Hey! Remember the 2000’s? It was a crazy time! When the decade began, we didn’t know who Tom Brady was, LeBron James was only 15 years old and Sue Bird hadn’t even won a collegiate or professional championship yet. It was also the start of 10 years of narratives in Major League Baseball that deserve a retrospective.
For the year 2009, I’d like to tell you a story.
I have a lot of pride about being from Boston and being a fan of the teams that play here. This was a big difficulty for me when I lived in New York City from July 2006 to July 2009. I didn’t realize until then how important it was for me to be surrounded by people who also wanted my teams to succeed.
The experience started off okay. The Red Sox won the World Series in ’07, the Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and the Patriots had gone 18-0.
But then the Helmet Catch happened and the tides changed. I was shell shocked on my couch when my Jets fan roommate came home from a Super Bowl party acting like he’d won the lottery. The next day, a Jets fan co-worker loudly proclaimed how happy he was about the big game results.
Let me repeat: Jets fans. Not Giants fans. Not fans of the team who won the actual game, but Jets fans celebrating something that had nothing to do with them.
This was the environment I was in. A celebration of my misery by those who weren’t even involved. It was like if Chewy had been celebrating Vader taking out Obi-Wan in front of Luke on the flight home from the Death Star.
The one saving grace of my time in NYC was a lack of confrontations between the Red Sox and Yankees. In 2006, the Red Sox pretty much rolled over during the regular season. A Yankees loss in the 2007 ALDS kept the two teams from facing off in the playoffs.
Then, in 2008, the Yankees finished 3rd in the AL East while the Sox made it to Game 7 of the ALCS. I don’t know if I could have honestly gone through another 2003 ALCS while living in the belly of the beast, so again bullet dodged.
But coming in 3rd in the division was not going to work for George Steinbrenner, and the Yankees went into the offseason poised to be as aggressive as ever. First, they traded for Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox. Swisher was going to replace free agent Jason Giambi at first base.
Then, on December 18th, the Yankees signed AJ Burnett for $82.5 million over five years to help bolster their rotation. The team also had their sights set on the top free agent, CC Sabathia.
Sabathia had been traded to Milwaukee the season before and promptly went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. He also threw seven complete games, including three shutouts. He had won the AL Cy Young in 2007 and was entering his 28-year-old season. The Yankees signed him for $161 million over seven years.
The old adage is that teams that celebrate winning the offseason are rarely seen celebrating at the end of the season. But it was fair for the Yankees and their fans to enjoy this moment. They were ready to return to the top of their division with their shiny new toys.
Red Sox fans were not worried though. The Sox rotation still had Josh Beckett and Jon Lester at the top. There was also optimism on the upside of Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka to round out a solid staff. They weren’t in the mix for Sabathia nor Burnett.
Boston also still had David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. And Jason Bay had proved to be a suitable replacement for Manny Ramirez in left field. However, there was a vacancy at first and a need to dedicate resources to the middle of the lineup.
Enter free agent Mark Teixeira, a 28-year-old switch-hitting first baseman who had hit over 200 home runs with a .919 OPS in his career to that point. The plan was for him to put dents in the Green Monster while Sabathia, Burnett and any other pitcher the Yankees threw out could only shake their heads.
The fit seemed almost too perfect, and the Sox had even originally drafted Teixeira out of high school. And yet time seemed to keep moving on without a signing.
Was I nervous about a potential swoop in by the dreaded Evil Empire? No way. New York had spent their money and they had Swisher at first base now. The opening wasn’t there, and in Boston it was clear as day. Patience is a virtue, right?
On Tuesday, December 23rd. I had a bus ticket booked for Boston and the only thing between me and home was 8 hours of “work”. Twitter was still relatively new, but it was a go-to for sports news. I passed the time refreshing my feed just in case a “Tex agrees with Boston” was coming.
I mentioned dealing with New York sports fans at work the day after a sports result hadn’t gone my way. I had thought that was pretty bad. Experiencing the euphoria that echoed through the halls when this news broke was a new kind of hell. Frankly, I’m a stronger person for it. But it doesn’t mean I’m happy it happened.
The Yankees would go on to win 103 games the next season and defeat the Philadelphia Phillies for the World Series in six games. After the $423.5 million New York had spent on Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett, this was a pretty good counter for Yankees fans to use for anyone saying, “money doesn’t buy happiness”.
Luckily, I had moved back to Boston that summer and didn’t need to plan ways to avoid the ticker-tape parade that year. But I still had to live with what happened. I couldn’t forget the feeling of being exposed to true Yankee fan euphoria. How was I ever going to get over it? When would my sleepless nights end?
The answer was simple. Patience.
In 2012, my redemption finally broke through. In the past, when an MLB team signed a free agent from another team, the team losing the player had to recoup something. It wouldn’t be fair for teams to see their best players walk out the door for contracts their original team couldn’t afford. In 2009 if you lost a free agent to another team you received that team’s first-round draft choice and another “sandwich” pick that was between the 1st and 2nd round.
The Angels, the team losing Teixeira, received the Yankees’ first-round draft pick, and at pick #25 they selected an outfielder from a high school in New Jersey (which is pretty close to Yankee Stadium). That outfielder was named Michael Nelson Trout.
As a reminder, here is how Mike Trout finished in the AL MVP voting from 2012-2019:
- 2012 – #2
- 2013 – #2
- 2014 – #1
- 2015 – #2
- 2016 – #1
- 2017 – #4
- 2018 – #2
- 2019 – #1
Was going through my experience of Teixeira choosing the Yankees over the Red Sox worth it in the end? I mean, the Yankees got a World Series out of it but also missed out on drafting a player who grew up right next door and could finish his career as the greatest player of all time.
So I’d definitely say yes, and I sleep much better these days too.
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