Three weeks ago, with the Knicks floundering amid the Giants’ Super Bowl victory, the anticipation of Yankees’ arrival in Tampa for the start of Spring Training would have been met with great anticipation and fervor. Jeremy Lin changed that. The Knicks are relevant. Madison Square Garden is buzzing. Baseball is on the back burner, save for those of us who follow the sport more closely than the winter sports.
From a newsmaking perspective, it was a relatively quiet winter for the Yankees. They took care of the CC Sabathia contract early; Jorge Posada’s retirement marked the next phase of the end of the Core Four; the pursuit of CJ Wilson wasn’t as aggressive as the pursuit of Cliff Lee a year ago, so it wasn’t as much of a shock or a perceived loss when the Orange County Angels signed him. The Yankees did make the backpages — in baseball-related news, anyway — by trading Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda. Shortly thereafter they signed Hiroki Kuroda. The respective deals left no doubt that Allan James Burnett’s time as a Yankee was limited.
And so it was that the Yankees ended the Burnett Era on Friday by paying the Pittsburgh Pirates $20 million to take him off their hands in exchange for two minor leaguers. Burnett can now put the “Pie” in Pirate.
The timing of the Burnett trade was similar to the one that sent Alfonso Soriano to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Alex Rodriguez eight years ago, although to be sure it is not nearly as significant a deal, and it won’t cause anywhere near the circus that A-Rod did. Jettisoning Burnett is more of a simple “addition by subtraction” move. There were many who viewed getting rid of Alfonso Soriano similarly (considering what he has become, and how that move indirectly pave the way for Robinson Cano’s emergence, maybe the folks with that view were correct).
Monday’s signing of Raul Ibanez assures they have a left-handed hitting DH who can also play a little outfield to spell either Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher. It also marks a homecoming for Ibanez, a native New Yorker. Look for many of those stories over the next six weeks, particularly as the Yankees prepare to break camp.
Other than the typical puff pieces — how does the pitching staff shape up, particularly now with three arms under the age of 30; how is the respective health of the aging left side of the infield; who is the 25th man, etc. — it figures to be a quiet Spring. That was until Mariano Rivera revealed that 2012 would be his final season.
Even with the buzz Mo’s statement caused both locally and nationally, it won’t cause nearly the level of craziness that David Wells’ book, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield’s respective roles in the BALCO scandal, a certain trip to Japan, or the afterglow of a World Series championship did. And that’s fine by the Yankees. It leaves more time and room for Jeremy Lin and the Knicks to own the spotlight.