Steinbrenner Volcano Wont Stay Dormant For Long
By Michael Avallone
It won’t last of course. It never has and never will. The Boss himself is incapable of keeping quiet for too long. That being said, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has been eerily silent as his two chief rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, significantly upgraded their teams over the last 10 days, stealing the headlines from King George. The boys in Beantown fired the first salvo a few days before the holiday. After rumors of the Florida Marlins second fire sale in less than 10 years – and that’s exactly what it is, no matter what spin they put on it – Boston swooped in and grabbed third baseman Mike Lowell and 2003 World Series MVP, Josh Beckett. Surely the Bronx Bombers remember him.
Both players have question marks entering the 2006 campaign. The 31-year-old Lowell plummeted to a .236 batting average to go along with just eight homers and 54 RBI in 2005. This after averaging .280 with 25 home runs and 95 RBI per year the previous five seasons. Still, Lowell – who took home his first career Gold Glove award this past season – gives the Sox their best all-around third baseman since Wade Boggs left 13 years ago. With no reason for such a precipitous drop, a bounce-back year in Fenway is likely.
As for Beckett, the Yankees will have to contend with a talented yet snake-bitten flamethrower. Only 24 years old, the big right-hander set career highs in virtually every category last season, pitching to the tune of a 15-8 record over 29 starts. However, bouts of immaturity and constant blister problems have held the former no. 1 pick from becoming the superstar many predicted he would be.
So instead of relaxing down in Tampa for the Thanksgiving weekend, Steinbrenner had to deal with the fact that the team that tied the Yankees (for all intents and purposes) in the AL East had imported a two-time 100 RBI man to go along with a young version of Roger Clemens. Then, when it seemed as if King George would be able to eat his turkey and stuffing without choking, the boys from Queens set off some fireworks of their own. Mets general manager Omar Minaya continued to spend owner Fred Wilpon’s money, bringing in the one player he couldn’t last year, Carlos Delgado. Using the Marlins salary constraints to his advantage, Minaya landed the coveted left-handed slugger his team so desperately needed.
First base was a black hole for the Mets in 2005, but Delgado (.301 Avg 33 HR 115 RBI) will certainly change that. The 33-year-old has now blasted at least 30 homers in nine straight seasons and makes the Mets 1-5 hitters – which already includes Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran – one of the most dangerous in the league.
But Minaya wasn’t done. Already with offers out to free agent catchers Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina, the aggressive GM reeled in the most coveted closer on this year’s market in Billy Wagner, signing him to a four-year, $43 million deal while weakening another divisional rival (Philadelphia) in the process. Gone are the days of John Franco, Armando Benitez and Braden Looper walking ninth inning tightropes. The 5’11 lefty brings 284 career saves and his 100 MPH fastball to Shea after posting a career-best 1.51 ERA with the Phillies last season. That Maalox bottle the Mets and their fans are used to reaching for may just stay in the cabinet.
The Diamond Club at Shea Stadium was abuzz for two consecutive days earlier this week as the Mets introduced what they hope are two pieces to a World Series contender in 2006.
As for the team that has made a habit of offseason noise, they remain silent. With the calendar flipping to December, the Yankees biggest need remains a legitimate center fielder. GM Brian Cashman has come out publicly to say that he would be more than comfortable to start the 2006 season with Bubba Crosby roaming the hallowed spot in the Bronx.
Yeah right. Whether it is free agent Johnny Damon (unlikely) or a trade (likely), you can bet the Bronx Bombers will NOT be starting a career .221 hitter who has only 163 at-bats to his credit at the Stadium come April.
Centerfield is where the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Rickey Henderson and Bernie Williams have roamed. Somehow the name Bubba Crosby does not inspire the same aura. Rest assured, Steinbrenner and co. won’t sit still for long. They’re beginning to stir already, as reports indicate the Yanks are on the verge of signing former Cub, Tiger and Brave Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year, $17 million deal to be Mariano Rivera’s set-up man. Not exactly the type of move Yankee fans are used to, but hey, it’s a start.