NEW YORK -- In the end, the challenge of tackling what Brian Cashman calls "the toughest job in sports" proved to be too much to pass up.
After lengthy deliberation and consultations with family, friends and associates, Cashman announced Thursday that he will return for a ninth season as the general manager of the Yankees, agreeing to terms on a three-year contract extension.
"Part of the process was to make sure I'm up to the challenge," Cashman said. "You make decisions like this, and you have to make sure you're up for it. It's tough. There's a lot that's involved."
The stakes figure to be even higher now for the 38-year-old Cashman, following a 2005 season in which the Yankees were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Angels. Wearing the club's 2000 World Series ring on his right hand, Cashman said he plans to plot course immediately on ending the Bombers' five-year title drought.
"I am very happy that Brian will continue as general manager," principal owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement.
"Brian has literally grown up in the Yankees organization and is a tireless worker. He is very knowledgeable about the game and the business of baseball, and is extremely loyal. I know he is already working toward bringing a World Championship back to New York."
With the new contract, Cashman -- who likened himself to baseball's version of "The Apprentice," rising from a 19-year-old intern in the club's Minor League and scouting department to the head of baseball operations -- has a chance to be the last general manager at the Yankees' current home, leading the way into the new Stadium in 2009.
Though there were certainly options -- Cashman was mentioned as a candidate for openings in Philadelphia and Arizona -- Cashman said his preference was always to stay with the Yankees. But first, he sought assurance that frequent disagreements in philosophy between the Yankees' New York and Tampa factions could be calmed.
Cashman said most of his negotiation time with Steinbrenner, general partner Steve Swindal, president Randy Levine and COO Lonn Trost discussed not financials, but processes of streamlining and simplification. Cashman spoke Thursday of "splintering," in which members of one faction would voice displeasure with certain philosophies and opinions.
"Obviously, that can create a lot of different potholes along the way as we all travel in the same direction," Cashman said.
Unsatisfied by the final results of the last five seasons, Cashman said he found the ranks of executives open to change and to the removal of ongoing drama from the club's two operating arms.
He drew an analogy to highway guardrails, protecting the straight path through a hands-on ownership group to a 27th World Series championship. Cashman said Steinbrenner was receptive to the plan in a lengthy telephone call last week.
"I want to be that filter," Cashman said. "Everything goes through me. With the chain of command, I think everyone involved wants it that way. We've all suffered this year in different ways because of the splintering. I think everyone involved wants it to be streamlined."
Under what the Yankees hope to be a revitalized plan of structure, Cashman said he is eyeing several changes, most notably a reduction in payroll.
As the Yankees showed by testing young players like Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang this season, a high-end player may not be necessary at every position. Cashman said he plans to target a simple blueprint that places a re-emphasis on the club's Minor League player development -- which already hosts potential impact players at lower levels -- and international scouting.
In Cashman's description of the model, free agency and trades would be used to "finish off" a club, not serve as the bedrock of the organization.
"It's going to work closer to how the other 29 clubs work," Cashman said.
With several changes to Joe Torre's coaching staff leading the agenda -- Larry Bowa has been contacted as a leading candidate to replace Luis Sojo as third base coach, while Ron Guidry and Lee Mazzilli are in the mix to be pitching coach and bench coach, respectively -- Cashman said the Yankees plan to hold organizational meetings in New York shortly.
Other activity shouldn't be far off. Possible player moves regarding center field and the bullpen are expected to follow, with the general managers' meetings coinciding with the Yankees' yet-to-be-determined plans.
"We have the most money, there's no secret about that," Cashman said. "If you combine that with the best decision-making process on a consistent basis, then God help the rest of baseball."