OVER THE WINTER, the general manager of the Yankees warned the others in his office that they were in for a trying time, the sort his staff had never experienced while working for the richest franchise in professional sports.
You see, Brian Cashman has decided to learn the guitar, at age 45, and the sounds emanating from his office, well, it's not as if he's Eric Clapton. In fact, it can be excruciating. "My poor staff has to listen to me," Cashman says, sort of laughing, but sort of not.
In many respects these days, he is a yes-man, a guy starting anew: rappelling a 22-story building a couple of years ago, learning to scuba dive and jumping out of a plane for charity. At an age when his habits should be calcified, Cashman is unafraid to break the molding of his life.
Nowhere is this truer than at the ballpark. Yankees ownership asked Cashman before the season to cut payroll from roughly $230 million to $189 million by the start of the 2014 campaign. If the Yankees could get below that number -- the threshold at which teams start accruing luxury-tax charges -- it could mean perhaps $35 million saved for the club's owners, because of rules created under a new labor agreement. But due to the many costly contracts the Yankees have accumulated -- the team had spent a little less than $2 billion in payroll over the past decade -- Cashman didn't have lots of leeway to trim. If Cashman and his staff were to succeed, which in the Bronx means forever extending the legacy, they would have to become much more creative accountants. They would have to discover ways to cut payroll while finding replacement players who are good enough to keep the Yankees as contenders but not so expensive as to infringe on the effort to re-sign their marquee talent, namely second baseman Robinson Cano, whose contract would be up at the end of 2013.