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Teixeira: 'In the back of my mind, the Yankees were always the top'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 6, 2009 12:57 PM

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The Yankees officially introduced first baseman Mark Teixeira at a press conference at the old Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Here are few notable comments from the 28-year-old slugger, who agreed to an eight-year, $180 million free agent contract with New York Dec. 23, jilting the Red Sox, who were thought by many to be his first choice:

On whether he planned on signing with the Yankees all along:

"The whole process was confusing. Sometimes I'd tell Scott to stop calling me, then I'd call him five times a day saying, 'Tell me what you know!' Two weeks before Christmas, I talked to [my wife] Leigh about it again, and we kind of decided that, hey, the Yankees are where we want to be. Cash [Brian Cashman] might want to give Leigh a hug, because when I asked her during the process, 'Where should I go, where should I go?,' she'd always say, 'I just want you to be happy.' Finally she said, 'I want you to be a Yankee,' and it was a done deal. Once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer for me."

It's interesting to note that the Red Sox' visit to Teixeira's home in Texas came on Dec. 18, which is just a week before Christmas. If Teixeira's comments can be taken at face value, he made his mind up a week before the Sox' trip.

On the Yankees' sales pitch:

"I was very impressed with Cash when he came out to visit me in Washington. It took about a month to narrow our choices down to five teams. Cash made a nice video of Yankee Stadium and gave me the full college recruiting pitch, and at the end of that week, I talked to [Agent] Scott [Boras], I talked to Leigh, and I decided the Yankees were where I wanted to be. In my mind, the Yankees were always the top."

On coming to the end of the free agent process:

"[It's] a lot of relief [having it over with]. I'd be lying to say it wasn't a stressful position. Scott warned me a few years ago that if I went to free agency it would be be like this . . . [But] once it hit me I was going to be a Yankee, it was a feeling of pure joy, just the excitement of being a Yankee. And [it felt good] to call my family in Baltimore to tell them. I played in Los Angeles, Atlanta, my first few years in Texas, now I'm the closest I've been to them, so now they can see me play. So it's a little relief and a lot of excitement."

On growing up a fan of Yankees great Don Mattingly:

"I think it says a lot that a kid who grew up in Baltimore, whose family had season tickets in Baltimore, would cheer for . . . Mattingly. People would say, 'Why not Eddie [Murray], why not Cal [Ripken]?,' but there was just something about Don Mattingly. My dad would take me to O's games and I'd wear a Yankees hat, which wasn't too safe in Baltimore back in the '80s. But it was worth it. There's something about being a Yankee, no matter where you are there are Yankees fans, and I'm glad to be a Yankee today."

On his goals as a Yankee:

"What I'm trying to accomplish in my career, my goals, are the same goals as the Yankees': to win the World Series. I've been blessed to play . . . with some great players in my career, and now I'm getting to play in the greatest organization in sports history with some of the greatest players in sports history."

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Post-press conference comments

The Globe's Tony Massarotti was in attendance at the Teixeira press conference, and filed this report after speaking with the parties after the formal press conference:

First, we need to provide a little background. Shortly after the formal Mark Teixeira press conference ended, all involved parties broke up to address Teixeira's arrival in New York. If you were watching on TV, you didn't get much beyond the dog and pony show that most press conferences like this have become.

That said, here are some of the highlights from today's post-presser briefings, with the questions that prompted the answers. Keep in mind that, during the main presser, Teixeira indicated that he and his wife decided roughly two weeks before Christmas that the Yankees were the best fit for him. His subsequent meeting with the Red Sox in Dallas took place roughly 10 days after that, raising the obvious question of whether the Sox were needlessly strung along.

Of course, at the same time, there is evidence to suggest that the Red Sox might have ended this earlier in the process with a more aggressive offer, at least based on Teixeira's perspective.

In any case, here goes:

When did the Yankees know they had secured Teixeira?

Brian Cashman, Yankees GM: "When I met with him in Washington [before the winter meetings, which took place in early December], I felt that he wanted to be a Yankee. He didn't say that, but I just got a really good feeling of like, 'You know what, if all things were equal, I think this is where he would prefer to play.' That was my sense. Then again, some players are good at selling that type of [sentiment], but that was my genuine feel.

"But two hours before he made his decision, I remember telling our people I thought he was going to Boston and I did not think he was coming to us, based on the conversations. Maybe an hour before, I was like, `Wow, we actually may have a shot here,' just by the way Scott [Boras] started focusing on some of the more minute details of the contract. When you start focusing on that area, you're trying to get a deal, so that was a turning point. It was probably only about an hour beforehand. But up until two hours before the decision he made, I just though we were actually still behind Boston."

Were the Red Sox and others strung along?

Scott Boras, agent: "I think whenever you represent a free agent player and he signs somewhere, part of the process is one where everyone is going to say they were strung along. Obviously, in my business, you're either called a shopper or a puffer; one of the two, you're going to be labeled with. You do the things you need to do, in good faith, when dealing with teams.

"As far as Boston goes, I think Boston knows they got good faith proposals and they were given proposals, which means, if accepted, the player would have signed the proposal. If teams reject them, they cannot in any way suggest they were strung along."

Was Teixeira always going to New York or did the Red Sox and others truly have a chance?

Teixeira: "Every team did [have a chance]. I told my agent, 'This is the pecking order,' and I gave him my idea of who was going to be near the top. At the same time, I'm not going to lie to you guys. Contract was important. I wasn't going to take half as much money to play in New York. But when a team like New York steps up and is very competitive with their contract, it was an easy decision for me.

"I wasn't stringing the other teams along. At the same time, nobody had really stepped up to make it, 'Hey, now Mark, let's make a decision.' For a long time there, most of the contracts were basically the same."

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