By Ken Rosenthal - SportingNews wrote:The Empire never rests
The scene: Malio's Steak House, George Steinbrenner's favorite restaurant in Tampa.
The time: 6 p.m., the day after the season ends.
The subject: Torturing the Red Sox in 2005.
In attendance: All of Steinbrenner's "baseball people" -- general manager Brian Cashman; numerous other club officials, plus the Boss' latest crack expert -- one John Samson, a good friend of Steinbrenner's limousine driver and the 2004 champion of Vinny's Fantasy League.
"Let's start with baseball ops, then we'll deal with special ops," the Boss spits out, invoking his favored military language. "Cashman, proceed."
"Boss, we plan to bid on the following free agents: Carlos Beltran, Carl Pavano, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek," Cashman begins.
"Good! Good!" Steinbrenner replies. "Beltran first!"
"Of course," Cashman replies. "Here's the problem: Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, might also want us to sign another of his clients, Derek Lowe. It would be sort of like last year, when we threw Boras a bone by signing Travis Lee after he worked with us on getting two of his other players, Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Brown, to waive no-trade clauses."
"Lowe? The basket case?" Steinbrenner barks. "That's the one Red Sox player we don't want! Just tell Boras I'll go nine years on Beltran, and draw the line there!"
"Now, what about Pedro?"
"Of course, we don't really want him," Cashman says. "But we will express serious interest, panicking Red Sox Nation, infuriating Sox president Larry Lucchino and driving up the price."
Steinbrenner momentarily looks saddened.
"What's wrong, Boss?" club president Randy Levine asks.
"It would make a great Visa commercial. He calls me daddy. I call him son ..." Steinbrenner says, his voice trailing off.
The baseball people sit in silence, careful not to look at one another, lest anyone be caught rolling their eyes.
Cashman passes a computer printout to Steinbrenner showing Martinez's 2004 splits:
On four days' rest: 8-5, 4.77.
On more than four days' rest: 8-4, 2.98.
"Let someone else pay $12 million a year for a guy who turns into a No. 4 starter pitching on normal rest," Cashman says. "We'll just trade for Randy Johnson."
"I like that! Good! Good!" Steinbrenner says. "Now, what about Varitek?"
"Same thing, Boss -- we'll just drive up the price for Boston," Cashman explains. "We'll have Joe Torre call Jorge Posada and tell him not to worry about the headlines -- it will all be for show."
"How do we play it in the press?"
"Oh, that's easy," Cashman replies. "Jorge is 33. We'll say we want to use him less behind the plate. He and Varitek could get at-bats at catcher, first base and DH."
"That will show Lucchino!" Steinbrenner roars with glee, and the table buzzes with excitement, imagining the suffering of the Red Sox president.
Suddenly, Steinbrenner turns grim-faced.
"We need more pitching," he says.
"Pavano," Cashman says, shrugging.
"What's this about him not wanting to come to the Yankees?" Steinbrenner yelps. "He fired Jeter's agent for some yo-yo attorney in Florida! What does he want -- to spend the rest of his life with the Marlins?"
"Ridiculous!" Steinbrenner shouts. "Lucchino wants him! I know he wants him! The kid is from Connecticut, for crying out loud!"
Levine rises from his seat, motioning for Steinbrenner to relax.
"Maybe Pavano switched to this guy because the lawyer is charging him less than the standard agent's commission," he says. "If that's the case, we'll eliminate every one of his financial worries. Might take an extra year or two. Might take an extra million or 10. Whatever, we'll get him."
"Good answer!" Steinbrenner replies. "I won't fire you today!"
"Now," Steinbrenner asks, back in grim-faced mode, "what about second base?"
"Miguel Cairo is fine, Boss," Cashman says. "His .763 OPS was only 45 points lower than Alfonso Soriano's, and he actually can play defense."
"Never an All-Star!" Steinbrenner shoots back. "I want All-Stars!"
"Well," Cashman continues. "I know you like Nomar Garciaparra, Boss, but he kills every team he plays for. We could bring back Soriano. We could trade for Ray Durham or Bret Boone. We could try to get Jose Vidro from the Senators, or whoever the heck they are ..."
"Do it!" Steinbrenner barks.
"Any of 'em!"
Before Cashman can even nod, Steinbrenner is onto his next mission.
"Special ops!" he cries. "Where are my generals? Where are my bankers?"
With that, the baseball people are ushered out of the restaurant, and the next wave of suits files in.
Everyone is seated. The room falls silent.
"The Citgo sign -- done deal?" Steinbrenner says, referring to the famous landmark overlooking Fenway Park.
"Yes," one of the suits replies.
"It's ours? And we don't have to buy Citgo?" Steinbrenner says.
"Yes, the purchase is complete."
"And the inscription?"
"Done, Mr. Steinbrenner. The sign will now say, 'Hit it here, Bucky!' Just as you requested."
"Perfect!" Steinbrenner says as he turns his head. "Now, where is my young friend?"
A beefy Yankees security guard escorts a bespectacled teenager to the table, pulling him by the arm as the kid bops along to his I-Pod. The kid, the son of wealthy attorneys in New Rochelle, N.Y., is a notorious computer hacker.
"Get a haircut, son! And take off those headphones!" Steinbrenner hollers, exasperated.
"Chill, dude," the kid says.
Steinbrenner, ignoring the kid's disrespect, blurts out, "Is the mission accomplished? Have you administered the virus to the Red Sox's beloved computers?"
"Dude, when Bill James turns on his laptop today, the only thing that he'll be able to do is log on to Yankees.com. Same with that Theo dude. And that Lucchino dude. And that John Henry dude, too. I wiped out all of New England, just to be safe."
"Yes!" Steinbrenner shouts, pumping his fist.
With that, the Boss rises from the table, clapping his hands, nodding in satisfaction.
"Let the offseason begin," he says.