MLB: A front-office record will be tied on Thursday by Yankees, A’s

When Thursday’s Opening Day dawns, an all-time record will be equaled twice with the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s … but not by anybody in uniform.

The start of play for the 2022 Major League season will also mark the 25th consecutive season in  which New York’s Brian Cashman and Oakland’s Billy Beane have been their respective teams’ chief decision-makers.

That mark associated with the Yankees and A’s will equal the longest such record of chief decision-making responsibility for one team by anyone other than a club owner in MLB history.

Following the resignation of Sandy Alderson at the conclusion of the 1997 season, Oakland A’s owner Walter Haas appointed Beane general manager. In February of 1998, George Steinbrenner appointed Cashman general manager of the New York Yankees following the resignation of Bob Watson.

Cashman has continued to operate the Yankees as general manager since then, while over the years adding the title of senior vice president.

Beane was promoted to executive vice president of baseball operations when that position was created following the 2015 season. David Forst now holds the title of general manager.

The position of general manager — or whatever teams choose to call it — has historically been an especially volatile one. Fewer than 200 men in all of the game’s history have lasted at least five years as head of a front office, and that count includes team owners who doubled as their own GM.

Only eight have made it to two decades of continuous service with the  same team, and none of those eight topped 25 years. Beane and Cashman will reach that 25-year plateau Thursday.

That will equal the longevity record set by Branch Rickey as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals between 1918 and 1942, and matched by John Schuerholz in Atlanta. Schuerholz was GM of the Braves from 1991 through 2007, continuing as president of baseball ops through the 2015 season.

In a broadest sense, the longevity record is probably unassailable. Connie Mack, who owned the Philadelphia Athletics, doubled as that team’s general manager from the franchise’s creation in 1901 through 1949. Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, did essentially the same thing between 1913 and 1955.

Here’s the list of the eight non-owners who managed to last 20 consecutive years as chief operating officer for one team.

  • Branch Rickey, St. Louis Cardinals, 1918-1942 (25)
  • John Schuerholz, Atlanta Braves, 1991-2015 (25)
  • Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics, 1998-2022 (25*)
  • Brian Cashman, New York Yankees, 1998-2002 (25*)
  • Ed Barrow, New York Yankees, 1921-1944 (24)
  • Charles Feeney, New York-San Francisco Giants, 1947-1969 (23)
  • Jim Campbell, Detroit Tigers, 1963-1983 (21)
  • Joe L. Brown, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1957-1976 (20)

*as of Thursday

Two other men nearly made it to 20. Al Campaneris ran the Dodgers’ front office from 1969 through 1987 — 19 seasons — before famously being fired in the wake of a controversial TV interview prior to the start of the 1988 season. John Holland retired in 1975 after 19 seasons of frustration running the Chicago Cubs.

How many more seasons do Cashman and Beane have left in them? Assuming one or both continues into 2023, how high can they push the record?

Age gives Cashman the better chance. He turns 55 this summer, an age that is not viewed as especially old in baseball front offices these days. The Phillies, after all, just last season hired 65-year-old Dave Dombrowski to run their front office. Detroit GM Al Avila is 63. Beane just turned 60.

And, unlike with Beane, who some years back positioned Forst to be his successor, there is no obvious plan in place in New York to fill Cashman’s chair.

A year ago, when rumors had Cashman on Hal Steinbrenner’s hot seat, the talk was that the Yankees might pursue a big-name GM from another team — the name of Milwaukee’s David Stearns surfaced. But Stearns is under contract to the Brewers through 2023. Tim Naehring, vice president of baseball ops, is rumored to be the leading inside candidate.