Brian Cashman Crushed My Confidence

The last time I listened to what Brian Cashman had to say was almost five months ago. It was Oct. 2 when I analyzed Cashman’s end-of-the-year press conference and it had been three days since the end of the season. There was still 180 days until Opening Day and the 2014 season and a chance for the Yankees to make right on everything that went wrong in 2013. Now there are just 40 days until Yankees-Astros on April 1 in Houston and once again it means something when Brian Cashman talks.

On Wednesday, Cashman talked with Mike Francesa on WFAN about spring training and the outlook for the season. After personally spending the last four-plus months talking myself into a turnaround year for the Yankees, thanks to free agency and hopefully avoiding the injury bug, Cashman did his best to destroy my dreams with his answers.

On Derek Jeter’s announcement.

“Besides catching us all off guard, it wasn’t something any of us expected.”

Join the club, Cashman. I’m the founder, CEO and president of it.

On if it bothered him he didn’t know in advance.

“My first reaction was I didn’t think it was accurate. I thought it was maybe somebody hacked his Facebook account because it’s just not something you ever expect Derek in advance to announce going forward that this is it.”

I first learned of Jeter’s retirement on Twitter and I also thought it was a joke and couldn’t believe it was real, mainly because it isn’t. Derek Jeter isn’t retiring. He isn’t! (I’m sure you can guess which of the five Stages of Grief I’m currently in.)

On the unknowns in the infield.

“I think third base and second base and our infield overall is just going to be a developing story.”

I wouldn’t have thought so much about Cashman’s answer here if he didn’t use “developing story” again later on to describe another aspect of the team. And I fully understand Cashman is going to want to downplay expectations in spring training for a team coming off just it’s second postseasonless season since 1993. But like I have said, I compare the 2014 Yankees to the 2013 Red Sox. I’m not guaranteeing a World Series win, but the 2013 Red Sox were coming off arguably the worst season in the history of their franchise, needed their entire rotation to bounce back and pitch to their career averages (you’re welcome for me not saying “pitch to the back of their baseball cards” there like Michael Kay would have) and have their free agents all produce. The Red Sox ended up hitting a 12-team parlay to have the … no wait a minute … The Red Sox ended up basically filling out a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket to have everything fall in place for them last year to win the World Series a year after they lost 93 games.

In the five-team playoff format, it’s hard to not be in the mix for the postseason unless you have a miserable season. The 2013 Yankees had to use Ichiro in the middle of their lineup and when he wasn’t there, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells were and that team wasn’t eliminated until the fourth-to-last game of the season. This Yankees roster will certainly contend for a playoff spot if last years’ team was able to. Now that I have instilled that confidence in you for 2014, let’s move along as Cashman does his best to erase that confidence with his answers.

On how the infield is going to work out.

“The infield is going to be a little bit more like the 2013 situation where we’re going to be continuing to monitor the scenario all year long and if there’s better players outside the organization, waiver claims or guys get released or can cheaply be acquired then we’ll look at that situation too if it’s better than what we got.”

No one wants to hear anything is going to be like 2013 with the exception of Alfonso Soriano’s production. Think about it: What good came out of the 2013 season?

Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira were hurt for the entire season. A-Rod created his biggest circus yet. Robinson Cano was streakier than ever and faded when the Yankees needed him most. CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career. Ivan Nova was an atrocity until he was sent down and then recalled in June. Hiroki Kuroda was amazing, but ran out of gas, pitched to a 6.56 ERA over his last eight starts and didn’t win a game after Aug. 12. Number 42 was better than any 43-year-old closer should be, but he even blew seven saves. For as good as he was after coming to the Yankees in 2012, Ichiro was that bad in 2013. Brett Gardner posted career highs in home runs and RBIs, but got hurt and missed the final weeks of the season. Phil Hughes pitched himself out of the organization. The catching situation was an actual nightmare. And Andy Pettitte was so inconsistent he decided he would retire again. If the Yankees hadn’t traded for Soriano, not only would they have been eliminated well before Game 158, but they wouldn’t have had a single positive storyline from an entire season unless you were that much of a fan of Number 42’s farewell tour.

So please, Cashman, don’t advertise anything about the 2014 season as being similar to the 2013 season.

On where a backup first baseman will come from.

“Well, Kelly Johnson is a possibility. We’ve got some other things that we had some meetings about today in camp that we’re discussing, but we need to talk to players first that we might play around with there too. So that is also something that’s an emerging situation.”

The one thing I like about Brian Cashman is that he tells it like it is. He doesn’t sugarcoat things or fabricate things for the fans. He isn’t always right (far from it), but he sticks with his judgment and opinion on players and decisions and admits when he is or was wrong. But for as honest as Cashman is, he really had no answer for this question. He tried to BS his way through it like a high school freshman trying to meet a word or page requirement on a paper. Not only did he try to downplay the fact that if Mark Teixeira gets hurt the Yankees are screwed at first base, but he sounded unsure of himself and uncomfortable answering the question.

On if Ichiro could be an option at first base.

“His name was not someone that we discussed.”

Ah, a question like this makes me nostalgic for the 2006 season when the Yankees had too many star players and not enough positions. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu all needed to play, so the Yankees had to let someone who wasn’t really a first baseman play first base. That someone became Gary Sheffield, who played first base as well as Eduardo Nunez played the outfield.

I actually like Francesa’s idea of giving Ichiro a chance to play first base even if he has only ever played the outfield. He did win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and has an extraordinary baseball IQ and would be someone you could trust at the position. I would certainly be willing to find a way to get Ichiro into the lineup if Teixeira were to go down, but it doesn’t seem like Cashman and the Yankees are ready to think that outside of the box yet.

On how they handled having a backup first baseman in the past.

“When we had Swisher here it was great because if Tex needed a blow or had an injury, you had Swisher who you could move right in there. We’re not in that scenario right now. Not even close.”

When Nick Swisher was here it was great! Everything was better when Nick Swisher was a Yankee! Except for his own decisions to bunt or bunt with one out and a runner on second, or his shaky defense and lollipop throws, or his postseason failures or when he turned on the fans because he didn’t like that they were upset that he couldn’t get a hit in the ALCS. I miss Nick Swisher.

On if Jeter’s decision takes the pressure off him to deal with his status in the future.

“I don’t think that where we are today that would have been an issue. Obviously if it was a contract negotiation in the winter time, that might have presented itself if that occurred, but we weren’t in that scenario.”

Come on, Cashman. You know you are relieved that Jeter is going out on his own terms in the last year of a contract. If 2014 Jeter performed like 2012 Jeter or if he struggled to stay on the field like 2013 Jeter and wanted to return for 2015 it would have created a bad situation for Jeter, Cashman, the front office and the fans and it would have played out publicly just like it did after the 2010 season.

On how Michael Pineda has looked in spring training.

“You want everyone to be free and easy right now. That’s all you can ask for and he’s free and easy, but I don’t think anybody here can predict yet.”

Of all the question marks and unknowns about the 2014 Yankees, Michael Pineda has to be the most underrated of them all. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since Sept. 21, 2011, but was traded to the Yankees and viewed as a front-of-the-rotation guy for the foreseeable future at just 23 years of age. Now he is two years removed from pitching in a game after having shoulder surgery, but he is still just 25.

It’s easy to say if Sabathia returns to his old self and Kuroda doesn’t burn out and Nova is consistent and Tanaka is the real deal then everything will be fine. But I feel like a lot of people are forgetting just how good Pineda was in 2011 and if (and I know coming back from shoulder surgery is a big if) he can be that guy again, then the Yankees will have a No. 1 or No. 2 guy pitching in their No. 5 spot.

On expectations for CC Sabathia.

“I don’t see the velocity jumping back … If he can limit the home run damage that occurred last year because his strikeouts-per-nine and walks-per-nine were right in line with all his previous years, even his Cy Young Award contending years, that will be awesome.”

If CC Sabathia doesn’t allow 28 home runs in 32 starts this year, that will be awesome. CC looks weird as Skinny CC, but if his new look means he won’t pitch to a 4.78 ERA and lead the league in earned runs then I’m all for it. Sabathia has $23 million coming to him this year, or roughly $700,000 per start if you remember from last year, so if his velocity isn’t going to return then he better have Cliff Lee-esque location. I can’t take watching another season of late-game blown leads from Sabathia because of the long ball and because Joe Girardi still treats him like it’s 2011 and like an actual ace.

On how he would classify the bullpen situation.

“It’s also like our infield. Those are two areas that we all need to call an emerging story, a developing story.”

If the bullpen is “also like our infield” that means the 2014 bullpen is going to be like the 2013 bullpen since you said the 2014 infield situation is going to be like the 2013 infield situation. I’m not exactly sure you want to transition from the Mariano Rivera Yankees Bullpen to the Non-Mariano Rivera Yankees Bullpen by classifying the new-look bullpen as an emerging or developing story as if it’s the opening segment on the 11:00 news, but hey, who needs a reliable bullpen?

On if he feels old having watched Derek Jeter’s entire career.

“Unfortunately, like when I was going to the press conference today, I said to myself, ‘I’ve been here before,’ which was just last year with Mo. We’re so fortunate to have these guys for as long as we have had them and they’ve made all of our carers and made Yankee baseball so special to watch for such a long time. But yeah, you do some reflection as you’re walking into that. Time moves fast. It really moves fast. There’s a lot of things that have happened, and mostly positive, since Derek Jeter got drafted back in ’92. Again, I was caught off guard when he announced this and it just makes this season that much more important and interesting to follow because he’s one of the rare special ones you’ll ever see.”

Let’s end this before I cry.

40 days to go.