Maybe Brian Cashman wanted to make his personal Escape from New York. Maybe this would have been the time. He almost certainly could have become the general manager in several places (Seattle jumps out) if he wanted to move. Instead, Cashman signed a new three-year deal with the Yankees and then showed Wednesday that he was a wee bit touchy about the criticism he's taking for this season.
Cashman has been beat up pretty good in the New York media the last month for the Yankees' first playoff-less season since 1993. Specifically, there's plenty of heat going around for the sacking of Joe Torre (not his idea) and the decision to go with kids like Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera and not deal for Johan Santana (his idea and his blunder). The common story is that the Yankees still don't have enough in their farm system even as Cashman has pushed development, and have to revert back to free agency to make a quick fix for 2009.
"I'm a competitive person and I don't like what I see sometimes that shows up in the newspapers," Cashman said. "I don't like that some people forget that I've been here since 1986. That I've been part of this franchise when it was no good or wasn't very good. That I was part of the rebuilding process as an assistant GM for six years when we were rebuilding this thing and getting it back to championship-caliber form.
"And that story line that was going to be written if I left I didn't agree with. And I'm not going to let that story be written. . . . I'm not going to let an inaccurate story stick. And the only way for me to change that is to change the story. So I'm staying to change it."
There wasn't much fun in the Bronx this year. Quick now, Yankees fans, make a choice: Torre or Joe Girardi? Thought so. Still, the reality is the Bombers won 89 games despite a slew of key injuries.
Chien-Ming Wang, a 19-game winner last year, was 8-2 when he hurt his foot running the bases in June. Jorge Posada battled shoulder trouble all year. Hughes and Kennedy combined for no wins. Joba Chamberlain missed a month with shoulder tendinitis. Hideki Matsui needs knee surgery.
Now that he has won 20 games, Mike Mussina may retire even though the Yankees want him back. They won't exercise Jason Giambi's option and have to decide on Bobby Abreu. Cashman went with the kids on the mound but looks like he's going to have to go back to the free agency route.
What he does this winter will largely determine if the first year in the new Yankee Stadium marks a quick turnaround or continues the downward trend for a franchise that hasn't won a postseason series since it blew that 3-0 lead in the '04 ALCS against the Red Sox.
CC Sabathia does not want to play in New York. He's a West Coast guy who's enamored with batting so he wants to see what interest the Dodgers, Padres and Giants have. Ben Sheets' injury makes him a question mark. Derek Lowe is a possibility. But I would really expect the Yankees to go after Toronto's A.J. Burnett.
If he stays healthy, Burnett is the 200-inning horse the Yankees need. And Burnett is ready and willing.
When the Blue Jays were in New York in September, he reportedly approached Yankees radio analyst Suzyn Waldman and asked her to interview him on the team's pregame show. Burnett then espoused his love for New York and how impressed he was by walking around outside the new stadium. Hmmm. You know Cashman took notes about that.
Mark your calendar
You can find every team's 2009 schedule at MLB.com and on their individual Web sites. In the past, they've come out piecemeal in November but baseball pushed for a universal early release.
If you want to see the Bisons' new parent, the Mets' closest trip to Buffalo next season will be a four-gamer in Pittsburgh on June 1-4. The Indians will be in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2003 on June 23-25.
The Indians' home opener is April 10 against the Blue Jays while Toronto's home opener is April 6 against Detroit. The Yankees have four games in Cleveland May 29-June 1. The Red Sox are at Progressive Field on April 27-29.
The Yankees are in Toronto May 12-14, Aug. 4-5 and Sept. 3-6, while the Red Sox have games there May 29-31, July 17-19 and Aug. 18-20.
*Two thumbs up to the Bisons for hopping on the quick Mets momentum to pump next season. That's quite a billboard up on the inbound Kensington: "New Team. New Affiliate. New York" with the Bisons' and Mets' logos. No choke signs by the way (at least none that I noticed).
*There's a Coca-Cola ad on the HSBC Arena ice and the soft drinks will be in the concession stands but that won't be the only sporting venue in town where the corporate giant will have big play. The rumor mill keeps grinding that Coca-Cola Park, Coca-Cola Field or some variation thereof is the leader in the clubhouse for the new name of Dunn Tire Park next season.
*Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta finally had a season at the plate that reminded us of his 2004 MVP season in Buffalo. Peralta batted .276 overall -- .295 after the All-Star break -- with 42 doubles, 23 homers and 89 RBIs. He became just the 12th shortstop in history with 40 doubles and 20 homers in the same season. He's going to the Dominican Republic for winter ball to play third base and look for him there next season, with Asdrubal Cabrera sliding to short.
Around the horn
*I really, really liked the Mets' closing ceremony for Shea Stadium last Sunday and it had to make Mets fans everywhere feel a little better after the way the final game ended. Great touches: Having the former Mets all touch the plate one final time, a last pitch from Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza and a walk by the greatest pitcher and catcher in franchise history through the center field gate to close it for the final time, all done to the strains of the Beatles' "The Faces I Remember" followed by Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind."
There was that certain arrogance surrounding the Yankees' Sept. 21 ceremony and not mentioning Torre was an open disgrace. Plus it was before the game. Most places that have done this (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia) have all done it after the game. The Mets' ceremony felt like it belonged in that spot. The Yankees' one felt out of place and was almost too much like the one prior to the All-Star Game in July.
*In the final seasons at their stadiums, the New York clubs finished 1-2 in attendance. The Yankees sold a franchise record 4,287,132 tickets (an average of 52,928 per opening). The Mets' figure was 4,042,045 (51,165). With the prices going waaaaaaaaaay up next year for the new palaces, Cashman and Mets GM Omar Minaya can't preach patience.
*Pretty amazing turnaround by the Indians, who went 44-28 over their final 72 games to finish at .500 and just 7 1/2 games out in the AL Central. Turns out they would have been smack in the race if they had just taken care of business in interleague play. The Twins went 14-2 while the Royals and Tigers were both 13-5 and the White Sox went 12-6. Cleveland was just 6-12 while playing the NL West and six games against the mediocre Reds.
*Pirates radio announcer Lanny Frattare, one of the game's great voices you may not know, has announced his retirement after 33 seasons -- the longest run in club history. That means former Bisons announcer Greg Brown is expected to be named the Bucs' new lead man in the booth. Brown has been with the Pirates since he left Buffalo following the 1994 season.
*Have to give it up to the White Sox for the way they rallied to win the AL Central after getting swept in Minnesota. The Sox became the first team in history to win their final three games over three different teams (the Indians, Tigers and Twins). Pretty clutch.