Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

CC Sabathia, Citi Field and Tony La Russa

Greetings, everyone! Did you miss me? I missed you. It was an eventful vacation of...about 11 hours.

Nah, that's all right. The Yankees' re-signing of CC Sabathia is huge news and - permission to speak freely - makes this winter much easier to cover.

Sure, the Yankees have more work to do: Strengthen the starting rotation, find another lefty reliever and explore a trade of Nick Swisher for a starting pitcher. But dealing with Sabathia as a free agent, and exploring alternate plans, would have taken up a great deal of their time.

It's always interesting to explore how high-profile situations like these play out and compare them to how the industry anticipated it would happen. In that case, the destination was largely forecast, but the journey was murkier.

One GM with whom I spoke in the last month smiled when referring to Greg Genske, Sabathia's agent, and noted, "He's like (Scott) Boras," in that he would be a tough negotiator.

Genske and his associate Brian Parker, who is Sabathia's primary representative, didn't drag it out, and that reflects how much Sabathia wanted to stay with the Yankees. At the same time, I wouldn't quite say that Sabathia accepted a hometown discount. His new annual average value of $24.4 million tops his pal Cliff Lee as the highest salary ever in a multi-year deal for a pitcher.

Like Lee, who turned down a longer offer from the Yankees last winter to sign a five-year, $120-million deal with the Phillies, Sabathia chose a comfortable situation while going for a higher annual salary and betting on himself. 

A pretty good deal for all concerned, really. In my column, I wrote that this was a win within a loss within a win.

--Let's cross the RFK Bridge from the Bronx to Flushing and discuss the Mets' changes to Citi Field, in an attempt to make it more hitter-friendly.

Perhaps if the Mets had enjoyed success these past three seasons as a pitching-and-defense club at Citi Field, if their ownership had been stellar and their front office had pulled off good move after good move, then they could've pulled off Citi Field's original dimensions. Instead, the dimensions.

Instead, the ballpark's layout - as well as its original negligence of Mets history - became a symbol of greater mismanagement. 

Just as Major League Baseball benefited last week from having Joe Torre explain the postponement of Game 6, so the Mets can sell these changes better with Sandy Alderson as their pitch man.

Will the changes help? I don't see how they can hurt. Thanks to the struggles of David Wright and Jason Bay, and no corresponding face to personify how great pitchers can do there, the ballpark had gained quite the reputation as death to hitters.

--Let's take a cab from Citi Field to LaGuardia and hop a flight to St. Louis so that we can discuss Tony La Russa's retirement.

It's a bit of a surprise, only because La Russa had a mutual option for next year with the Cardinals and needed 35 more wins to tie John McGraw on the all-time list. Shoot, with 2,728 career wins, La Russa could've reached the 3,000 mark in three or four more seasons, a reasonable target for a 67-year-old.

But as La Russa made clear - I watched him last night with David Letterman - he was exhausted. And goodness, he could never leave on more of a high than right now, after the Cardinals' marvelous World Series victory.

Who will replace La Russa? It's hard to say, since GM John Mozeliak never has had to hire a manager, and owner Bill DeWitt has hired only La Russa. However, given the success of La Russa's reign, if the Cardinals go outside to hire someone like Terry Francona, it's an indictment of current coaches like Jose Oquendo and Joe Pettini.

Will La Russa unretire down the road? I'd bet on no, that a guy who devoted the ferocity he did to the job won't feel like revving that back up. But if he does? He'd have suitors, for sure, which isn't always the case when these older icons step down.

--OK, back off the clock for me. Stay well.

New York Sports