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December 31, 2004

Welcome Back...
by Larry Mahnken

The big news yesterday was that Tino Martinez is back in pinstripes.

That's of course, not what the media tried to make the big news yesterday, of course. The big news they tried to push was that the Yankees had completed a trade for Randy Johnson. Of course they haven't yet, and they've tried this one before, so I'm still going to hold off on commenting about it (and boy, do I have comments about it).

But the return of Tino has happened... well, not officially, either, but there's less reason for media hype about it than there is for Johnson.

Anyway, a lot of Yankees fans have an irrational love for Tino. There's nothing wrong with liking Tino, of course, but they freaking love this guy. They cheered him when he came back to New York, which is understandable, but then they cheered him when he hit a homer against the Yankees. And then they cheered him again when he came back last year, every time he came back last year.

This isn't Joe DiMaggio we're talking about here, it's Tino Martinez. They love this guy a little too much, because people have a very selective memory. In his next-to-last game in pinstripes, he hit a two-run homer off of Byung-Hyun Kim to tie Game Four of the World Series, and along with his Grand Slam to win Game One of the 1998 World Series, he's developed a reputation as a "Clutch God".

Never mind that before that Grand Slam in '98, Tino had never done anything for the Yankees in the postseason. Never mind that his homer in Game Four was the only thing he did in the World Series, and they might have won if he'd contributed normally and not hit the homer. Never mind that over the course of his career, he was generally average for a first baseman. Never mind all that, we're dealing with selective memory here. Jason Giambi's never been loved like Tino not because he hasn't done the same things as Tino (ask Pedro), but because the expectations were higher for Giambi, and the Yankees won rings with Tino.

Now Tino's back, and I wonder how many standing ovations he's going to get before the fans get tired of it. I wonder how bad he'll have to play before the fans get tired of him.

Still, I think this is a good move. Tino's a good glove man, and he's not a terrible hitter. He's certainly better than Olerud or Clark, and makes the lineup a little more lefty. On the merits of the move itself, I like it. He'll be overrated and overloved, but he'll be a useful addition to the team. How does this affect the pursuit of Beltran? Not a lick. If they were dropping out of the Beltran sweepstakes, they might have pursued Delgado instead, since they'd need a DH.

Speaking of which, Brian Cashman has said the Yankees aren't necessarily going to go all-out to sign Beltran. Please think again, Cash, they need to go all-out for Beltran. They need to overpay him, if that's what it takes. They need a young, good player at a key position, who plays good defense. They need Carlos Beltran. Give him $18 million if that's what it takes, this is something that the team needs to do to win long-term.

Happy New Year's, everyone. Don't drink and drive, sjohnny lost a close friend to one of those assholes this year.