During the 1980’s, a popular beer commercial opened with men busy at work, wearing hard hats at a construction site. As the afternoon whistle blew, signaling the end of the work day, they slapped each other’s backs and headed to a nearby bar, where they lifted frosty mugs, white suds pouring over the rims, and partook in a moment of revelry and male bonding while a voiceover proclaimed: “Now comes Miller time.”
The afternoon ritual gave workers the chance to unwind and relax after their daily rigors. The commercial’s message was clear: “Miller Beer is your reward for a hard day’s work. Drinking Miller with friends is not only a celebration of life, but a chance to leave the stress of life behind and enjoy a moment of pure exultation.”
While beer commercials remain ever popular, concerns over drinking and driving have over the past decades forced a reevaluation of our methods of relaxation. Today we are more likely to see workers “relaxing” at a gym at the end of their day than tossing back a few with friends.
However, Brian Cashman, General Manager of the New York Yankees, has taken after-hours activities to an entirely new level. Cashman’s job has always been stressful. He works for an organization that expects to not just compete, but win every year. Anything less than a championship is labeled a disappointment. With that type of pressure to succeed, it is surprising that Cashman has not only survived at his position for years, but is generally regarded as one of the better general managers in the game.
This offseason has been particularly stressful for Cashman. Not only did the Yankees fall short of repeating as world champions, they were ousted by the Texas Rangers, a team which, until this season, had never advanced beyond the opening round of the playoffs. Further, Derek Jeter, the all-star shortstop and sure Hall-of-Famer, universally considered the face of the franchise (the heir to Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle), is a free agent for the first time in a decade. Because Jeter is thirty-six years old and coming off the worst season of his career, Cashman has refused to accede to his agent’s reported demands for a five-year contract at $24 million per season. Instead, Cashman has made what he considers a more “reasonable” offer of three years at $15 million per season. That’s considerably less than what Jeter made this past year, but more than what any other shortstop in baseball earns.
While the two sides have made progress in negotiations in recent days, the headlines of New York tabloids for the past weeks have speculated about Jeter’s future with the team. The tone of the headlines has generally not been favorable to Cashman. The sentiment expressed is that the Yankees should give Jeter whatever he wants as a reward for his years of loyal service. Of course, it is easy to be generous with someone else’s money, particularly when those expressing the sentiment have no concerns about assembling a team for the coming season – a team that will live up to the Yankees’ lofty expectations. Cashman has to make a difficult business decision and, unlike most businessmen, must do so while under a national spotlight.
It is therefore not surprising that Cashman has sought ways to unwind when removed from the stress of his daily duties as Yankees GM. What is surprising is what he has chosen to do for “relaxation.”
This Friday, Cashman will rappel down the side of a 22-story building while wearing an elf costume (presumably an elf costume is more dignified, in keeping with Yankees tradition, than, say, reindeer antlers). When asked whether the prospect of undertaking this task without protective netting frightened him, Cashman replied: “Nothing is scarier than general managing the Yankees.”
The adrenaline rush will undoubtedly help Cashman unwind, recharging his batteries for another round of contract negotiations. Yet Jeter and his representatives will have to wait before resuming the numbers talk. Cashman will repeat the feat on Sunday.
Which raises the question: With an annual player payroll exceeding $200 million, couldn’t someone just buy the man a beer?