Keidel: Not-So-Shallow Hal — Steinbrenner Makes Statement With Jacoby
By Jason Keidel
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Never has being mislead felt so good. And never has a Bostonian looked so blasphemously regal in enemy attire.
The Yankees just agreed to terms on a seven-year deal with former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The contract is reportedly worth $153 million.
The signing wakes up the sport and shakes up the sport, as baseball’s annual free-agency hunt is quite plodding without the Bronx Bombers on the scent.
And while we were told that those who own the Yankees have assumed a far more corporate cadence, it seems that any of us can only stray so far from our true nature. It seems a Steinbrenner is a Steinbrenner, which is good for business, and great for Yankees fans, who saw this December indeed as a winter of their discontent.
Despite his detached, distant refrain, it seems Hal Steinbrenner inherited his father’s hunger for winning, that insatiable gene that disregards corporate minutiae like luxury taxes and public perception.
It seems Hal finally understands that winning, while expensive, is also very lucrative. His old man told us that for 30 years, but it felt like his offspring wanted to make his own mark — an incongruous culture of frugality, understatement and bottom lines.
The only problem with that approach is New York already has the Mets, who are so obsessed with their budget that they can’t seem to sign a free agent without an eternal approval process.
The Boss never had much of a poker face. But it seems his son has some game. In poker parlance, he slow played us, assuring the fans that the Yankees would remain competitive while observing that ever-ominous fiscal responsibility.
To Yankees fans, it was a painful pig Latin. New Yorkers could never buy what he was trying to sell because he was still charging Porsche prices at the gate while promising us a Prius.
In the end, the Yankees are not members of the herd, the middling members of mediocrity who must sweat over their own survival every year. We are Darth Vader, the Evil Empire, Gordon Gekko gone wild. Budgetary concerns, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, are for the little people.
So Hal really does march to the family beat. With this second signing of a major free agent — Brian McCann being the first financial shot across the bow — it appears that Steinbrenner shares none of MLB’s recent contempt toward long-term deals for 30-year-olds.
Now, the stage and the bright lights of Broadway are beaming on another bejeweled free agent. Yes, the Yankees have one more big fish on the line. And, forgive the nauseating fishing metaphor, now we must see if they reel him in or cut bait.
If this is what Ellsbury bags, then what can Robinson Cano expect? Stronger, healthier and better, the (former?) Yankees second baseman — with Jay Z and all kinds of newfound momentum in tow — is allegedly touring the country, flirting with all manner of suitors.
But if the Ellsbury signing hurt anyone (other than the Red Sox) it is Cano, who, like all free agents, wants to use the Yankees’ long, wide wallet to drive up the price for his transcendent talent.
Cano can only hope that the Yankees’ financial orgy has one more stop before retiring to count their prodigious bankroll. Cano can only hope this is 2009 redux, when the Yankees went on a historic shopping spree, grabbing CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to the tune of a quarter-billion bucks.
One would assume — or at least hope — that if a former Red Sox were that important, then certainly a homegrown talent of Cano’s heft demands one more move from Hal Steinbrenner.
Either way, he has indeed fooled us. Hal has been decidedly vegetarian in a rather carnivorous process. Or maybe Hal always had a little King George in him, after all. Maybe the progeny really is a prodigy.
Either way, the sport has returned to form. No matter the inequity or iniquity of it all, MLB needs the Yankees at their best, and their worst. To drive up prices, to drive up interest, baseball needs the Yankees to be interesting. And, as always, it took a Steinbrenner to make that happen.
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