When I heard on the radio Wednesday that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had been traded, my first thought was to check the date on my cell phone screen.
It read: “February 7,” dismissing any possibility I had gone to sleep for seven weeks and awakened on April Fool’s Day.
Then I learned the rest of the story: Wilson indeed had been traded, but not from the Seahawks. He was sent from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees in exchange for future considerations. Given that Wilson hit .229 during a two-season career spent in the low minors, it’s likely those future considerations won’t include anything that walks, breathes or chews bubble gum.
And yet, according to ESPN, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent “several weeks” arranging the deal, which gives you an idea of how slow the hot-stove season has been. Instead of engaging in talks regarding legitimate players, the executives worked – and worked, and worked – on a trade involving a former Single-A infielder who took his last pro-baseball swing in 2011.
I can imagine a typical phone conversation.
Daniels: “Hi Brian, it’s Jon.”
Cashman: “You again? What’s up, J.D.?”
Daniels: “Just checking to see if you’re still interested in acquiring our four-time All-Star.”
Cashman: “Jon, we went over this for a full hour yesterday. He’s been a four-time All-Star as a quarterback in Seattle.”
Wilson’s role with the Yankees will be the same as it was with the Rangers, who brought him to spring training for the occasional pep talk.
“We’ve admired Russell Wilson’s career from afar for quite some time,” Cashman said in a statement released Wednesday. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn from an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession.”
For Wilson, it’s a unique opportunity to be associated with the Yankees. He grew up following them with his late father, and long has admired Derek Jeter, the retired shortstop who accumulated Hall of Fame numbers for the Bombers before he became a part-owner in Miami and evolved into the Marlins version of George Steinbrenner.
I do not hold Wilson’s passion for the Yankees against him. I understand, too, why he considers his latest motivational-speaking gig a dream come true, as it presumably allows him to put on a glove again and revel in the fantasy-camp experience of taking infield grounders on a sunny morning.
My problem with Wilson hooking up with his favorite baseball team is that sometime during spring training, he’ll be photographed wearing the uniform of everybody else’s least favorite team. Sorry, that’s an exaggeration. The Yankees are not universally loathed. When they visit Seattle in September, Safeco Field will be occupied by thousands of New York fans, many adorning No. 2 jerseys in honor of “Jeetah.”
The sound of Yankees fans at road games drowning out the home crowd with “Let’s Go Yankees” chants is as familiar as the sound of midtown-Manhattan cabbies honking their horns during the .004 second delay it takes for the driver in front of them to respond to a green light converted from red.
Because of geography, the Mariners are absent a natural rival. The closest thing they’ve got to that is the Toronto Blue Jays, who for one series a season draw the entire population of western Canada to Safeco Field. But it’s not a real rivalry. There’s no playoff history between Seattle and Toronto, and thus no memories bitter enough to induce vomiting.
The Yankees eliminated the Mariners from the 2000 AL Championship series in six games, and then prevented the greatest of Mariners teams – among the greatest teams in baseball history – from advancing to the 2001 World Series. What made the 2001 championship series so infuriating is that the best-of-seven set was done in five games.
It’s been eight years since the Yankees won the World Series for the 27th time, but that wonderful respite appears over. They acquired National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins in a December trade, reinforcing an already fearsome lineup built around Aaron Judge, the AL Rookie of the Year who finished second to Houston’s Jose Altuve in the MVP race.
The Yankees are beneficiaries of an unlimited payroll and an unmatched tradition, and now they’ve looking toward “an extraordinary athlete who has reached the pinnacle of his profession” to provide clues on ways to win more world championships.
During the football season, Russell Wilson concludes his post-game remarks to the media with two words: “Go Hawks.”
If Wilson concludes his spring-training press conference with “Go Yanks,” it will reinforce suspicions the world has been doomed by the relentless force of an Evil Empire.