If You Were Scott Hairston …
According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN-NY, Scott Hairston has decided he will play for either the Yankees or the Mets — and he’ll make his final decision within the next few days. What might be going into his decision?
The location, obviously, is irrelevant — from a MLB point of view, the Queens and the Bronx are essentially the same place (don’t tell that to anyone who has to cross the GWB and drive through the Bronx and Queens to get to Long Island, though). So let’s look at the other factors.
National League vs. Adulterated League
If Hairston chooses to continue to play real baseball, he will have to play the field (during games, not necessarily afterward at night clubs). People who haven’t played baseball may not understand this, but baseball players generally like to play baseball. Meaning, most players don’t want to DH, and want to play a game in which everyone on the field has to also take a turn at bat. Of course, there are exceptions — there are plenty of guys who have limited skills, are embarrassed / afraid of the responsibility that comes with everyones’ eyes upon you when the ball comes your way, and/or enjoy hitting and only hitting. I don’t get the idea that Scott Hairston is one of those guys — he seems like the type of guy who respects and loves real baseball.
Winning vs. Losing
Facts are facts, and the fact is, the Yankees have a better chance of having a winning season and playing in the playoffs than the Mets. Granted, the Yankees are looking less like Goliath these days, they’re skimping on their spending, and other clubs in their division — such as the Blue Jays — are looking stronger than ever. And this very well may be the year the Yankees finish fourth with only 79 wins. But, the Yankees also have a legitimate chance to finish first or draw a Wild Card. In contrast, there’s almost zero chance the Mets will finish higher than fourth in the NL East.
I’ve read a few online perspectives surmising that Hairston will choose the Mets because he’ll be guaranteed to get more playing time than he will if he’s with the Yankees. I’m not so sure about that. First, the Mets are in a rebuilding stage and ostensibly should be giving the few outfielders they have as many opportunities as possible. Further, everyone associated with the Mets knows that Hairston can’t hit righthanded pitchers, so he’s almost assuredly penciled into a platoon role. Finally, if there isn’t an open OF slot on a given day, Hairston is riding the pine and waiting for a pinch-hitting opportunity late in the game. On the other hand, though there doesn’t appear to be a starting job in the Yankees’ outfield, things could change very quickly if the Yankees aren’t winning. More importantly, there is the DH factor; if Hairston isn’t starting in LF or RF, there’s a decent chance he’ll be the starting DH.
On which club is Hairston’s job most stable? It could be the Yankees, and here’s why. If Hairston repeats his 2012 level of performance and has a hot first half for the Mets, but the Mets are in fourth place at the All-Star break, don’t you think Hairston will be shopped at the deadline? If it’s clear by late July that the Mets are on their way to another losing season, it behooves them to promote a youngster such as Zach Lutz or Wilmer Flores for a second-half audition. Having Hairston around will only make it more complicated to provide youngsters those opportunities.
At this point in time, one would think that a player given the choice between the Yankees and Mets would choose the Yankees in a heartbeat. That’s based on the theory that players prefer to win, and, especially in their later years, prefer to play for the team that has the best chance to get into the posteason. Only two other factors can trump the opportunity to win: location and money (with money usually trumping location). Since the location is identical, I have to believe that the Mets are miraculously offering a larger commitment than the Yankees. Maybe the annual dollars are the same, but the Mets are offering two years instead of one. Or maybe both offers are one-year deals, but the Mets are guaranteeing $5M (for example) while the Yankees are only offering $3M.
My gut is telling me that the Yankees are low-balling Hairston, selling him on the Yankee tradition, chance to win, opportunity to play for a Wilponless club, etc. As crazy as it sounds, I bet the Mets are bidding higher than the Yankees for Hairston’s services. If they are, do you think they should be? If you were Hairston, would you choose the Mets or the Yankees? What factors would influence your decision? Sound out in the comments.