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About the Off-Season: A Bold Gesture by Playing the Numbers Game

About the Off-Season: A Bold Gesture by Playing the Numbers Game

By Tim Kabel

November 30, 2023


We have all seen countless examples of men, usually young ones, proposing to their girlfriends at sporting events, concerts, or other public venues. These grand gestures usually garner a great deal of attention. They are frequently captured on video tape or film or on the scoreboard. Usually, the young lady accepts the proposal, and the event is greeted with great applause and celebration. It is considered a triumph for the fellow who proposed. However, every now and then, the young woman has a different agenda and refuses the proposal. This is unpleasant on many levels for the gentleman involved. First, his plan for the future has been shattered. He needs to reevaluate everything and come up with a new plan. He also has to figure out how he misjudged the situation so badly. He is hurt, rejected, and embarrassed. Those feelings are compounded by the fact that the entire disaster is witnessed by everyone at the event, and countless others who will see the incident replayed multiple times, simply to increase the poor fellow's humiliation. People will point, children will laugh, some may even throw popcorn. He will be heckled and ridiculed by friends, loved ones, and total strangers until something else happens to catch their attention.

The Yankees reportedly made such a gesture recently. No, they did not propose marriage. Rather, they made a decision to not issue uniform number 18, which is the preferred number of Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The ace of the pitching staff in Japan traditionally wears number 18. When Hiroki Kuroda played for the Yankees, he wore number 18. Masahiro Tanaka came to the Yankees during that time and graciously accepted number 19 in deference to Kuroda. The last Yankee to wear number 18 was Andrew Benintendi. No deference is required for him.

If it is true that the Yankees held number 18 for Yamamoto, and there is no reason to believe that it isn't, it shows a great deal of confidence by Brian Cashman and the Yankees. It demonstrates they are truly committed to signing Yamamoto and believe very strongly that they will do so. It is not the sort of "dipping the toe in the water" behavior we have seen from them lately when it comes to star players. It is more than "due diligence". As a Yankees' fan, you have to like this news. However, there is a but coming.

It's very nice that the Yankees made this gesture toward Yamamoto but, now they need to actually sign him. They put themselves out there in a somewhat vulnerable position. Now, they need to reel him in. Imagine what will happen if they don't.

If the Yankees do not sign Yamamoto, they will look foolish. They will be subjected to ridicule and scorn by their fan base, the media, and other MLB teams. It will be used as further evidence to prove that Brian Cashman has lost his way and is no longer capable of running this team effectively. People will make jokes at his and the Yankees' expense. It could also affect their negotiations with other players, as the agents for those players will know the Yankees need to save face and might be willing to overpay to do so.

Although in the grand scheme of things, this is not a major gesture, it is important to Yamamoto. If it hadn't been, the Yankees would not have done it. Now, they had better be very sure they can sign him. If he goes to the Mets, where number 18 is not available, as it will be retired for Darryl Strawberry, the Yankees will look silly on many levels. It will be perceived that they overemphasized the importance of the uniform number and that they could not follow through on signing the player they wanted. The Mets will be viewed as having the upper hand in the city and will steal a lot of the Yankees' thunder. That may happen anyway if the Mets sign Yamamoto but without the entire story about the Yankees reserving number 18, it would be on a smaller scale.

Brian Cashman is on the scoreboard camera. He is down on one knee. He is asking Yoshinobu Yamamoto to join the Yankees. He's proposing a contract to him. We are all watching. Cashman better get this right or It will be a long cold winter for him, the Yankees, and their fans.

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