Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yanks reclaim favorite role with Teixeira

Well, I don't think many of us could say they saw that coming.

Mark Teixeira is a Yankee, and with that, the balance of power in the American League East has shifted. With a fortified starting rotation and now the most coveted slugger on the market in the fold, the Yankees have become the team to beat.

Phew. That underdog stuff didn't suit us around these parts.

It goes without saying that this transaction has people up in arms. A whole new line of venomous "The Yankees are ruining baseball" chatter has filled the interwebs, the club being painted as the demonic warhorse that cackles in the face of a recession. The angry mob points out that the Yanks have committed to nearly half a billion dollars in salary this offseason and that the four highest-paid players in the league will now call Yankee Stadium home in 2009. The general manager of some team called the Milwaukee Brewers even went as far as to send a missive to the press calling for a salary cap. It was adorable.

I can certainly understand the anger in some respects. This is the Yankees' Shawn-Michaels-kicking-Marty-Jeanetty-through-the-Barber-Shop-window move, a defining act of power lacking any sense of subtlety. This is who we really are, screw you for thinking we were anything different. The Yankees have the financial might to dig deep into their war chest, and when the Red Sox hesitated on pulling the trigger to get Teixeira, Brian Cashman jumped in. An eight-year, $180 million mega-deal was born.

And how about those Red Sox? It's hard to say they didn't drop the ball in a big way here. The Yankees needed a young slugger like Teixeira in the worst way, but Theo Epstein and the Boston brass were apparently convinced by New York's possum act. The Sox have become the model for front office excellence in recent years, but their policy of refusing to go beyond set financial limits backfired in this case. Was that $10 to $15 million difference on their end really worth allowing one of the league's premier players to suit up for the archrival? It doesn't seem to make sense.

I have to hand it to Cashman here. If this was his plan all along, it was pretty damn brilliant. You got the two pitchers you coveted and now you stole the top position player right out from under the hated Red Sox's nose. Sure, his job is made exponentially easier with all the resources at his fingertips, but this hot stove work is very much a finesse business. Cashman has kept his cards close to the vest throughout, and now it is the Yankees who will head into April with baseball's best hand.

A winter wonderland, indeed.

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