Before Game 2 of the 2019 American League Championship Series final October, the Yankees’ third-base coach, Phil Nevin, was sitting at a desk in the visiting crew’s meals room at Minute Maid Park. A clubhouse attendant appeared and advised Nevin he had a customer ready in the hallway: Alex Cintron, the hitting coach of the Houston Astros.
This was alarming: During Game 1 the day earlier than, the Yankees had shouted angrily at the Astros as a result of they heard whistling coming from the neighborhood of the Houston dugout. (This was earlier than the Astros admitted to, and have been penalized for, dishonest in earlier seasons, however, opponents had long been suspicious.)
Whether the whistling was merely gamesmanship or one thing extra nefarious, Nevin didn’t prefer it, or how Cintron was behaving. So he had despatched a menace to Cintron — one thing about assembly anyplace at any time to settle a rating — by way of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
But when Nevin burst by way of the clubhouse doorways, Cintron wasn’t there. Instead, it was Yankees Manager Aaron Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman, who was the prank’s mastermind, with cellphones out to seize it on video.
“I couldn’t stop laughing after that,” Cashman mentioned. “When he walked out, he had his game face on.”
For 23 years, Cashman has held certainly one of the most high-profile and demanding jobs in sports activities: the Yankees’ normal supervisor. In that span — a lot of it underneath George Steinbrenner, the exacting and fiery proprietor who died in 2010 — the Yankees have gained 2,131 regular-season video games, greater than some other franchise in the main leagues; reached the playoffs 19 instances, together with this yr; and claimed 4 World Series titles, the final coming in 2009, an eternity in the Bronx.
Cashman, 53, can also be extremely completed in one other class: pranks. Many inside the Yankees’ group — from the principal proprietor, Hal Steinbrenner, George’s son, to the Hall of Fame nearer Mariano Rivera — have tales about being on the receiving finish of a Cashman sensible joke.
“He’s one of the best at it,” mentioned Jim Hendry, the Yankees’ particular assistant scout, and a former Chicago Cubs normal supervisor.
Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame outfielder who’s now a Yankees particular adviser, added, “He’s always trying something.”
Making personnel choices for certainly one of the most beneficial professional sports activities franchises in the world will be worrying, and Cashman has used his pranks to defuse stress or produce just a few smiles amid all of it — particularly throughout a difficult 2020 season sophisticated by the pandemic.
“It’s just something that feels like it could lighten the load,” Cashman mentioned. “Bottom line: Every day is a day of importance, so any day you can have fun while you’re doing fun work. I just like to have fun.”
Cashman’s mischievous streak dates not less than to school, he mentioned. One of the earliest pranks he remembered pulling with the Yankees, with whom he began full time in 1989, got here when he was an assistant normal supervisor, a place he held from 1992 to 1998.
From a blocked quantity, Cashman is known as certainly one of his mentors and favorite targets, Gene Michael, the former Yankees normal supervisor and supervisor whose work had laid the basis for 4 World Series groups. The Florida Marlins had a managerial opening, so Cashman, disguising his voice and posing as a Miami Herald reporter, advised Michael — a scout for the Yankees at the time — that he was on a shortlist for the place.
“Oh man, it was like hook, line, and sinker,” Cashman mentioned. “He goes: ‘I certainly can’t comment on that. But off the record, of course, I would have an interest.’ I started laughing, and he was like: ‘Who is this? Who is this?’ I told him. I was crying because I was laughing so hard.”
Cashman couldn’t recall precisely why he had focused Michael — most likely revenge for a joke Michael had at his expense, he mentioned. Cashman, in any case, has pulled so many pranks over the years he can’t bear in mind each one.
“The more august he has gone into his general managership, he doesn’t do those nasty, vicious ones,” mentioned the Yankees assistant normal supervisor Jean Afterman, who added that Cashman has joked together with her, however “would never dare” prank her, as a result of she may simply get him again.
Afterman, although, has helped Cashman with a few of his mischief. Cashman had as soon as been utilizing an inexpensive machine that produced faux flatulence, and she or he purchased him a higher-quality one she known as “the Fartmaster 4000.” (Cashman has burned by way of lots of these.) He hid the machine in the visiting gamers’ lounge at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia throughout the 2009 World Series and watched from an adjoining room.
“In a moment when he felt that everybody was serious, he had the remote in his hand and pushed the button,” mentioned Billy Eppler, a former Yankees assistant normal supervisor who was most lately the Los Angeles Angels’ normal supervisor.
During the 2005 winter conferences, an annual baseball conference, Cashman deployed each a flatulence machine and a bit trickery on reporters who have been interviewing him in a resort suite. Cashman deliberately left a bit of paper on an espresso desk with a fictional commerce proposal with the Milwaukee Brewers that mentioned one thing alongside the traces of: “We get Ben Sheets. They get Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang.”
Thinking he had a scoop, Mark Feinsand, who coated the Yankees for MLB.com, positioned his pocketbook on the paper and deliberate to discreetly comply with up with Cashman afterward. “I had to do the big reveal because I didn’t want him to write a false story,” Cashman mentioned.
Cashman has used the faux commerce bit on his staff, too. He as soon as modified the contact data in his cellphone for a rival normal supervisor in order that he may trick Matt Ferry, the Yankees’ director of baseball operations, into pondering he had accomplished commerce that Ferry opposed. In actuality, Cashman was merely texting himself.
“It’s just naturally part of his personality,” Eppler mentioned. “He just has a really good understanding of tone and timing. He knows there are times to be serious and times we can laugh a little bit. He understands that’s good medicine.”
Planning for the annual draft will be certainly one of the extra worrying duties for the Yankees’ entrance workplace, mentioned Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice chairman for home newbie scouting. But when Cashman arrives yearly to the crew’s facility in Tampa, Fla., Oppenheimer mentioned, he can put individuals comfortable along with his laid-back apparel (flip flops, T-shirt, and shorts) and his humor.
Around the time of 1 draft, Oppenheimer mentioned, Cashman used the flatulence machine on him whereas they have been ordering dinner at a restaurant.
“You have to tell the waitress because she’s not going to say anything,” Oppenheimer mentioned, laughing, “but you’re like, ‘This is what we deal with.’”
Cashman mentioned he was an honest sport for pranks, too. Afterman mentioned she as soon as pranked Cashman years in the past with a faux waiver declare for a participant who was owed some huge cash.
Phillies Manager Joe Girardi, who was the Yankees’ supervisor from 2008 to 2017, mentioned he “always” received Cashman again however solely vaguely elaborated. “Some of the same things he did to me,” Girardi mentioned.
Pranks have been tougher to drag off this season with so many entrance workplace staffers working remotely, Cashman mentioned. But lately, when Matt Daley, a director of professional scouting, who lives in New Jersey, went to Yankee Stadium for a gathering held totally on Zoom to go over the crew’s potential playoff opponents, Cashman had an uncommon in-person goal.
So Cashman mentioned he sneaked out of his workplace and tossed get together snaps — the kind that makes firecracker-like sounds — into the convention room the place Daley was sitting throughout the video name.
Eppler mentioned he had additionally been the goal of getting together snap blitzes throughout shows, in addition to a clicker pen that shocks customers. Cashman often gave it to him when he was signing official paperwork.
“I’ve probably forgotten half the stuff I’ve pulled,” Cashman mentioned.
He did bear in mind, although, just a few he had inflicted on gamers. He was the architect behind the drafting of a prank letter from the Internal Revenue Service to Rivera in 2013, the last season of the pitcher’s 19-year profession, a couple of fees owed on behalf of his charity.
“He was so nervous because the number was so astronomical,” Cashman mentioned.
Cashman mentioned him as soon as gave the former outfielder Nick Swisher a prank scratch lottery ticket that produced a $50,000 winner. (He advised Swisher he had picked it up at a gasoline station on the option to Yankee Stadium that day.) Swisher, in the center of a $27 million contract, raced up and down the hallways in delight at his obvious success.
The directions on the again learn: “Claim forms supplied by Santa Claus. All winning tickets must be validated by the Tooth Fairy and conform to her game rules.” (Cashman retains these and the get-together snaps in his workplace desk.)
As he advised his aspect of Cashman’s prank at the Astros’ ballpark, Nevin insisted he wasn’t searching for a struggle with Cintron when he charged by way of the clubhouse doorways final October. He mentioned he anticipated to have a dialogue, “not to knock each other out.”
He nonetheless laughs about the sensible joke and hinted that he may get Cashman again in the future.
“He does a good job of mixing the professionalism with having fun with the guys, staff, and players,” Nevin mentioned. “It makes us all better. We all do it here. It’s nice when your leader is the same kind of personality.”