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Cashman's been money

Yanks GM responsible for team's turnaround

Posted: Thursday August 30, 2007 11:47AM; Updated: Friday August 31, 2007 10:51PM
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Joba Chamberlain has adjusted smoothly to his new role as a reliever.
Joba Chamberlain has adjusted smoothly to his new role as a reliever.
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Thanks to an unusual run of some very un-Yankee-like decisions, the storied franchise has moved into excellent position to make the playoffs for a 13th straight season.

The Yankees' October calendar isn't quite booked yet. But an extremely favorable schedule (22 of their final 29 games come against Tampa, Toronto, Baltimore and Kansas City), decent momentum (their 36-18 record since July 3 is the best in the majors) and an influx of talented and enthusiastic young players make them the clear favorite now that they're in a tie atop the tough American League wild-card derby with surprising Seattle. And of course, the All Star-stocked $200-million payroll doesn't hurt, either.

"This team belongs in the playoffs," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, "but we've got to earn it."

Sure, the big-bucks return of Roger Clemens was a necessary midseason $28 million (pro-rated) headline grabber. But it's been the ascension of young talent -- combined with Cashman's unwavering resistance to go for the expensive quick fix despite mounting pressure -- that has catapulted the Yankees back into postseason contention.

Powerful, previously overlooked Shelley Duncan brought youthful zeal, not to mention a quick six dingers (in 48 at-bats), before the stunningly talented right-hander Joba Chamberlain lit the Bronx afire with a fastball-slider combination that's somewhat reminiscent of a younger Clemens.

Chamberlain, a rare Native American major leaguer who grew up poor in Nebraska, has quickly become a Bronx folk hero. He has allowed no runs and struck out 17 in 10 carefully-selected innings, and is such a valued property that Yankees manager Joe Torre has been made by Cashman to abide by what's well-known in New York now as the "Joba Rules," intelligent limits for the mega-talent who's being asked to pitch in relief for the first time.

"I have no apologies for the restrictions," says Cashman, the author of the rules.

While the Joba Rules haven't publicly been spelled out by the club, it's known that Torre is instructed to give Joba a day off after using him for one inning and two days off if he uses him two innings. No one in the organization would put it this way, but the rules prevent Torre from doing what he did to poor Scott Proctor (and before that to Paul Quantrill and Tanyon Sturtze), which is to run a hot hand into the ground. The result is that Torre has been utilizing his full bullpen, which by no coincidence, looks a lot better today.

Cashman was pilloried in this space for the Yankees' poor first half (and while we're at it, I also wrote the Yankees off in mid-May -- oops). But it's Cashman's rules, his moves and his non-moves that have helped put the Yankees in a pretty nice playoff position.

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