|Cashman thinks the Yankees have a better team this year than they had last year.
Four years into his job as General Manager of the Yankees, Brian Cashman is making his fourth trip to the World Series. As his team worked out at Bank One Ballpark on Friday, Cashman spoke with Yankees.com site reporter Mark Feinsand about the current edition of the Bronx Bombers.
MLB.com: Has this been the toughest road to the World Series for the Yankees in the run?
Cashman: No, last year was. We only won 87 games, didn't win the division by too much, and we made significant changes to the roster -- about 40 percent -- from Opening Day. Last year was the most difficult, but we ultimately won a championship. I guess if we fall short, that could change to this year.
MLB.com: Has this been the toughest postseason road you've had to take?
Cashman: I don't know, they're all tough. We went five games with Oakland last year, and beat Seattle in one fewer game this season. They all feel tough, they're all a grind. I think we have a better team this year than we had last year. The last two years have probably been the toughest.
MLB.com: How do the Diamondbacks rank with your previous four World Series opponents?
Cashman: They're right up there. They will have two pitchers face us four or five times this series, and while we have faced guys like Kevin Brown, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Hampton and Al Leiter before, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson may be a cut above. They'll be as tough as any team we've played.
MLB.com: Do Schilling and Johnson deserve the comparisons to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale?
Cashman: Absolutely. I know when Schilling got traded from the Phillies to Arizona, I was happy he was staying in the National League, and when Johnson was traded from Seattle to Houston and then stayed in the NL, I was glad he was staying in that league. We want to have the cornerstone of pitching in the AL, and let anyone that could give us some trouble play in this circuit. Now, we're facing them.
MLB.com: What was the most important move the Yankees made this year?
Cashman: Mike Mussina's addition in the winter was the biggest move we made. That, and getting Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera signed to long-term contracts.
MLB.com: Has Mussina been everything you thought he would be?
Cashman: He has quietly fit into our clubhouse like he's been here the whole time, and he's performed at an extremely high level. He's been one of the best pitchers in our league. That's all we wanted, and all we've ever asked.
MLB.com: With Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez all eligible for free agency, is there a feeling that this may be the final run for this group that has made this run?
Cashman: I hope not. We have tough decisions every year, some we can control and others the players dictate. We'll have to see how the winter shakes out. Every winter seems to be difficult, we've gone through a lot of turnover since 1996, so we'll wait and see how this winter plays out.
MLB.com: Luis Gonzalez had a huge, MVP-type of season. The Yankees haven't had anyone put up that kind of year during this run. What does that say about your club?
Cashman: We have 25 guys that played into Joe Torre's "Win as a team, lose as a team" approach. We've been very careful about the additions we've made -- especially in our market -- not bringing someone that was bigger than the team. Certainly we'd love to have a guy that hits 57 home runs, but it would have to be the right one.
MLB.com: The two World Series venues couldn't be more different. We all know about the history of Yankee Stadium, but what are your first impressions of Bank One Ballpark?
Cashman: I look forward to having a great experience here. It looks like most of the new parks look, I'm sure it's an enjoyable place to watch a game and the fans have watched the Diamondbacks win a lot here. Hopefully, they won't be too happy over the next couple of days while we're in town.
MLB.com: Alfonso Soriano wasn't a part of your plan entering Spring Training, yet he has become an important part of your team. How have you seen his evolution through the season, and especially in the playoffs?
Cashman: He's been tremendous for us. We knew he was going to be a gem, it was just a matter of time, it just came a little quicker than we expected. We thought he'd be our shortstop at Triple A, but when he showed up this spring, he wanted to make the 25-man roster. And he wasn't just happy to make the roster, he wanted to be in the starting lineup. He earned that and then some. He's going to be a mainstay here for years to come.
MLB.com: Can you compare the personality of this team to those that won four of the last five titles?
Cashman: They have the same work ethic, the same attitude, they don't get too high or too low and take it one day at a time. The personality is very similar because a lot of the personnel is the same.
MLB.com: Are you guys running out of designs for championship rings?
Cashman: I hope not. I'd like to test that question this winter. I hope we have the chance to.
Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.