The caricature of the New York Yankees, drawn by the legions who resent them, is that they are 25 bat-wielding CEOs, dressed in button-down shirts and pinstriped suits, carrying Blackberrys and briefcases into a clubhouse that could double as a board room. They are clean-shaven, image-conscious, supremely wealthy and not a whole lot of fun.
Mark Teixeira will fit right into the caricature. Teammates joke that they have never seen him with a five-o-clock shadow, an un-tucked shirt, a hair out of place. One general manager describes him as "corporate" and "businesslike." Teixiera describes himself as "obsessive compulsive." Scott Boras, his agent, says Teixeira has "the make-up of a CEO." Some may be turned off that Teixeira does not often hang around the clubhouse after games, pounding beers and telling stories. But the Yankees, who pride themselves on their professional work environment, will not mind.
Even though Teixeira grew up in Baltimore, cheering for Cal Ripken Jr. and the Orioles, he is a natural Yankee. As a kid, he patterned himself after Don Mattingly. In high school, he played on some of the same fields as Babe Ruth. He loved the game, but he was also interested in the economics of it, just like any Yankee would be. By the time he was 24, Teixeira was already an assistant player representative to the union.
Teixeira's business sense is almost as legendary as his power to all fields. He turned down $1.5 million out of high school and made more than $9 million out of college. He then turned down $144 million from the Texas Rangers and cashed in Tuesday with the Yankees, reportedly for $180 million over eight years. The contract makes Teixeira the second-most expensive free agent in baseball history, trailing only you-know-who.
Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira are now going to be teammates in New York, but they have been linked for some time. Both are represented by Boras, both were teammates on the Rangers and both have remarkable all-around skills, not to mention astronomical contracts. Teixeira and Rodriguez both come across as polished and savvy, though Teixeira is much better at avoiding controversy. Still, neither is outgoing enough to be considered an authentic leader. Despite yet another high-profile signing, Derek Jeter remains the unquestioned captain of the Yankees. Teixeira will be content to follow him.
Last season with the Angels, Teixeira showed that he thrives when surrounded by similarly talented players. If he had signed with the Nationals or the Orioles -- lesser teams that were courting him -- the attention might have been too much. In New York, however, attention will be deflected to every corner of the clubhouse. One could argue that another free-agent signing, outsized pitcher CC Sabathia, will overshadow Teixeira.
Because the Yankees signed Sabathia and A.J. Burnett this winter -- and also acquired first baseman Nick Swisher from the White Sox -- there was a sense that they would give up on Teixeira and let him go to the rival Red Sox. But the Yankee showed, yet again, that they can never be dismissed, at least not in any free-agent signing period.
In courting Sabathia, the Yankees had to convince him that he would be comfortable in New York, a long way from his home state of California. In courting Teixeira, the Yankees did not have to do as much recruiting. He knew all about Yankee tradition and the Yankee way. He simply wanted Yankee money. On Tuesday, a perfect match was made.