It’s been a few days since the dust has settled in the Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes. At least 5 teams were interested, but in the end the world was righted and the New York Yankees got their man. The Yankees, desperate for starting pitching help, landed the next big Japan import to the tune of $155 million plus a nice $20 million tip to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Now The Yankees are primed to get back to the playoffs and show their fan base they will do it by any means necessary.
We all know the history of the Yankees, 40 AL pennants, 27 World Series, etc. But for only the second time in the last 18 years, the Yankees failed to make the playoffs. The last time they missed the playoffs was 2008, the last year of the old Yankees Stadium. Then in response the Empire Struck Back to partially quote my favorite Star Wars movie. They hit the free agent market hard in the off season and spent close to $451M on top free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Texiera to get back to the playoffs and eventually win the World Series. This year was supposed to be different as the Yankees had a $189M payroll goal to get under the luxury tax line. They had contracts coming off the books but still spending less would reset their luxury tax bill and be the financially responsible thing to do. But after spending over $500M in free agents, this offseason has resembled ‘Revenge of the Sith’ more than “The Empire Strikes Back’.
The fan base was looking for reasons to cheer in 2013, but it was hard to get in to this different Yankee team. They were a team that just looked out matched at times. CC Sabathia looked like his best days were behind him. Kuroda started strong on the mound but the wheels flew off in the last two months. Derek Jeter missed 145 games, and in the few games he did play he was unimpressive, posting a .190 BA. Mark Teixeira missed most of the season, Curtis Granderson missed half of the season, Alex Rodriguez came back and the madness ensued. Then there was the looming $189M payroll demand from the Steinbrenners. Was there any chance this Yankee team would be back or were we have to watch 3 seasons of rebuilding?
But then as one domino started to fall, all the dominos started falling into place in the offseason. Argueably the first important piece fall was bringing back the manager Joe Girardi. He was the only reason the 2013 of the Yankees was able to be competitive. Next was the signing of catcher Brian McCann to a 5yr/$85M contract. Then the Empire struck and signed former Red Sox CF Jacob Ellisbury to a monster 7yr/$153M contract. This signing came from nowhere and the Yankees were barely on the radar for Ellisbury. But even Empires have cracks and the Yankees bluff on Robinson Cano was called, and he signed to the Seattle Mariners for 10yrs/$240M (tax free in the state of Washington by the way). They lost their best player over money, something unheard of in the Steinbrenner era. Cano got rich, and a 30 day vacation called October (to quote the great Pete Rose). How do the Yankees respond, by dishing out 3yrs/$45M to Carlos Beltran a few days later. Then after the Yankees got a gift with the A-Rod suspension, clearing around $24M this season in pay, they landed the big fish in Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka is next in line as the next great import; his numbers and demeanor speak for itself. He posted an insane 24-0 record for the Dragons and throw in 1.27 ERA. He may not be as good a Yu Darvish, but if he’s anything close then the Yankees got something. Tanaka is a gamer, as he pitched on short rest numerous times to win in the playoffs. Tanaka said the ultimate factors for signing with New York was the fact they wanted him the most and he wants to win. That is music to Yankees fan’s ears. Tanaka also is a major celebrity in Japan, so the bright light of New York likely won’t scare as easily as other pitchers like Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, and Javier Vázquez. His wife is a major television star in Japan and the move to New York should be a bonus for her.
This off season has put the ideas of not spending or competing to rest and restored faith in the Yankees. And New York in general needed it as we are watching one of the worst sports years in recent memory. The Knicks and Nets are under .500, The Ranger and Inslanders got off to horrific starts, the Mets and Yankees missed the playoffs and the Giants and Jets were in the same boat. The town that can go out with their chest out had to run and hide their sports apparel. But the Yankees showed we are New York and win be there in the end. But the question is, are the Yankees finished spending? Hope not!