One of the great underrated actors of all time is Claude Rains. A Warner Brothers contract player for many years, Rains, in the words of critic David Thomson, "had few equals" for "consistent enterprise in supporting parts." For the proof, check out (at minimum) the incestuous Dr. Alexander Tower in Kings Row (also Ronald Reagan’s best movie), his Senator Joseph Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, who I would vote for ahead of Jimmy Stewart’s ostensibly heroic Jefferson Smith, or Alexander Sebastian in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, where he almost makes you feel sorry for a Nazi war criminal.
The foregoing list leaves out what might be Rains’ best-known part, the mercurial Captain Renault of Casablanca, who gets one of the best lines in movie history in a movie filled with them. Here it is, courtesy of the Internet Movie Database:
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!
Brian Cashman struck the same note of implausible incredulity over the weekend when he complained that Pedro Feliciano was abused by the Mets. Really? He’s just noticing this now? During his Mets tenure, Feliciano pitched more than any pitcher ever—Iron Man McGinnity, Kent Tekulve, Mike Marshall, anybody. From 2008 to 2010 he pitched 266 times in 486 games. Even Joe Torre never pounded on a reliever like that. The Yankees signed him at their own risk, and if he has an injury that results from that abuse, however minor the wound, they have to accept that as a consequence of the gamble they took. Otherwise, if you don’t have tolerance for this kind of risk, don’t sign the most heavily used pitcher of all time.
In truth, I don’t believe Cashman is this naïve. He is not shocked, shocked to find that Feliciano has some wear and tear on him, and perhaps he is not talking for our benefit. We know that Rafael Soriano was not signed at his behest, but at the prompting of other players on the org chart. It is entirely fair to guess that Cashman might also have been overruled on the high-mileage left-hander. If so, then his remarks were addressed to whoever in the organization insisted he take the risk. "See?" he was saying. "See???"
Building a bullpen is the hardest task for any general manager, and it is not surprising that the Yankees would have a lot of cooks working that particular broth. It’s not necessarily even a bad thing. The more heads you have attached to any circuit, the more information you bring into the system, and since last season’s scouting and statistics aren’t sufficient to choose this year’s bullpen—there is just too much volatility in the results—and instinct only gets one so far, so maybe picking by consensus is the way to go, or at least as good as any other way, although it still will apparently produce its share of sore losers.
As my colleague Ben Lindbergh wrote today, "Admitting to being held hostage by circumstance qualifies as conduct unbecoming a GM." There are always alternatives, particularly for the Yankees. Cashman knows that, which is why I suspect that his complaints aren’t really about the Mets, but stem from being as much a middle manager as a general manager.