For a change of pace, I’d like to talk a little sports with you today.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Farah, I thought you were obsessed with politics. Don’t tell me you follow sports, too.”
Actually, truth be told, politics bores me, sickens me. I care only about politics as a means of protecting my freedom, which is constantly under attack from politicians.
My true love is sports.
Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t become a sportswriter instead of a newsman. It’s simple, really. I’m passionate about sports. And I didn’t want it to become my job for fear I might lose my enjoyment of it. Unless, of course, I could play.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, all I wanted to do was to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. I wanted to be Derek Jeter before he was born. Fortunately, I learned early enough – like my junior year in high school – that I didn’t have the talent to make it to the majors. So I turned to Plan B – writing.
I give you this introduction only as a preface to what we can learn from the biggest move in baseball this offseason – the Yankees acquisition of one of the best first-basemen in the major leagues, Mark Teixeira.
How did they do it?
It wasn’t just money.
I’ll bet you anything that Brian Cashman, the general manager of the team, has read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” Here’s how this surprise move went down.
The Yankees needed pitching badly. Everyone knew that. For the last two seasons, the Yankees failed to win their division because their pitching rotation was weak. It was decimated even further by a string of injuries that may have been unprecedented in the history of the game.
So they began the offseason by securing the best two pitchers available through free agency – C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. All the while, they downplayed any serious interest in Teixeira. They went so far as to leak that they had interest in securing troublesome Manny Ramirez, a Boston Red Sox reject, to bolster their offensive lineup. This made me and a lot of other Yankee fans groan at the prospect our team might actually sign someone with talent but a loose cannon in the clubhouse – a player who does not necessarily put winning first.
It also had the effect of leading the rival Red Sox to believe they were in the driver’s seat in acquiring Teixeira – or maybe even leading them to believe they didn’t need Teixeira themselves. Last week, the Red Sox threw in the towel in their attempts to get the 28-year-old superstar – or at least to end negotiations with him.
Then the Yankees quickly went to work and put in a bid some $10 million higher than the Red Sox. That’s how the Yankees not only signed Teixeira to a long-term contract, but kept him out of Fenway Park and with a rival for the American League East division championship.
If only our national leaders had such finesse and intelligence in the way they operated.
That’s why I suggest that Brian Cashman is not only a great baseball general manager. I think he would be a good candidate someday for secretary of defense – or some other key policymaking role.
We need more strategic thinking in Washington.
We need a little more Sun Tzu.
There I go, again – getting back to politics. But I’m a happy man today. Even though Barack Obama is president and Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House and Harry Reid is Senate majority leader, Mark Teixeira will be wearing pinstripes when the Yankees open their season at the New Yankee Stadium this April.