Normally this is about the time I start settling into my long winter's baseball nap, kerchief and cap optional: The free-agent shuffling is about done, and it's a long hard slog to pitchers and catchers reporting, after which nothing whatsoever happens anyway. Best to rest up and get done whatever it is you get done when baseball isn't barging into the picture with streaks and slumps and victories that leave you up till 3 a.m. cackling with glee and defeats that leave you up till 3 a.m. brooding in despair. At least that's the advice I generally follow come Tundra Time.
But no, tonight I'm in midseason form. And the emotion I'm feeling is the final one in the sports trifecta, the other one that can leave you awake at 3 a.m. with your synapses blowing like popcorn.
It's hate. Coming in waves, over and over again.
What brought this on? It's that the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million contract.
I'm a bit surprised I had that reaction too. I mean, it's not that I coveted Mark Teixeira for my team. (Though I did briefly imagine it once.) It's not that I particularly hungered for CC Sabathia, or A.J. Burnett. It's not that I'm dissatisfied with our own body of work: The Mets have done a very good job so far this winter, signing the marquee closer they desperately needed and adding a pretty fine setup guy without giving up much. Sure, there are still holes in the back of the rotation and at second, with question marks in left and catcher, but you can sense Omar out there being patient while Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez and Orlando Hudson squirm.
But what does patience matter when you know the Yankees might suddenly awaken and spend nearly a fifth of a billion dollars on a player nobody thought they had any interest in?
I mean, my God, did Hank and Hal find $90 million in nickels in Old Man Steinbrenner's couch and decide they were halfway home? Did they short the entire S&P 500 in August? Did Hank Paulson look at last year's final standings and decide the Yankees are too big to fail?
Who's to say they're done? With the Red Sox and the Angels acting like there's a recession on and the Cubs caught up in for-sale turmoil and the Dodgers trying to get their heads on straight and the Braves mad at agents and the Nats trying to get agents to return their calls, maybe the Yankees are the only game in town. Who's to stop them from deciding Lowe and Perez might be better at the back of the line than a dog's breakfast of gimpy kids from Scranton Wilkes-Barre? Why shouldn't they pay Manny a dump truck full of $100 bills to play left and ensure they own every back page from now until forever? It's what they're doing so far, isn't it?
I know the Mets aren't exactly baseball's Tom Joads — we're a huge-market team that's about to move into a state-of-the-art park and collect a megacontract worth of rights fees each and every year. I know fans of the Royals and the Pirates and the Marlins think the difference between us and them isn't Manichean black and white but a matter of the faintest different shade of gray. (Seriously, what's it like being the Royals and seeing the Yankees spend about a decade's worth of your payroll for a player nobody figured they cared about?) I know this is a case of the guy with the 75-foot yacht seething about his neighbor with the 100-foot yacht. (And the guy with the 75-foot yacht has gashed two holes in the bow at the end of two straight summers and sank the damn thing, but that's another problem.) I know it's small and ridiculous. I know.
But goddamn. You know who the Yankees are? The Yankees are the rich kid on your block whose parents gave him every toy but love, the one who'd give your friend five dollars to leave your house and go over to his. The Yankees are the guy who parks his SUV across the last two spaces in the rest area, breaks into a faster waddle to beat you onto the McDonald's line even though it's pretty short, barks “Supersize me!” and then leaves the wrappers all over the table when he leaves. The Yankees are the guy in the Lamborghini who smokes your Honda Civic pulling away from the light, then tells his bros what a great driver he is. The Yankees are here there and everywhere, as inescapable as death, taxes and our players being compared to Derek Jeter.
If baseball is a country song, the Yankees are Jolene.
And holy mother of fuck do I hate them.