Friday, February 18, 2011

Raineth drop and staineth slop, And how the wind doth ramm! Sing: Goddamm.

It's been a cold winter for fans of both New York teams. The Game need not remind you that after months of breathless courtship – winks, nods, shy smiles, and fistfuls of cash – Cliff Lee spurned our romantic overtures in favor of an old flame, Philadelphia. Not even the overtures of the newly svelte C.C., his old pal from Cleveland who has foresworn his once daily consumption of an entire box of Cap'n Crunch, could win Lee over. (It was a thoughtful gesture of C.C., incidentally, to donate his junk food to the Fernando Valenzuela Institute for Strength Training, of which Joba Chamberlain is a now a devotee.)

A man on a mission.

Nor need we rehash the public relations debacle that was the Derek Jeter contract negotiation. Or note that Andy Pettitte, New York's most reliable pitcher of the past 15 years, officially retired. Or point out what every Met fan understands all too well: the Mets enter 2011 with the same roster, one year older, that went 79-83 last year. Oh yeah, minus their best left-handed reliever, Pedro Feliciano. Who went to the Yankees.

But we go there anyway, because griping is a quintessentially New York tradition.

As if the Mets on-field problems weren't enough, we learned in recent weeks that for the past 20 years, the de facto chief financial advisor for the New York Metropolitans was one Bernard L. Madoff. (Who else? Were you expecting Alan Greenspan?) The repercussions of that relationship have caused ownership to explore selling a roughly one-quarter stake in the team. It will take a lot more, however, than a minority owner with little influence over team operations to turn around a culture defined by dysfunction. (It's a new year – where's the optimism, you ask? Um...I know this: the Citi Field Shake Shack has great burgers, fries, and fixins. Wow, what a burger! Enjoy!)

Citi Field's prime attraction, in all its glory.

The news that the Yankees acquired all-star Rays closer Rafael Soriano was the best of the weary winter. Of course, moments after the Yankees introduced one of the best relievers in baseball, Brian Cashman took the podium at Soriano's news conference and proceeded to discuss in detail his strenuous opposition to acquiring him. That said, welcome! The passing of the Old Man certainly appears to have liberated Cashman to speak his mind. Yet the more we hear, the more it becomes apparent that the Yankees' philosophy of coupling a big budget with shrewd baseball management is missing half the equation.

Cashman has done good things for the franchise, to be sure, especially his building of the farm system in recent years. But his inflated ego was all too evident in the Jeter negotiations, in which he sought leverage by publicly denigrating the most popular Yankee since Mickey Mantle. Shall we see where his stellar business acumen gets him as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team whose annual payroll matches approximately that of the Yankees' third baseman? He may get his chance in 2012.

Cashman at Foley's this winter, sharpening his skills for a potential career change.

But never mind 2012. 2011 awaits! At least according to the calendar. In a coup of talent acquisition this winter, the Yankees obtained such boldface names as Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones, and Eric Chavez: sometime all-stars who now cling to big league status by a phantom of a thread. Indeed, we're on our way to 120 wins, if we can somehow turn the clock back to 2003.

Pitchers and catchers this week – huzzah!

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