Shocker! Spring training is under way for Major League Baseball’s 2014 season and the spotlight is on the New York Yankees.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Yankees are the most famous sports team in North America and it’s news when they as much as burp.
Well, they burped big time over the winter, committing $500 million to an array of free agents, including 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, this year’s Japanese pitching star.
After Texas signed Yu Darvish to a gazillion-dollar deal two years ago and then watched him post a 29-18 record with a 3.34 earned-run-average in his first two seasons, major league teams with big bankrolls lined up to get a shot at Darvish II — Tanaka, who posted a clownish 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA for Rakuten of the Japanese league in 2013.
The Yankees shelled out $155 million for Tanaka’s services for the next seven years. And that was after paying a $20 million ‘posting fee’ for the right to offer him a contract.
When Tanaka showed up at the Yankees’ spring headquarters in Tampa, the media horde was as large as a Rob Ford-Justin Bieber drinkoff might have attracted. The Japanese media were out in full force to record their countryman’s every move.
“Honestly, when I stepped out on the field today, I was very, very surprised as to how many media were out there,” Tanaka told MLB.com through his interpreter, whom the Yankees have hired for $85,000 to help with their ace’s communication.
He better get used to it. If Tanaka starts out 7-0 this season, the media horde will be mob-like. If he starts out 0-7, it could be even bigger. His first spring start was pretty good: two scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees did more in the off-season than just sign Tanaka. Their payroll mushroomed with the signing of big-name free agents Brian McCann from Atlanta, Carlos Beltran from St. Louis and Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston.
New York will be without the suspended Alex Rodriguez, and shortstop Derek Jeter, playing his final season, is well past his ‘best-before’ date, but the Yankees have more than enough firepower to dominate in the American League, meaning the world will continue to rotate on its axis.
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Rumour has it Tim Tebow has been trying to become a ventriloquist. Unfortunately, whenever he throws his voice it goes way over everyone's head.”
• Jack Finarelli, from SportsCurmudgeon.com: “Barry Bonds is with the SF Giants in spring training as a hitting instructor/advisor. We can logically expect that Giants’ players to be well schooled in obstructing justice by the end of March.”
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “MLB's Playing Rules Committee voted to ban home-plate collisions, starting in 2014. At the current rate, by 2022, players will be hitting the ball off a tee and everyone will win a trophy.”
• RJ Currie again: “A bit of a mix-up at TSN is being blamed on a typo. So far nobody can convince Rod Black that Ottawa’s CFL team isn’t named after him.”
• One more from Currie: “I just awoke from the mother of all psychedelic nightmares. Don Cherry was wearing Norwegian curling pants.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Campus police in Williamsburg, Va., arrested former football walk-on Samuel Marshall on 18 drug-related charges. Looks like he transferred from William & Mary to Cheech & Chong.”
• Spotted on a Chicago billboard, before the U.S.-Canada men’s hockey semifinal: “Loser keeps Bieber.”
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: ”The NY Mets’ David Wright says 90 wins ‘is a good starting point’ for this year’s team. Quick, check that man for concussions.”
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