While many in Boston, including high-ranking Red Sox officials, simply considered that a case of Cashman messing around, it seems as if the message has filtered down to some of the GM's players.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Saturday in Tampa that his team is relishing the role as the forgotten one in the age-old rivalry.
"We're the underdogs this year," Teixeira said. "I love it. No one is picking us right now. Everyone in here should be looking forward to winning a championship. When you put on the pinstripes that is exactly what your goal should be every year. I think everyone understands that just because the public may not be picking us it doesn’t mean we don't believe it in here."
Talk on Feb. 19 means little, but the comments by Teixeira were just notable enough to get tossed around a couple hours south in Fort Myers, where Boston players and staff were asked about it.
Manager Terry Francona, always one to keep his focus on the task at hand, blew it off in style.
"I don't care. I really don't," he said. "Whatever. They have a $200 million payroll, they're not gonna be too underdoggish."
In giving a nod to Cashman, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said he would not dispute anything the Yankees general manager says. That said, he sees very little reason to rank the clubs at this point in time.
"I don't see us as clear favorites," Henry said. "I see the teams as fairly evenly matched so we have our work cut out for us to win the division."
When word of Teixeira's comments trickled down to the Red Sox clubhouse, where a player's mindset can be better understood, they made a little more sense. Designated hitter David Ortiz can see the merit in grabbing hold of the underdog role, if it presents itself.
"I understand what [Teixeira] is trying to say," Ortiz said. "When somebody mentions another team, of course it sounds like you'll be the underdogs, but you always have to keep an eye on the Yankees. They always find a way to win games."
While Boston made significant upgrades to their lineup with the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Yankees memorably struck out on Cliff Lee, the top pitcher on the market. They made many cosmetic moves and brought in several reclamation projects as candidates to fill out the rotation, as well as signing standout reliever Rafael Soriano. Realistically, New York will be a very good team again in 2011, but not many are giving them a chance to overtake the hated Red Sox.
For that extra dose of motivation, they are attempting the underdog route. Because it is the Yankees, they are at least getting some attention for it.