TAMPA, Fla. — In any of the 29 other Major League Baseball spring training camps, the arrival of a graceful, powerful switch-hitting first baseman who signed an eight-year, $180-million contract in the offseason would mean his every movement, his every word, his every swing would be monitored. Mark Teixeira arrived. Mark Teixeira spoke. Mark Teixeira hit. Mark Teixeira showered.
Last week, when the New York Yankees conducted their first full-squad workout, Teixeira stood in the dugout alongside one of the back fields at the club’s complex, holding a bat. Photographers crouched in front of him, and the click-click-click was incessant. Yet when Teixeira moved, the photographers held their ground. “Excuse me,” he said, and slid past. The pictures continued to be snapped, over and over again, of Alex Rodriguez, who was doing nothing more than sitting on the bench of the same dugout.
So it is with the Yankees, who stole the offseason’s most significant offensive prize from their chief rival (Boston), his former team (the Los Angeles Angels) and a pair of wannabes within an easy drive of his childhood home of Severna Park, Md. (Washington and Baltimore). When Teixeira arrived here two days before full-squad workouts began, his words were indeed monitored, but most of them were about Rodriguez, with whom he was teammates in Texas in 2003. As Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop and captain said, “It’s something every year” at New York’s spring training, and this year, it is about Rodriguez’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his three seasons with the Rangers.
That leaves Teixeira all to himself. As reporters monitored Rodriguez’s every breath Teixeira came off the field after the workout, headed to his new home clubhouse at Steinbrenner Field, and stood at his locker alone even as three dozen media members crowded the room, waiting for someone else.
“I think every other team I would have been on, I’d have had the highest contract in team history and the highest (average annual) salary in team history,” Teixeira said.
Here, Teixeira hardly merits characterization as a distraction, and it could be argued that his arrival is no better than the fourth-biggest story of the Yankees’ spring, clearly behind the ongoing saga of Rodriguez and perhaps outdistanced by Jeter’s reactions to A-Rod’s situation and the arrival of pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
Here, though, the man who would be the centerpiece of any other clubhouse is simply just another piece.
“The spotlight’s great,” Teixeira said. “But I think on the field is where the spotlight should be. I’d hate for somebody to talk about me only because of my contract. I would rather go out there and do my job and win a world championship and have people talk about me and the team because of that.”