Commentary

Cashman vindicated on Soriano opinion

The Yankees' GM boldly opposed signing the reliever; and, it turns out, he was right

Updated: May 26, 2011, 8:12 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Brian Cashman didn't make an appearance in the clubhouse on Tuesday after the New York Yankees suggested that the results of a second and more revealing MRI on reliever Rafael Soriano's sore elbow earlier in the day revealed enough damage to send Soriano to visit Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. But the Yankees' general manager didn't have to show his face.

Once the update on Soriano was given before the Yankees' rousing ninth-inning comeback against Toronto, it was impossible not to flash back to Cashman's Like The Player/Dislike The Contract speech at Soriano's introductory media conference in January. Or to think how, just five months later, Cashman already has the right to say, "I told you so."

[+] EnlargeRafael Soriano
Anthony Gruppuso/US PresswireSince coming off the disabled list, Rafeal Soriano is perfect in four innings.

Remember how Cashman pulled a Wilpon and disparaged one of his own guys long before Mets owner Fred Wilpon made his confoundingly counterproductive remarks about Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright in this week's issue of The New Yorker that set off a firestorm? What Cashman did just wasn't called pulling a Wilpon back then.

Cashman volunteered that he didn't recommend that the Yankees give Soriano the three-year, $35 million deal they lavished on him, complete with options for Soriano to get out of the deal each year.

It looked like an extraordinary bit of speaking-out-of-school for Cashman -- and not only because Soriano was standing right there. A day that was supposed to be about introducing a possible heir apparent to 41-year-old Mariano Rivera instead became hijacked by an office-politics story of Cashman's unhappiness about being overruled.

Now look.

Cashman's complaint was always about Soriano's contract -- not his talent, which even Cashman acknowledged is formidable. And Soriano's contract looks like even more of a potential albatross now on a Yankees team that has quite a few of them, starting with deals that carry Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter through to the ages of 42 and 41, respectively.

On nights like Tuesday, when the Yankees put together a spirited rally, those thoughts fade for a while. On nights when Jeter can't hit and A-Rod's barking hip or oblique take him out of the lineup and Nick Swisher continues his slump, the age of the Yanks' roster and the enormity of the team's financial commitments going forward start to add up. Even one of the mega-contracts that has actually panned out for the Yanks -- the enormous deal they gave Tuesday's starting pitcher, CC Sabathia -- comes with a nagging asterisk: Sabathia, too, can opt out of his deal after this year. And even if he wants to stay, he'd be crazy not to exercise the option, given the Yankees' cobbled-together starting rotation and the even bigger payday he and his agent, Greg Genske, could extract.

Sabathia's complete-game performance on Tuesday was another footnote in his favor. He got the victory when Jorge Posada's feel-good pinch-hit double, followed by two two-out hits by Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the ninth, lifted the Yankees to a 5-4 come-from-behind win and brought the players rushing out of the dugout to mob both Teixeira and Posada.

"About time!" shouted Posada, who began the night hitting .176.

For the Yankees, it was a great end to a day that had a downbeat start.

The Yankees announced they'd have nothing more to say about Soriano until Andrews takes a look. But typically players aren't sent to the renowned doctor unless a significant problem already exists. Quite often, the visits aren't about the second opinion as much as they're about when to schedule surgery. So it won't be a shock if that's the case with Soriano, too.

But even if Soriano misses only weeks or months rather than the 1 1/2 years that something like Tommy John surgery would require to recover from, Tuesday was another bad benchmark in Soriano's short tenure in New York.

No one can or should fault the man for getting hurt. And Soriano did try to pitch two more times after initially telling the Yankees he was experiencing elbow soreness. The Yankees put him on the disabled list on May 17 (retroactive to May 14), and sent him for Tuesday's more sophisticated dye-test MRI after shutting him down on Monday when he felt pain after trying to throw off flat ground.

Cashman's protest has always been that the Yankees are going to live to regret the contract because it's so lopsided in Soriano's favor. It could also constrain them from making future moves. And Cashman's always had a point. If Soriano is badly hurt or merely stinks, there's no way he opts out of his current deal in any year, and he's also not the insurance policy for Mariano Rivera that they signed him to be. And if Soriano turns out to be great? Then he could always leave the Yankees and go back to being a closer somewhere else.

But even that doesn't cover all the reasons why Cashman can say, "I told you so."

The Yankees hierarchy knew Soriano had elbow trouble a few years ago. And they knew when they ignored Cashman and gave Soriano that big contract that no one else was fighting for his services despite his 95-mph fastball, his 1.73 ERA and his AL-best 45 saves a year ago. Why? Fairly or not, there were rumors out of Tampa that the Rays let Soriano walk because he had unspecified attitude problems. Those concerns came floating back up last week when Soriano said the Yankees' hitters weren't doing enough for the team to win more.

It wasn't a welcome opinion, coming from a newcomer with a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances.

So maybe it's no wonder Cashman didn't come down to the clubhouse on Tuesday to discuss Soriano, something he'd routinely do when news broke in other years.

Once again, Cashman's calculus was right.

The Yankees' general manager had every right to show up and say, "I told you so."

But, no need. Plenty of other people are now saying it for him.

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