Before I skip out of here early to begin my Christmas shopping, a few final questions (and my usual semi-coherent answers) regarding yesterday's Mark Teixeira plot twist . . .
Does the addition of Teixeira make the Yankees the favorite in the AL East? Given what they're spending, it damn well better. Okay, so that's a cynical reaction. It's just that this lifelong baseball fan can't help but gag a little on the insane salary numbers, especially after reading this snippet from Buster Olney's column this morning:
"The Yankees will field the four highest-paid players in baseball history, from A-Rod (the base salary of his contract is $275 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Teixeira ($180 million) and Sabathia ($161 million). 'Are the Yankees aware that the country is going through a recession,' snapped a high-ranking executive. 'Are they crazy? They're going to ruin the sport."'
I agree entirely with Olney's source -- what the Yankees are doing is downright gross, and it makes me a little sickened about the condition of Major League Baseball as a whole right now. Yeah, I know, it's probably not good form for a Red Sox fan to gripe about another team's excess, particularly considering that we're all bummed that they're not the team that gets to pay Teixeira nearly $200 million dollars over the next eight seasons. But in the bigger picture, the truth is undeniable: The game has changed. The Yankees are in their own financial stratosphere now, and no other franchise -- not the Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Tigers, anyone -- is close. With their ability to essentially print money because of their new ballpark and their lucrative television network, they have reached the point where they can overbid for any single player they want, and should he struggle or falter in the New York spotlight, they can simply gulp down his salary and replace him with the next nine-digit-salaried superstar who catches their fancy. It's a stunningly unappealing way to build a baseball team -- it's always more satisfying to build through the farm system or acquire the unsung Bill Muellers and Scott Brosiuses who become cherished heroes on memorable teams -- but in the end, a championship is a championship, and they all feel pretty damn good. Around here, it's convenient this morning to say, "Well, talent isn't everything." We'd all like to believe that that Tex, CC, and A.J. will win exactly as many rings as Giambi, Mussina, and Pavano did, and that Jeter, Matsui, Posada, and Damon will age rapidly, and the Yankees will be humbled by flaws that they don't recognize right now. But at this point, it appears that they've stockpiled so much elite talent that you have to believe that the sum of the individuals will add up to a hell of an imposing team. Yeah, they're the favorite, though if there's any justice, the Red Sox and Rays will be right there with them in October. Especially the Rays.
So what's the plan now? Oh, that's easy. Chad needs some alone time after all of this prolonged Teixeira nonsense, so I plan to put on my fleece jammies, curl up with a gallon of Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip and watch the entire Season 3 of "Grey's Anatomy" in one sitting. (Oh, silly Meredith . . . why must you be so self-destructive? Just let McDreamy love you.) Should be so cathartic. Can't wait.
No, dummy . . . what should the Red Sox' plan be now? Oh . . . that. Well, to be honest, nothing beyond the obvious stuff: Finding a catcher with a pulse (et tu, Kevin Cash?), adding more depth to the bullpen, maybe picking up a fourth or fifth starter, finding a fourth outfielder, etc. I doubt the Red Sox will pursue anyone from the second tier of free-agent bats -- Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu -- nor should they. They are all flawed players who don't fit the Red Sox' particular needs. Teixeira was a special case, a player they have coveted for years and who fits their philosophy perfectly, and there's no one else nearly as appealing. The only semi-big-name free agent I hope they give at least a cursory look to is Ben Sheets, who, if he is healthy (big if, I know) might be the steal of the offseason. Otherwise, it's more or less the status quo, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Sox remain a very good team from top to bottom, and you could do much worse than having Mike Lowell as a fall-back plan
But did the Sox really need Teixeira? Absolutely, and anyone who is downplaying his talents or accomplishments today is indulging in hypocrisy simply because he did not pick their favorite team. Teixeira is a prime-of-career, switch-hitting, middle-of-the-order stud who also happens to be an outstanding defensive first baseman, and even though he's long established as a star, by all accounts he works tirelessly to become an even better ballplayer. Beyond that, it's dangerously short-sighted to believe that both Lowell and David Ortiz are certainties to return to their '07 form . . . and at this point, the Sox are more or less counting on that, as well as stellar sequels from Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. I fear that there will be more than a few times this summer when we long for the heyday of Papi and Manny. As I said in the previous item, I believe this is still a fine, balanced baseball team. But it would have been a damn near flawless one had Teixeira chosen Boston instead.
Did Teixeira hold a grudge against the franchise for the way it handled negotiations with him coming out of high school a decade ago? Sure does look that way today, doesn't it? It was obvious that Teixeira had a long memory regarding the way Dan Duquette and his scouts supposedly manipulated him coming out of high school in '98; he's never been shy about talking about the situation. When I read yesterday that he told the Yankees they were his choice all along, I couldn't help but think he took certain satisfaction in sticking it to the Red Sox all these years later. Hey, Teixeira is frequently described as "business-like" -- it wouldn't be the first time the term was used as a euphemism for "vindictive." I bet we'll get a solid confirmation of this in the next few weeks, probably from the transparent "source close to Teixeira."
Does it feel good to hate the Yankees again? I dunno. I kind of prefer it when they are irrelevant. Baseball season is much less stressful that way.
Why didn't anyone see this coming? Well, ahem, someone did. (What, you thought I'd get through this whole thing without gloating? You people know me better than that.) Listen, Boras is obviously a master at the art of negotiation, and the logic all along suggested that when Teixeira was ready to make a decision, the agent would take the best offer to the team with the most money to see if they would top it. Further, it was beyond naive to think the Yankees -- who, you might recall, have made a habit through the years of swooping in to steal players the Red Sox are openly pursuing -- would stand by idly and allow their chief, hated, and recently more successful rival to sign the best free-agent hitter without getting involved at some significant level. Brian Cashman played this game brilliantly, though in retrospect (to most), his strategy should have been obvious, particularly to the Red Sox. If they didn't suspect, after all the dealings they've had with Boras and the Yankees through the years, that this might be happening, then either their arrogance or ignorance is off the charts. (If I had to bet, I'd say John Henry caught wind of it last week.) One more thing: Boras is an amoral, duplicitous scumbag . . . and if I could afford him, I'd absolutely hire him to negotiate my next contract, though I suspect I'd get stuck writing Yankees propaganda with a bunch of other miserable, overpaid lackeys at the YES Network website.
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So there you go -- at last, it's all played out, and all the speculative words are spent. The Yankees get Teixeira, and the Red Sox are stuck, for now, with no free-agent gifts, but just a couple of lumps of coal. (Say, when's the "Welcome to Boston, Wes Littleton!" press conference?) But if we can keep it in perspective, it's easy to recognize that we've still got it "so good, so good" -- we're blessed to have an outstanding baseball team to follow, and the summer ahead just got a whole lot more interesting. Teixeira had better get some earplugs and a pith helmet for Christmas -- he's going to hear some very creative language during his first visit to Fenway. Can't wait.
On a more serious note, thanks for all of you who stop by these parts for making this such a fun, rewarding year for TATB, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the happiest of holidays. Well, except for you, Boras. Our Christmas wish is that you get trampled by a fleet of reindeer.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.