Mark Teixeira meets New York

4:53 PM

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So I went to old Yankee Stadium today for the Mark Teixeira announcement, and I got home and sat down to write about it, like I've done for the past nine years' worth of off-season Yankee press conferences, and then I realized...

I don't have anywhere to put it.

Due to certain recent events, the people for whom I used to do my baseball writing can no longer accept it, either in print or online. And so, according to a tradition that dates back at least five years, I have decided to create a place where I can put my own writing, and people can come and find it if they want to.

Quick background: I have covered Major League Baseball for 14 years, the last nine for The Star-Ledger on the Yankees and national baseball beats. I am, it's fair to say, entering a transitional phase of my life and career. But I'm going to keep writing baseball, try and maintain my sources and see if people who are interested in following what's going on with the Yankees, Mets and the rest of MLB still care enough to read my reporting and my take on it. Eventually, my hope is that somebody will once again be willing to pay me money to cover baseball for them. But in the meantime, the buyout terms from The Star-Ledger are generous enough that I can do this on my own...for a while, at least.

Anyway, Teixeira. This was a typical off-season Yankee dog-and-pony show, where the player shows up weeks after everybody knows he signed, puts on the hat and jersey and smiles for the cameras while the Yankees give his wife flowers and sing hymns about how wonderfully generous and giving the Steinbrenner family ownership is to its fans. They do it a couple of times every winter, whenever they have a big signing or trade acquisition to introduce, and it's always basically the same.

The only major difference today, incidentally, was the food. The Yankes (in conjunction, strangely, with the Dallas Cowboys) have started their own catering company, which will provide the concession food in the new ballpark. And their deal with their old catering company appears to have expired at the end of 2008. So today, instead of the standard carving-board-and-fried appetizers fare, they had a couple of hot food stations. I greatly enjoyed the sizzling sauteed shrimp/crab/asparagus dish they cooked up. Upgrade, I'd say.

Teixeira said all the usual stuff about how he wanted to be a Yankee and how there was nothing like it, while everybody in the room knew he wouldn't have been a Yankee if the Yankees hadn't been willing to pony up the $180 million, and the flashbulbs popped and everybody interviewed everybody from the player to the agent to the wife to Hal Steinbrenner.

There isn't much to say about Teixeira, other than that he'll wear No. 25, which is Jason Giambi's old number. Teixeira always wore 23 in his previous stops because he was a Don Mattingly fan. But the number is retired with the Yankees because of Mattingly, and 25 was open, what with Giambi taking his act back to Oakland and all, and so 25 it is for the new guy at first base. He said he'd be happy hitting third or fourth, and Joe Girardi didn't seem to think it would be a problem to slot him into one of those spots. There was much talk about his defense (which is stellar) and his makeup (which seems somewhat A-Rodian, outwardly, as he presents himself as the typical, ultra-polished, ultra-rehearsed Scott Boras client), but Girardi said the biggest thing is that he eases the team's concerns about its offense.

Girardi said the losses of Giambi and Bobby Abreu left him with concerns about the middle of his lineup, and the signing of Teixeira eased them "a significant amount."

"I think you could look at our lineup and expect it to be pretty consistent every day," Girardi said. "If everybody's healthy."

The biggest question, of course, about Teixeira and any player who ever finds himself in his current situation, is whether he'll be able to handle New York. Obviously, he said he expects that he will.

(No surprise. Nobody ever came to town and said, "Whoa. There are a lot of people here with cameras and notebooks and microphones. I'm not sure I can hack this." The closest we've ever had to that was Mike Mussina's thin-smile "You guys got enough pictures yet?" at his introductory press confere.)

Teixeira said he might feel otherwise if he'd been coming right from Texas, where he played his whole career until July of 2007. But he said having stopped in Atlanta and Anaheim over the past two years, and experiencing the differences between those markets and his original one, helped broaden his perspective and prepare him for what awaits.

"I think I've gotte a little taste of a little bit of everything," he said.

Which is cute, because, you know...he realy has no idea what he's in for, right? I mean, he could handle it brilliantly. But there's no way for us -- or him -- to know for sure. Right?

"We've seen guys come to New York and take to it," Girardi said. "We've seen guys come to New York and struggle at the beginning and figure it out. And we've seen guys come to New York and never figure it out."

Brian Cashman admits the same, and is well aware of his past failures to predict which players will fall into which of those categories. But he was impressed enough in his face-to-face meeting with Teixeira early last month, and his conversations with players who've played with him, that he's optimistic.

"His makeup is one of extreme confidence in his abilities," Cashman said. "That he will perform and be the player he's capable of being. He seems to be in control of his inner world. I think he's a very structured person, and I think that will serve him well here."

For example, Cashman said Teixeira is usually a slow starter. And he knows how Yankee fans can be with slow starters making big money (see: Giambi, Jason; Rodriguez, Alex; et al). But he believes Teixeira's confidence in his ability to turn around a slow start will help him handle whatever comes from the fans.

"In our research, there was no panic," Cashman said. "He knows it's a long year. He knows the ebbs and flows of the season."

The Teixeira signing looks excellent for the Yankees. He's 28. Switch-hitter. Looks and sounds good on camera. Has things in perspective. Long as he stays healthy, he looks like a keeper at first base in the new ballpark. And in terms of handling New York, if Tuesday was his first test, he passed it easily.

What happens next, we'll all have to wait and see.

There was lots of stuff from here on Andy Pettitte and some stuff from Scott Boras about Derek Lowe and the Mets, and I plan to post it in the coming hours. But I guess I just wanted to say hi. Sorry it went on so long, but I fear I may be one of those bloggers that writes long.

1 Response to "Mark Teixeira meets New York"

Az said :
January 7, 2009 at 11:20 PM
But Dan, Randy Johnson basically came to New York and, though he didn'tn explicitly SAY "Whoa. There are a lot of people here with cameras and notebooks and microphones. I'm not sure I can hack this." In effect he did...

Just throwin' that out there...

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