Brian Cashman says that if you want to find a reason to knock him, or fire him, or run him out of town, there's an easy and valid one right at your doorstep.
"The only thing anyone should really care about," he said, "is whether or not I find a starting pitcher."
Asked how the hunt was going, Cashman was typically blunt: "Not too good. But give it time."
Three weeks removed from pitchers and catchers, the Yankees' starting rotation consists of three men -- one is a stud, another is coming off his first full season as a starter and the third is A.J. Burnett.
"You want to criticize me for something, criticize me for that," Cashman said. "The rest of this stuff is nothing but noise, and mostly inaccurate."
In the past three months, way too many trees have died and way too much cyberspace has been filled chronicling the supposed unraveling of the Yankees' general manager, who since the end of the season has: fired his pitching coach; re-hired his manager; publicly suggested his 36-year-old shortstop test the market to see if he could do better than $15 million a year; failed to sign Cliff Lee; rappelled down the side of a building in an elf suit; publicly stated his reasons for opposing his boss' decision to give Rafael Soriano a closer's paycheck while doing a setup man's job; acknowledged that Derek Jeter might not be playing shortstop for the Yankees when he is 40 years old; and, most recently, served as a guest bartender to benefit a charity fighting the disease that killed his father-in-law.
Somehow, these loosely related events have been cobbled together by some into a résumé creating the perception that Cashman, the longest tenured Yankees GM of the Steinbrenner era, is trying like hell to get out of the job as quickly as possible.
Never mind that the job pays him $2 million a year -- more than any of his counterparts -- or that serving as the GM of the Yankees is kind of like serving as the editor of the New York Times, the drummer for the Beatles, or the CEO of Apple.
Not only are there no upward moves to make from there, there aren't even any lateral moves.
Cashman doesn't want to go anywhere -- as he said to me on Thursday, "Am I trying to get fired? Absolutely not!" -- and judging by the statements of Hal Steinbrenner to the New York Post, the Yankees don't want him going anywhere when his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Still, the story has taken on a life of its own -- like a snowball rolling down a hillside, getting bigger and bigger, picking up more dirt and garbage as it goes along.
Never mind that we know Hal Steinbrenner himself authorized Cashman to "fire back" at Jeter after his agent, Casey Close, publicly described the Yankees' negotiating strategy as "baffling," and that Steinbrenner signed off on Cashman's admirable decision not to back off his opposition to the Soriano deal, but to restate it at the rollout ceremony last week at Yankee Stadium.
And if there's a Yankees fan or employee who truly believes Jeter will be playing shortstop when he's 40, please raise your hand. (You can put your hand down now, Derek.)
Cliff Lee? As soon as the Phillies entered the hunt, he wasn't coming to the Bronx. (You want to blame someone? Blame Chuck Greenberg, who seems to want to be blamed.)
And if you're going to blame Cashman for spending too much time and energy on chasing Lee, you better be ready to tell me who he should have, or could have, signed instead. (Don't say Carl Pavano.)
Rappelling down the building was part of a Christmas event Cashman did mainly to amuse his kids. And I haven't heard anyone complain about the way Cashman poured the drinks Thursday night at Foley's.
"So what have I done?" Cashman asked. "If they feel the need to sell papers at my expense, fine, be my guest, but get the facts straight. I'm comfortable with the job I'm doing. The only thing I've done wrong so far is not get us a starting pitcher."
And Cashman admits that's not going to be easy -- not unless Andy Pettitte wakes up on the ranch someday soon with a burning desire to go to Tampa and throw a baseball, another decision that is out of the GM's control.
There are reasons for a GM to stay away from, or at least be wary of, all three of them. But when you're in Cashman's position, you might be forced to swallow the fact Millwood is 36 years old and has pitched to an over-5.00 ERA in three of the past four years; the fact Garcia couldn't even survive the cut with the Mets a few years ago; and the fact Duchscherer missed all of 2009 with arm injuries and clinical depression and threw just 28 innings last season.
You might even take a chance on Bartolo Colon -- which, of course, he already has. No wonder Cashman's still holding out hope, however slim, that Pettitte will change his mind and show up in camp on Valentine's Day bearing candy and flowers.
"I'm not jumping at what's out there," Cashman said. "It doesn't mean I'm not gonna be involved with any of them. I'm just not jumping into anything."
Or off of anything, or out of anything.
"My focus is on being the GM of the Yankees, not on not being GM of the Yankees," Cashman said. "I was charged with winning a championship, we did it. I was charged with reducing payroll, we're doing it. I was charged with building up our farm system, we're doing it. Those are the only things that should matter."
All the rest of it is, to paraphrase a pretty good writer by the name of Shakespeare, a lot of sound and fury, a tale told by an idiot. Too many idiots, in fact.