014. In my eyes, at the beginning of the offseason and now, this can be done with $100 mil in 2014 payroll, in a manner that would not saddle the team with unreasonable future salary commitments or cost too many prospects. I think the Mets would prefer to do this at $85-$90 mil, and will leave holes on the roster if need be. They are very reluctant to commit more because they have very little “coming off the books” next season…basically Chris Young. Every other arb eligible or contacted player but Wright will get a raise, or be purged. This insures that the overall payroll will go up next year before they address filling needs. It will take a while to stagger some contracts so each year they have 20 to 25% of the payroll “freed up”. My position is given the damage to the brand, it is worth spending the extra $10 to $15 mil, raise the baseline, and gamble on the team winning 85 to 90 games in 2014. If this is accomplished, even if they don’t make the playoffs, the attitude of the fanbase can be reversed by seeing investment in personnel, Harvey returning, and hopefully more prospects contributing or closer to contributing. Cheaping out now, and delivering another 70-something wins, IMHO, will cost then significantly more in lost revenues than the additional $10 to $15 mil in payroll it costs beyond the budget to fill the rest of the holes. If it were my money, and my team, this is the direction I would go, but my caveat would be that it needs to be the right players to invest. I suspect this is how Alderson may be playing the balance of this offseason, or I certainly hope it is.
  8. izzy December 17, 2013 at 5:34 pm
    If you judge a GM by cutting payroll, and making sure you do nothing but please a corrupt and bankrupt owner, then maybe Alderson is the best GM. If the Gm is supposed to have winning teams, competitive teams, exciting teams, post season teams, then give one of those crappy GMs, like the rotten GM in St Louis, Boston, San Francisco etc. who this clown of a writer claims are not as good as Alderson I don’t agree with argo about Cashman I think Cashman loses credit for having so much to work with financially, but he won more than he lost last year with an awful lot of injuries. If Alderson had that much DL time the Mets would have made 1962 look awesome.
  9. Tommyball December 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm
    geez…you guys don’t want to admit the obvious or have been brainwashed by “big-spenders” and their cliches….money give you a gigantic advantage….go to the football system where there is a cap….in a horse race, if one horse gets to start 5 lengths in front of the other horses, does he have an advantage? of course….is he sure to win? maybe…..stop the foolishness and admit the Yanks have an unfair advantage caused not by themselves but by Don Fehr, the man who has ruined baseball….the Yanks just take advantage of the mess that he created….