GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nick Swisher, as you might expect, is still smiling. And with Chief Wahoo now on his chest, the whole grinning effect is doubly amped up, like one trying to outdo the other.
The edge, of course, goes to Swisher. Is it possible that he could be even happier in Cleveland than he was in the Bronx?
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After what the baseball gods have inflicted on the Yankees in spring training -- losing Curtis Granderson to a forearm fracture and Mark Teixeira to a strained wrist tendon -- Swisher could have helped himself to a hearty last laugh early yesterday morning. Or at least a "Told you so, bro'!"
But Swisher passed on the free shot. The Yankees let him walk this winter without as much as a phone call, and to say they could use him now would be an understatement. Swisher knows that, and yet he chooses not to look back, satisfied with his new four-year, $56-million deal, as well as his Ohio homecoming.
"Oh man, you can never play that woulda, coulda, shoulda game," Swisher said. "Whatever happened, happened. You just kind of got to go from there."
The transition didn't happen for him overnight. Swisher let his frustration leak out during the Yankees' playoff flop, turning on his own bleacher pals, but that October rift didn't make it any easier for him to depart.
He knew he was a goner. The signals from the front office were loud and clear. Even then, it took some time for the whole thing to sink in.
"Obviously, staying in New York, that would have been my first choice," Swisher said. "But you know going in, you're not going to be able to go back there. It was kind of sad for a couple of days, just because you think to yourself, 'Man, what did I do wrong that they didn't want me back?'
"But a lot of things happen in this life that affect those things. For me, I'm just excited to be here. I'm the same guy that I was just as I was any other year. I'm just doing it with a different uniform on."
That part of him, the Swish-a-licious persona, eventually wore out its welcome in the Bronx. As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said numerous times, he knew they would miss his offensive production. During his four-season tenure, Swisher had an .850 OPS and averaged 26 homers with 87 RBIs.
The off-the-field act, however, grew tiresome in the Yankees' buttoned-up clubhouse. Swisher too often came off like the frat kid in the board room, so it makes perfect sense that he's now playing for Terry Francona, the enabler for the original Boston "Idiots."
Francona let that crew play the dumb-and-dumber card all the way to a World Series title. But he doesn't share the common perception of Swisher as the "look at me" guy who hungers more for attention than anything else.
"I've known Swisher for a long time," Francona said. "I was with him in Oakland when he was a young kid. If it wasn't legit, I could see that. But he's like that every day -- that's him. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks it. He lives it, he believes it and it works.
"I don't care what people thought of him before. I know how we feel about him here, and that's what's important. I know our guys love him, and I do, too. When you strap it on to play the game, whether it's spring training, he's ready to go. That's good."
Swisher did have one regret on his way out the door in New York. Taking on the fans is never a smart strategy, and he issued another mea culpa during Wednesday's's conversation about his Bronx exit.
"I'd like to think people know the type of person that I am," Swisher said. "In a situation like that, man, I was having a rough postseason, I think the team was in general, and looking back on that now, I wish I wouldn't have said that. But I think people know how much I care.
"I'm an honest guy. I'm a terrible liar, and that's what I was thinking at the time. Should I have been vocal about it? Probably not."
Even during the apology, Swisher never stopped smiling.