BASEBALL’S POLAR VORTEX
It’s like freezing temperatures in New England in January. They’re the norm, it’s life as we have come to know it. When the temperatures rise in January and the snow and ice begin to melt we cower before the gods of global warming. Something is not right in our universe.
So it has been in Major League Baseball since the end of the 2013 season. Something wasn’t right. It was like looking at baseball through a looking glass, everything was in reverse. The Yankees finished out of the playoffs, but, unlike past years when that happened, actually only once before in the last 20 years, rather than announcing a spend, spend, spend their way back in philosophy, the Yankees talked like the meek who shall never inherit the baseball earth. The new generation of Steinbrenners was determined to stay under the salary cap to save their luxury tax money. They became punch lines in other corners of the baseball world.
The laughter died in some of that good old cynicism this week when the Yankees of old emerged and spent 155 million Steinbrenner bucks on the biggest catch in the free agent pitching market, 25 year old Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, capping an off season spending spree of over a half billion dollars that leaves them with, arguably, the best defensive outfield in the American League, all stars to fill holes at catcher and second base, enough new lumber to compliment returning injured players and more than restart an offense that lay dormant last season, and a suddenly full rotation. While there is still speculation the Yanks could get back below the cap by removing Brett Gardner’s salary, and he is an attractive open market commodity, it’s more likely they’ll pay up on the three mil they’re over and take their run in the American League East.
The reaction to that Yankee philosophy of old? The back pages of their own home town tabs treat them with disdain, and the nickname, “Bankees”. Of course, they couldn’t win for losing, if they’d fallen short in the Tanaka sweepstakes the headline probably would have blared, “Blankees”. The reaction was swift from their bitterest rivals, Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes taking note and saying the Yankees were forced into spending because they can’t stand the thought of the Red Sox being world champs, and pitcher Jon Lester repeatedly referring to a “Pedroia” contract in saying he’ll give the Sox a home town discount to stay in Boston when he’s a free agent next season, an obvious poke at Jacoby Ellsbury, who drew the ire of his Red Sox teammates when he declined on a “Pedroia” offer to wait and see what the open market would bring. Lester did add that, while he doesn’t expect he’d get a “Clayton Kershaw” offer himself, you never know how you’ll react until you’re awed by the figures put down in writing. I detect, maybe not an open door, but one that is slightly ajar, and the mounting disdain didn’t stop other teams from following up the Tanaka signing by immediately pouncing on their pitching “Plan B’s”.
The Yankees are spending again and everyone hates them for it again. Just like the Polar Vortex in January all is right in the baseball universe. Just in the nick of time. 22 days to pitchers and catchers.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.