Cashman scandal shouldn’t get him fired

In the days leading to the Super Bowl, only one story rivaled the Giants for attention from the New York tabloids.

The off-field affairs of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

Mistresses! Extortion! Divorce!

The story is a tabloid dream, but it will not and should not jeopardize Cashman’s job status with the Yankees.

Cashman, regardless of what you think of his conduct, is guilty of exercising poor judgment in his personal life, but not poor judgment in his job.

In theory, a GM should set a moral tone for his organization, just like any person in a position of leadership.

In reality, does anyone seriously think that Cashman’s behavior would influence any Yankees player one way or the other?

The Yankees surely would prefer their GM to make the front pages of the tabloids only for blockbuster player transactions. Yet, Cashman kept ownership informed of his personal issues, and one source said Monday that the team is “totally, 100 percent behind him.”

In truth, Cashman actually is something of a victim here, though he likely would be the first to admit that he is in this position through no one’s fault but his own.

Louise Neathway, a woman who says she was Cashman’s mistress, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with stalking Cashman and trying to extort $15,000 from him for an unspecified medical procedure after he already had paid her $6,000.

News broke the next day that Cashman’s wife, Mary, had filed for divorce. The two reportedly had been separated for more than a year. Cashman was romantically linked to another woman, Kim Brennan, in 2009.

Sounds like a story for Us Weekly, which reports breathlessly on celebrity hookups and breakups. Or Deadspin, which broke some of the details on Cashman’s affairs.

But Yankees fans — and Yankees ownership — are far more interested in whether Cashman made the right call exchanging catcher Jesus Montero for right-hander Michael Pineda in a recent four-player trade.

Cashman, through his actions, hurt himself, his wife of 16 years and his two children. None of that should be taken lightly; we are talking about human beings here. But if not for the alleged extortion, much of this would have remained private.

The reality, whether you agree with it or not, is this: Professional sports teams, like many major companies, routinely forgive lapses in personal conduct, provided those lapses do not affect job performance.

As last year’s World Series managers can attest, that approach holds not just for players, but also their bosses.

The St. Louis Cardinals retained Tony La Russa after he was arrested on a DUI charge in 2007. The Texas Rangers retained Ron Washington after he tested positive for cocaine in ’09. Washington, in particular, became a story of redemption.

Then there are the New York Mets, who in 1998 declined to fire a general manager, Steve Phillips, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former Mets employee who worked at the team’s Florida office.

Phillips admitted to consensual sex with the woman, Rosa Rodriguez, and other affairs, but denied harassment. He took a paid leave of absence, was away for eight days and later settled a civil suit out of court. (Eleven years later, Phillips was fired by ESPN after he admitted having an affair with a production assistant at the network).

It’s tricky to compare Cashman and Phillips; Cashman is not being accused of sexual harassment. His worst offense, based on what we know publicly, is that he cheated on his wife. He is the one who allegedly is getting harassed, by a woman who says she was his mistress.

His story is juicy, a classic misstep by a man in power. Cashman is the Yankees’ top baseball executive. The Yankees are perhaps the most famous, successful and valuable franchise in sports. The brand might not be tarnished, but Cashman and ownership certainly should be embarrassed.

Neathway’s next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday; the story might not go away anytime soon. Cashman’s many friends around the game are saddened by what has happened. But at some point the mess will blow over, and everyone will move on to the next scandal.

Cashman will not be fired and should not be fired. Not unless he slips on the job.