During the week of October 16-23, the Yankees stopped hitting and stopped pitching in a six-game series with the Texas Rangers and lost their chance at repeating as World Series champions. During that mostly unproductive week, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano and Freddy Garcia were elsewhere.
Since the regular season and in Soriano's case, postseason had ended a few weeks earlier, the quartet might not have necessarily been thinking of future plans then. Eventually they would have to, either by having the benefits of free agency or being unwanted by a previous team.
Martin was the first since the Dodgers non-tendered him on December 2 and decided to go with Rod Barajas. Although Martin is considerably younger than Barajas, it didn't seem like the Dodgers had confidence in staying healthy and two weeks later he was a Yankee because Brian Cashman decided it was worth taking a chance on
"As long as he's healthy, Russell Martin is going to be our everyday catcher," Cashman said at the time. "He was one of the premier catchers in the game not too long ago. From performance and injuries the last two years, he's slipped from that status, but we feel he's a low-risk, high-reward scenario."
Although 14 games may be too small of a sample, Cashman's words have so far proven correct. Martin's next home run will equal his total from 97 games last year and he is hitting over .300 while appearing in all but one game.
Soriano was the second to come aboard and the one with the most controversy and money involved. Cashman didn't feel it was justified spending $35 million on a setup man even if he had 45 saves for a division winner in Tampa Bay. Nonetheless, Soriano was here for better or worse and one April stumble in cold weather does not make it for the worse and last night it was for the better when he pitched a nine-pitch eighth and was the winning pitcher.
Next was Chavez, who had a significant option for this year that the Athletics decided on November 4 not to pick up, especially after he was limited to 167 at-bats over the previous three seasons.
Three months and seven days after leaving Oakland, the same place that had watched Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Miguel Tejada and others leave, Chavez officially departed by signing a minor league deal with the Yankees.
The parameters were this: perform well in spring training, make the team and play once or twice a week. Chavez did that and is content with that line of work, which he showed when he calmly stroked a 2-2 Arthur Rhodes fastball up the middle in the eighth inning and again in the ninth when he stopped the final ground ball.
Moments after Nick Swisher, encouraged the media by saying: "You better get this guy", Chavez obliged by saying things such as:
"People talk about changes of scenery, and whatever that means, I don't know. But I'd been there my whole career, and the last few years hadn't been working, so I needed to change some things up. It's worked out so far.
"I really like (my role) a lot. I really didn’t like having that title (in Oakland) anyway, you know. I just like to get my work in, and whe Joe puts me in, I just try and do my best. I don’t have to worry about all that other stuff."
"I haven't really thought about whether this town was gonna eat me up or not. I'm just trying to do my job. Maybe it would have been a lot different when I was younger, but as close as I was to maybe not even being in a uniform this year, my perspective on things has been so simple."
Simple might have been the best way to describe Freddy Garcia's performance Saturday. Garcia joined the Yankees the same day as Chavez after being unable to agree with the White Sox following a respectable 12-6 season, his best in four years following several injuries.
Garcia holds the distinction of beating the Yankees twice in the 2000 ALCS, which also was Alex Rodriguez's last shot at the World Series before coming to New York.
"He’s a lot like David Cone,” Rodriguez said "It’s funny he wears his number, because he finds a way to win . . . he’s very smart. He knows what the hitters are looking for and he knows how to run away from the barrel."
It was the kind of language sometimes used to describe Mike Mussina in his final 20-win season in 2008. It also was the type of comments you wondered if you might ever hear about Garcia, who for two weeks kept fresh with bullpen sessions.
That was because rain skipped one start and pushed back another, making it nearly 20 days of being idle from live hitters (other than a relief appearance last Sunday). So it would have been understable if precision was not entirely there, especially during a rainstorm but it was as Garcia allowed two hits in six innings.
"You're talking about some guys who have played in really important games, guys that are really experienced, have been in the playoffs a lot in their career," Girardi said. "I think that makes somewhat of a difference."
There is no guarantee any of this will last, but it does not seem like it's close to ending, especially when a weekend like this occurs.