Attempting the same personal touch that recently mollified Joe Torre, George Steinbrenner yesterday phoned Brian Cashman to tell him in a one-on-one conversation how much the Yankees want to retain him as general manager, The Post has learned.
The Yankees have been quite overt in their desires to keep Cashman, but negotiations essentially have been handled by Steinbrenner's son-in-law, general partner Steve Swindall. Steinbrenner obviously sensed that Cashman needed to hear from The Boss' mouth how much the organization hopes the GM will stay.
Steinbrenner's willingness to express his feelings directly to Cashman is viewed within the organization as a positive move toward convincing Cashman to re-up. Cashman has told friends he wants greater autonomy in decision-making. Hearing the pledge from Steinbrenner, not from an underling, carries more meaning.
Nevertheless, another executive close to Cashman recently said he would not be surprised if Cashman asked to have any promises about the scope of his authority or how the Yankees' chain of command works put into official contract language. The friend said Cashman may request that if his authority or the chain of command is violated, he automatically can opt out of his contract and/or receive a large penalty payment.
Interestingly, Cashman is, to some degree, trying to resolve similar issues with Steinbrenner that Torre was. The Yankees' manager said he needed to be assured The Boss still wanted him as manager after a tumultuous season. Torre asked for and received a sit-down meeting in Tampa with Steinbrenner last Monday that Torre described positively as "more than cordial."
Torre met with the media the next day and said he wanted to stay as Yankees manager, citing the meeting with Steinbrenner as integral to that choice.
Similarly, Cashman "wants to know his opinion counts and that his input is important," an ally of the GM said. Cashman has grown intolerant of having to defend organizational moves (the signings of Jaret Wright and Tony Womack, for example) that he had little or nothing to do with. He has some leverage now to ask for a larger say in such matters with his contract expiring Oct. 31 and the potential to go someplace else, such as Philadelphia to be the GM.