David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Even if money can't buy love, it is more than capable of pitching shutouts, ending losing streaks and providing some peace of mind for a team rocked by a turbulent week.
In Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees did indeed get what they paid for and right now, his $175-million price tag is looking like a bargain. The only thing that could have stopped Tanaka in Wednesday night's visit to Citi Field was a suspicious-looking Shake Shack burger.
Evidently, he chose a different pregame meal. A healthy Tanaka meant trouble for the Mets, and for one night, tipped the balance of power back to the one Subway Series club able to afford him this winter. Despite the small-market success stories around the majors -- from Tampa Bay to Oakland -- writing big checks still works for some things.
Like the dose of relief Tanaka provided Wednesday night, when he struck out eight and allowed four hits for his first shutout in the Yankees' 4-0 victory over the Mets. As impressive as Tanaka's performance sounds, it was even better than that.
"I knew what was coming," Daniel Murphy said, "and I couldn't hit it."
The past few days had been nothing but misery for the Yankees because escalating injuries brought flashbacks to 2013 while the Mets made themselves at home in the Bronx, scoring 21 runs in the two wins.
But that all came to an end when the Yankees sent out Tanaka, who is among the mid-May leaders for Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. But why stop there? Despite Jose Abreu's fireworks show for the White Sox, we'd also have to give Tanaka serious consideration for MVP as well.
How could another player be more important to a team -- statistically or otherwise -- than Tanaka is right now to the Yankees? "I think you could argue that he's been as valuable as anyone on our team," Joe Girardi said.
Of course, the Mets -- technically a big-market club also -- had the same opportunity to sign Tanaka. All they had to do was pledge the $20-million negotiating fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles and then outbid the Yankees for him. A decade ago, before the baseball world heard of Bernie Madoff, that might have happened. But not with the current financial climate in Flushing, where Tanaka showed everyone that you do get what you pay for.
"The way he threw the ball tonight, it wouldn't have mattered how many times we had seen him," David Wright said. "For him to have these kind of expectations and live up to them, it's pretty impressive."
To oppose Tanaka, the Mets used a rookie of their own, the Vegas call-up Rafael Montero. And while Montero pitched well in his debut, going toe-to-toe with Tanaka was hardly a fair fight.
The Mets have fared well recently in digging into their prospect pool for Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
They may find another keeper in Montero, or when Jacob deGrom takes the mound Thursday night.
But there is a huge difference in class between a polished international star such as Tanaka and the Mets' farmhands. In this particular case, it involved a price tag, and the Yankees are able to shop in Saks while the Mets are poking around in Walmart.
"The Yankees took a risk on Tanaka and so far it's paid off," Sandy Alderson said before the game. "It's really not at this point a situation that we wanted to get involved in or could have gotten involved in. That doesn't mean it won't happen in the future."
OK, but when? Next year? The year after? 2024? Alderson's comment made us think that the next super-hyped star such as Tanaka won't be pitching at Citi Field -- for the Mets, that is -- anytime soon. We're not saying the Mets can't be a competitive team, or even a contender, without their own Tanaka. There just remains a sizable gap between themselves and the Yankees -- and spending money can help close it.
"Every franchise has advantages," Alderson said. "Some are financial. We don't really get into the question of what advantages one team versus another because we're all on the same field, playing at the same time." Only one team had Tanaka Wednesday night. The other wished it did.