- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
When Gene Michael took over as the Yankees' general manager in 1990 and started rebuilding the team, he focused on two traits: left-handed hitting, because of Yankee Stadium's friendly right-field dimensions, and on-base percentage.
It's a time-honored formula, like Coca-Cola, and whenever the Yankees have had struggles, they've returned to it time and again, and did so again at the end of a crazy day of transactions Tuesday, in signing Jacoby Ellsbury.
He is a left-handed hitter, and he finished 19th in the AL in on-base percentage in 2013, after finishing 12th in 2011. His swing becomes more of a power factor in Yankee Stadium, where fly balls to right field become home runs. Brian McCann, another left-handed hitter, will be introduced at a news conference Thursday; he has long been among the catching leaders in on-base percentage and home runs.
With Ellsbury set to play center and Brett Gardner likely moving to left, the biggest part of the Yankee Stadium outfield will be covered by two shutdown defenders.
The Yankees will be better in 2014 than they were last season, when they failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons, and you knew there would be upgrades. Because the Yankees brand has never been about one player, as it was with the Orioles and Cal Ripken for a time. The Yankees brand has is built on success, on winning championships, and while Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera became stars as they helped to make that happen, the Yankees have long valued team success over the promotion of any individual player -- which is why they dumped Ruth, why they pushed out DiMaggio.
This is an overriding message they have attempted to convey to Robinson Cano's representatives in their negotiations.