Yankees GM on the spot

The decision not to trade for Johan Santana will make or break Brian Cashman
02/11/2008 2:10 PM ET
By Phil Pepe / Special to

At least Santana didn't end up with Theo Epstein (r).(AP)
All the New York sports buzz last week was in a 20-mile radius of Yankee Stadium.

Down lower Manhattan, the football Giants marched triumphantly through the Canyon of Heroes, where the Yankees once, and often, had traversed.

Across the Triboro Bridge in Flushing, the hordes of media, cameras, microphones, tape recorders and notebooks had turned out in force for the coronation of the newest Met, baseball's premier pitcher, the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, Johan Santana.

The Yankees were finding out how the other half lives.

It had to be at least uncomfortable for the Yankees, and their fans, to turn on their TVs and see Santana's image pop up so frequently, and to pick up their morning paper and see him again, all over the front page. And yet that is the lot the Yankees willingly, and purposefully, have chosen.

It was at the behest of general manager Brian Cashman that the Yankees resisted the temptation to mortgage the future and bring Santana on board. Surely, Cashman had to be aware of the consequences. Or was he?

Cashman was clearly motivated by two factors: to hold on to his young pitchers and to keep Santana from ending up in a Red Sox uniform. But was he mindful of another factor, the battle for New York?

Keeping Santana out of Boston is a good thing, in the long term. But the Yankees will meet the Red Sox only 18 times in the regular season; so at most the Yankees would have to rue letting Santana go to the Red Sox only six times.

Santana as a Met is an altogether different story. With the Mets, he will make from 30 to 35 starts. Let him win 18 to 20 games. Let him run off 10 or 11 wins in a row, and every time he wins a game it will be an embarrassing reminder to Cashman of what might have been. In his hometown. On television. On talk shows. In back page tabloid headlines. There will be no escape. No place to hide.

Cashman is casting his lot with youngsters, putting his job on the line with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, who are inexperienced and who have only 115 major league innings among them.

Let Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy suffer growing pains. Let them underachieve and the fallout will be devastating.

As baseball writer Jon Heyman said, Phil Hughes will be pitching this season for a job — Brian Cashman's.

Former Yankees beat writer and acclaimed author Phil Pepe is a regular contributor to comments