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There May Be No Place Like Home: On The Return of Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, and Yoenis Cespedes

Most Oriole fans had resigned themselves to the departure of slugger Chris Davis to free agency. To the credit of the sportswriters covering the drawn-out story in Baltimore and nationally, they always mentioned the possibility that Davis might stay.

After all, he likes living in Baltimore, he loves hitting in Camden Yards, and it was manager Buck Showalter who knew him in the Texas Rangers organization and was glad to obtain him in a trade in 2011.

When owner Peter Angelos removed the reported offer of seven years and over $150 million from the table late last year, it was made clear that lines of communications were still open between Davis, his super-agent Scott Boras, and the Orioles’ octogenarian often irascible owner.

I for one had no problem with how the Orioles handled the negotiations. Boras always likes teams to think there is a secret bidder salivating over a coveted free agent. In the past that strategy has worked – Alex Rodriguez got his huge $200 million-plus 10 year contract with the Rangers in 2001 when former owner Tom Hicks started bidding against himself.

Angelos called that bluff and when no mystery team emerged, Davis accepted the original offer that reportedly was only sweetened a little bit. The day before Davis signed, Showalter went public with his advice he had given to Davis some time before he became a free agent.

“Is there anything at a Target that you cannot afford?” Buck asked. Davis ultimately decided that the grass was not greener in other franchises.

When Boras was asked at the news conference welcoming Davis back to Baltimore if Chris had any other suitors, Boras did deliver one of his more humorous lines: “You don’t talk about ex-girl friends at a wedding.”

Left fielder Alex Gordon’s return to the Kansas City Royals, the only organization he has ever known, played out similarly. His local roots went even deeper than Chris Davis’s. He went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and was a number one draft choice of the team. Originally a third baseman, Gordon was billed as “the next George Brett.”

That was unfortunate, creating probably too much pressure. Gordon needed to return to the minors and learn the new position of left field. He has become a Gold Glover and a clutch player. The Royals’ chances of making a third straight appearance in the World Series in 2016 certainly weren’t hurt by his re-signing.

Yoenis Cespedes’ return to the Mets might be the most surprising. Reportedly he wanted six years in the $150 million total range. I stress “reportedly” because fans and writers outside the loop don’t really know what it is going on behind the closed negotiating tables. Numbers are thrown around loosely, usually by agents wishing for the highest number so they can get their cut immediately.

Cespedes came to realize that his streakiness at both the plate and in the field was costing him a long-term contract. So he signed for the reported $75 million for three years – not exactly chump change. He also has a buy-out of $27.5 million after one year if his value and consistency somehow increase in 2016.

Let me conclude this latest post with a nice baseball story that doesn’t involve money. Angels center fielder Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball today, has a passion for weather. The south New Jersey native discussed his passion in the media during the buildup to blizzard Jonas that brought the Northeast to its knees this past Saturday Jan 23.

That’s all for now – spring training is just a handful of weeks away. The college basketball season is heating up and both my alma maters Columbia and Wisconsin are showing signs of being contenders. A great time of year unfolds.

So more than ever always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Teny Ymota Says: One Week Into The Season and Already Memories To Cherish!

I just happened to attend the Red Sox-Yankees Friday night game that went 19 innings. My scorebook ran out after 11 innings and since I didn’t feel like starting a new page, I took the escalators downstairs to the giant screen in the new Stadium lobby.

After a long AB, I saw Alex Rodriguez rope a double deep into left-center. His professional at-bats have been one of the highlights of the unsettling early Yankee
season. The crowds have greeted him warmly because I think (a) he paid his dues
finally accepting his year-long suspension and (b) the Yankees need his offense.

I didn’t wait around to see if Alex scored (he didn't) – good decision because a light failure halted the game for 16 minutes just after I left. The game was still going on when I returned home by subway to my Upper West Side abode.

I watched on TV as the Red Sox took two leads in the later extra innings only to have the Yankees answer with solo home runs by Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira.
Wasn’t quite awake when the Red Sox won it on a 19th inning SF by promising rookie Mookie Betts.

Ah the wonder of baseball! The Yankees slept-walked through a Sat afternoon 8-4 loss to the Bosox but then scored 7 runs in the first inning Sunday night on their way to a convincing 14-4 rout of their fierce Northern rivals.

Masahiro Tanaka got the win, pitching 5 not wholly outstanding innings. How long his fraying elbow can stand the stress of big league pitching is anyone’s guess now.

One thing after one week is clear: Toronto at 4-2 is a team to be reckoned with – their rookie pitchers are performing well as are the rookie Canadian-citizen center fielder Dalton Pompey and rookie second baseman Devon Travis - he was obtained in a trade for center fielder Anthony Gose who is one of four Detroit Tigers, 6-0, hitting the cover off the ball.

Should be a wonderful race to watch between Tigers and defending AL champion Kansas City Royals, also off to a 6-0 start. Never thought the Tigers with that questionable bullpen and bench would start so well or for that matter the Braves at 5-1.

But folks it is only one week so let’s keep our shirts still buttoned, OK?

Meanwhile on the Ivy League baseball scene, it could be déjà vu all over again, to quote the incomparable Yogi Berra who turns 90 on May 12. Columbia and Penn are the class of the 8-team league with 10-2 records. Only one can go to the championship series, though, most likely against Dartmouth.

Last year Columbia and Penn split their traditional end-of-April doubleheaders leading to a one-game playoff that Columbia won. It could happen again but no predictions here. Just excitement about the building drama at the end of a much-too-short Ivy League baseball season.

That’s all for now but back to you soon as finally finally finally spring weather has come to NYC and I hope most of the Northeast.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Yours In Baseball Forever, Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)

PS on a cultural note from Your Man On The Aisle, make every effort to see the documentary "Seymour: An Introduction" directed by actor Ethan Hawke. It's about the renowned classical piano teacher Seymour Bernstein and it will brighten your day and deepen your soul.
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