FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein said that after years of being on opposite sides of baseball’s most bitter rivalry, they are looking forward to being able to make deals with one another.
The Yankees general manager and the former general manager of the Red Sox appeared together at a forum Tuesday night at Sacred Heart University.
Now president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, the 38-year-old Epstein says he spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking that Cashman was up making a deal that would put the Yankees in a better position than the Red Sox.
“I was never able to totally relax because I felt like he was always lurking,” Epstein said. “He had a great sense of the marketplace.”
Cashman said Epstein’s pure objective decision making forced the Yankees to rethink how they did business.
“I found the Red Sox were constantly making the right choice, not the popular choice,” Cashman said. “That helped us reset our button a little bit by watching how they went about their business.”
Both said that because of the extreme nature of the rivalry, they never had any serious trade talks during the last decade. But they told reporters backstage they expect that to change now.
“We just had a few brief talks this winter, but it will be nice to take each other seriously again,” Epstein said.
“Yeah, instead of fake talking, we can actually do something,” Cashman added.
The two spent a lot of time Tuesday trading old stories.
There was the time in 2002 when Epstein had his Latin American scouting director buy up every room in the small hotel in Nicaragua where then free agent Jose Contreras was staying while negotiating with the Red Sox and Yankees as a free agent.
“We were smoking cigars with Contreras and drinking rum until about 4 o’clock in the morning,” Epstein said. “He told us he always wanted to be a Red Sox, and then the next morning the Yankees offered him about US$10 million more.”
Cashman said the hotel move made George Steinbrenner angry.
“The Boss, that was something that was a one up on us when they did that, it was a shrewd move, and he (Steinbrenner) was not going to be denied,” Cashman said.
Epstein also relayed how Jed Hoyer, his assistant in Boston and now the Cubs General manager, got food poisoning after the famous Thanksgiving dinner he and Epstein shared in 2003 at Curt Shilling’s home, a meal that sealed the trade bringing Shilling to Boston.
“I remember walking around the (hotel) room, I felt so bad for the maid, I was throwing $20 bills everywhere that Jed got sick,” he said.
But both Epstein and Cashman said it was the attention to smaller deals, the draft and building their organizations that helped them create consistent winners. And Epstein cautioned Cubs fans that he will not be able to do the same thing in Chicago in just one off-season.
“Any opportunity to win is sacred,” he said. “But the bigger picture for us is the long-term climb.”
Cashman did address one current trade rumour after being asked by a young fan if he was comfortable sticking with A.J. Burnett given all the Yankees new pitching options.
“We signed him to have more success than he is having,” Cashman said. “But, it’s a competitive industry. As long as he’s not going to give up on himself, I’m going to have his back the entire way.”
But Cashman added that while he was comfortable with Burnett, the Yankees have a lot of potential starting pitchers and “we’ll see how it all shakes out, who plays in what role.”