Examining the NY-Boston Rivalry, Soriano's Temper and Cashman's Future
I'll start today's post with a question.
In light of the Jets' River & Sunset-approved upset victory over the Patriots on Sunday, has the New York sports scene wrested back control of the rivalry with its Boston counterpart?
The 2004 Series That Shall Not Be Named was a searing victory for Beantown, a comeback momentous enough that it seemed as if it might change the balance of power between the two cities forever.
The Sox went on to win the World Series that season, then did it again three years later; additional championships by the Patriots and Celtics kept Boston riding high.
But the pendulum started to swing in New York's favor in 2008, when the Giants knocked off the previously unbeaten Pats in Super Bowl XLII; the Yankees got their swagger back by ending a nine-year title drought in 2009; and now you have the Jets, who took out the heavily favored Pats in their building on Sunday and are on the precipice of their first Super Bowl appearance in 42 years.
What does this all mean? Um, nothing I guess.
But if you're a dorky sports fan like me, this is the stupid stuff you obsess over.
Speaking of obsessing, I'm sort of obsessed with finding out what type of reported "character issues" worried the Yankees before they plowed ahead with the Rafael Soriano signing? Was it cheating-on-his-fiance-while-on-the-road kind of character issue or a killed-a-man-with-his-bare-hands-in-the-Dominican-Republic kind of character issue?
Actually, Bill Madden shined some light on the issue in the Daily News on Saturday. It's mildly worrisome.
I'll let Bill explain:
Despite his league-leading 45 saves and 1.73 ERA, Soriano was hated by almost everyone in Tampa Bay last year. His periodic hissy-fits over being brought into games in non-save situations, or being asked to pitch more than one inning wore thin on Rays manager Joe Maddon. The final straw was the last game of the season -- Game 5 of the ALDS versus Texas -- when Maddon asked Soriano to pitch the ninth inning with the Rays trailing, 3-1. After throwing a tantrum in the bullpen in front of all his fellow relievers, Soriano trudged into the game and promptly gave up a single to Nelson Cruz and a game-breaking homer to Ian Kinsler.
Ladies in gentlemen, your successor to Mariano Rivera as New York Yankees closer!
Of course, the big picture issue with the Soriano signing—which, for the record, I had been on board with for a month—is if it actually tells us anything about a not-so-subtle shift in internal structure of the Yankees.
If the reports are true that this was an executive Hal decision and that the signing went over Cashman's head (the GM previously told the media he would not give up the No. 1 draft pick it would take to land Soriano or another Type-A free agent), that's a major shift in the narrative of New York's front office.
If you recall, when Cashman agreed to stay with the Yankees following the 2005 season, it came with the assurance that he had final say on all personal moves and that the Tampa vs. New York factions that had splintered the organization would die off.
One move doesn't necessarily mean that Cashman has lost absolute say in how the Yankees are built, but it has to be disconcerting for him as he enters the final year of his contract.
If the Yankees fail to make the playoffs this season, would the Steinbrenners use the failure as a launching point to put a hand-picked general manager in place? Remember, Cashman was George's boy.
Could Hal be toying with the idea of a fresh start? It's unlikely, but if Cashman continues to be overridden on player moves, he may walk out by choice.
Keep an eye on this one. It may end up being one of the juiciest subplots of the upcoming season.
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