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Teixeira looked to family for decision

Teixeira looked to family for decision

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira beamed Tuesday as he donned a pinstriped Yankees jersey for the first time, squinting through the rapid-fire flickering of the assembled still photographers at Yankee Stadium.

It was a moment set into motion more than three weeks earlier, when the free-agent first baseman dined with his wife, Leigh, for their regular date and attempted to find some clarity with their situation.

Sitting at a restaurant table in Texas, Teixeira asked his wife where -- all financial matters being equal -- they would want to move their family. When the answer came back, "New York," Teixeira's destination was sealed.

"We were really waiting for teams to drop out," Teixeira said. "I said to Leigh, we were sitting at dinner, 'Everything's equal. Where would you want to play?' Finally, she broke down and said, 'I want you to be a Yankee.' That's what did it for me."

The decision left the Red Sox, who had maxed out with an offer of eight years at $170 million, stunned in the cold.

It was a move that Boston could not counter -- the next-best offensive player on the open market is Manny Ramirez, who has no intention of returning to Fenway Park as anything but a visiting player.

"Mark had a very sound interest in Boston and certainly we had discussions," agent Scott Boras said. "We had some very firm dialogue with them and some exchanges.

"... The winning part was very important to him, and both Boston and New York offered that. The economics were certainly something that were in the ballpark of one another. When Leigh told him that New York would work better for their family, I think that was the deciding factor."

Truth be told, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had his doubts within a two-hour window of when Teixeira's Dec. 23 decision to accept the Yankees' eight-year, $180 million offer became public knowledge.

Cashman said that the wheels were set in motion by a December visit to a hotel in Washington, D.C., where the Lakers were staying while in town to play the Wizards.

After spotting Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson in the lobby, Cashman would soon meet his future first baseman, spending the entire afternoon and evening with Teixeira. The discussion ranged from Teixeira's family to his pregame routine to his assessment of the Yankees from afar.

"It was just a long baseball conversation that felt like an hour, because time flew," Cashman said. "He's very passionate about this game. He's certainly got goals that he intends to reach. They're all team-oriented goals. It turned out to be time well spent."

Cashman said he returned to New York telling co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner that, though the Yankees still needed to add starting pitching, they should strongly consider pursuing Teixeira as well. It was an unexpected twist, but one worth investigating.

"Without a doubt," Cashman said, "this was a deviation from our plan."

The Yankees did make an initial offer to Teixeira, proposing $20 million per year, but it was not accepted and was quickly yanked by the club. As Cashman criss-crossed the country in securing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Teixeira's saga continued to play out.

Eventually, Boras' cell phone buzzed with information that the Angels had bowed out, leaving the Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals as the most interested parties.

"You really don't know," Teixeira said. "Everyone made offers early and it was kind of a cat-and-mouse game. I just told my agent, 'When there are definitive offers that are final offers, let me know.'"

On the morning of Dec. 23, with the baseball world prepared to head into its annual holiday slumber, reports surfaced that Teixeira appeared to be headed to the Red Sox.

Cashman believed them, knowing full well that Teixeira had met face-to-face with the Red Sox in Texas on Dec. 18 and that owner John Henry's e-mail claiming Boston would "not be a factor" was widely regarded as a bluff to get Teixeira to accept an eight-year, $165 million offer.

"Up until two hours, I still didn't think he was going to be a Yankee," Cashman said. "All indications from Scott were that it was going to be the Red Sox."

Hot Stove
That morning, Boras had set a 1 p.m. deadline, so Teixeira could make his pick in advance of the Christmas holiday. Cashman said he felt the Yankees were too late to the process, but when Boras called New York at noon with what sounded like final details, Cashman called his boss with buoyed spirits.

"'I think we're the lead dog right now,'" Cashman said he told Steinbrenner. "It was a surprise, to be honest, but it made me feel great."

In the closing minutes before a decision needed to be made, the Yankees had outbid the Red Sox for Teixeira by what turned out to be $10 million, besting Boston's $170 million tag.

"We were really not active until the very end here, and we only became active when it became clear that Mark really wanted to be a Yankee," team president Randy Levine said. "We weren't interested in just playing the game to play the game. When he told us this is where he wanted to be, it made a lot of sense for everybody."

Teixeira said that he had not strung clubs along, especially Boston, whom he lauded as a worthy destination -- but not the right choice for him.

"I have nothing but respect for those guys," Teixeira said. "I'm going to want to beat them this year, but at the same time, I wish them the best. Terry Francona is a good man, a good manager. Theo Epstein is a great general manager and I enjoyed my time with him.

"But in the end, the contract with the Yankees and proximity to my home and family here in New York was too much to turn down."

Some crowed when the Yankees finalized their deal with Teixeira, especially now that New York has snapped up the top three players on the market and has -- to date -- outspent every other club combined on the free-agent market. Steinbrenner said he would not bat an eyebrow at those claims.

"I feel that this organization does a lot for the industry as a whole, between the merchandising we sell, the tickets we sell, the millions of dollars of revenue sharing we contribute," Steinbrenner said. "If some of the owners are upset that we're trying to invest in our team, which we do for the fans and only for the fans, I'm not going to lose sleep over it."

And securing back pages on snowy street corners means little for the regular season -- a fact the Yankees know all too well. The Red Sox may have felt burned with Teixeira, but Boston was in no mood for revelry when Alex Rodriguez was traded to Yankee Stadium and not Fenway Park, either.

"People thought that way about Alex and they've won two championships [since]," Cashman said. "Winning the winter means squat. I want to win the summer. A back page or a nice article here and there in December or January might amount to a few extra ticket sales. What counts is those games in the summertime."

Cashman said that investing $423.5 million among the likes of Sabathia, Burnett and now Teixeira was a knee-jerk reaction to the tougher landscape of the American League East, and one they hope will help them remain competitive in one of baseball's most dangerous divisions.

"This is a huge compliment to the Rays and the Red Sox, two teams that we're looking up at," Cashman said. "We made these significant upgrades to try and compete, and keep up with what they've done. Our division has exceptionally talented teams, and they're getting better. We know we have our work cut out for ourselves."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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