Most grammarians urge that the exclamation point be used sparingly, if at all. But when it comes to the Steinbrenner clan’s stewardship of the New York Yankee’s brand, it has been an unabashed element of its style, particularly after a questionable season.
And so it was that the team’s general manager, Brain Cashman, following his announcement that the Bronx Bombers had signed star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year deal (for $155 million) after a half dozen other notable free-agent signings this winter, exclaimed: “Obviously, by the exclamation point that's been made today, our work was not complete.”
This is a tale of two marketing campaigns. The one to woo Tanaka to the Yankees rather than, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers or (less likely) the Chicago White Sox, and the one to win back fans whose fannies did not fill the seats and whose eyes began to wander from the Yankees’ YES Network as the team failed to make the playoffs last year for only the second time in 19 years.
Conversely, Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in Japan for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who will receive a $20 million “posting fee” from the Yankees. The Yanks, who have had an eye on the 25-year-old pitcher since he was in high school, clearly did their market research.
“Wednesday's signing is the culmination of an interest that began in 2007, when the Yankees began scouting Tanaka, Cashman said,” reports Daniel Barbarisi in the Wall Street Journal. “It blossomed into a full-blown obsession this year, with the Yankees beginning work on a video to woo Tanaka this past summer — a video including a sales pitch from Japanese legend and former Yankee Hideki Matsui, and what Cashman described as an ‘MTV Cribs’ style tour of Yankee Stadium.”
In a phone interview with the YES Network, Cashman describes the sales pitch that eight Yankee executives put to Tanaka in a home in Beverly Hills earlier this month “to put forth the face of the franchise and what we’re about.” Tanaka had called for a shootout among interested teams over a two-day period so “he wouldn't have to interrupt his workout routine with travel,” as Brendan Kuty reports on NJ.com. “It was relatively different for the Yankees, who were accustomed to entertaining free agents at home,” Kuty says Cashman indicated.
Indeed, it “meant Cashman couldn't show off New York City or some of its leafy suburbs. Nor could he take Tanaka and the pitcher's wife, who is somewhat of a celebrity in Japan, to Broadway or other Manhattan hotspots, all part of other players' recruiting tours,” writes Anthony McCarron in the New York Daily News. “He couldn't even show off the stadium.”
Well, not living Yankee blue. But if you’re wondering what the baseball team’s equivalent of an “MTV-type Cribs circumstance” video might be, as Cashman put it, the flick presented “all the amenities of the Yankee’s clubhouse, and the weight room and the massage therapy and the pool hydrotherapy section that we have—you know, everything that the facility provides and what we try to do from a travel/work/product standpoint.”
In the other video, Matsui, who returned to the Yankees for one day last year so he could retire from Major League Baseball in pinstripes, was “recruited … to insert a message in the video, in which he told Tanaka of the virtues of playing in pinstripes,” the New York Times’ David Waldstein reports.
Over the top? you say.
“That was our one shot, and we took it very seriously,” Cashman said. “It might have been overkill, but we felt like if that's the case, we'd rather go all out than fall short wishing we did a little bit more,” Bryan Hoch reports on MLB.com.
Spoken like a seasoned creative director, no?
“The Yankees had no choice here. They had to get their man,” writes Ian O’Connor on ESPN New York. “Their whole being is built around their oft-quoted mission statement of fielding a championship-grade team every season, and they knew that sticking with their pitching staff in April would've represented a mission unaccomplished.”
The true mission unaccomplished, of course, was reflected in last year’s sharp drop in both television viewership and gate receipts (which, of course, has a major impact on how many of those $10 hot dogs are sold).
"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, channeling his late father, told the AP’s Ronald Blum.
But a true test of the Steinbrenner mettle comes when players don’t deliver championship-caliber baseball every playing moment. Indeed, if an occasion warrants, is Hank prepared to call Tanaka a “fat pussy toad,” as his dad once referred to Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu when he failed to cover first base during a spring training game?