While the Yankees collectively lick their wounds over the teams first round exit, the first order of Hot Stove League business concerns the immediate future of General Manager Brian Cashman whose contract is up at the end of the month. Cashman, Torre and Stick Michael have been a successful management team for New York, but in recent years they have been competing with a trio of advisors (Billy Connors, Damon Oppenheimer and Bill Emslie) in Tampa who are close to George Steinbrenner. The Yankees proved this year that they could out-perform huge off-season mistakes, but you have to wonder if that can continue to happen indefinitely.
In a perfect world, Cashman and Stick Michael would be allowed to run the team without interference, but we do not like in any kind of world as simple or clean as that (as a matter of fact, George King reports in the Post today--without any direct quotes--that Michael wants out). There is too much money and too much ego involved. Nobody really knows what kind of mental and physical condition Steinbrenner is in but it is evident that a nasty power-struggle is going on behind the scenes with the Yankees.
Mike Lupica thinks that Joe Torre would be nuts to commit himself before Brian Cashman's situation is resolved
Understand something: Cashman doesn't hate working for Steinbrenner. He hates working around the weasels in Tampa, guys who would be getting Brian Cashman coffee if they worked in the same office. Steinbrenner is the one who made the weasels matter as much as they do. Now he has to make them matter less.
It is why Cashman's play is the one to watch now, why Torre should wait before saying anything to anybody. Because if Cashman stays, with the authority he deserves and the authority that would make this thing run a lot better than it does, then I believe Torre's situation becomes a lot less dramatic. And he no longer feels as if he is the last man standing, with all his top lieutenants gone.
I'm not saying that the Yankees won't continue to do well after Cashman and Torre leave, but my hunch is that it could get a lot worse before it got better. We've seen George screw up his good thing before so there is every reason to think he's capable of allowing it to happen again.