NEW YORK — David Ross, who was Brian McCann’s backup in Atlanta, said during the offseason that McCann told him he considered coming to Boston as a free agent.
But what the Red Sox discussed with McCann was one of those deals that are good enough to refuse. Sounds like what they’re doing with Jon Lester, too, after a report surfaced that the club offered a four-year, $70 million deal the lefthander refused before putting the talks on hold.
The Red Sox do their due diligence on free agents and they explored McCann, but then realized they weren’t going to go all the way to get it done.
McCann knew that.
The Red Sox didn’t believe in him enough. Just as they didn’t believe Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be their long-term catcher and made him an offer he, too, could easily refuse.
The Yankees were the best fit for McCann.They needed stability at catcher and a bat that was ideal for hitting home runs at Yankee Stadium.
Saturday afternoon presented the first glimpse of what McCann can do. He belted a pair of homers against John Lackey in a 7-4 win over the Red Sox and also managed the game well for starter Hiroki Kuroda.
McCann’s lefthanded swing can carry the ball into the right-field jetstream at the Stadium, so the expectations are high despite snapping an 0-for-14 spell Thursday and beginning this homestand 1 for 16 .
“When he gets going he’s going to be a big factor here,” Carlos Beltran said. “He calls a great game and he can hit. He can do some special things.”
The Yankees are going to put on some long ball displays at home. There’s no doubt about it. They hit five homers vs. the Red Sox, four against Lackey. They have hitters such as McCann, Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano (who hit a home run to right-center), Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kelly Johnson, who can stroke it to right and hit it out.
A righthander making a mistake to a lefthanded hitter in this ballpark will have disastrous results. That’s what Lackey experienced. Lackey prides himself on attacking hitters with fastballs. And as he put it, “That can work against you sometimes.” Saturday was one of those sometimes.
It was a little bit warmer. There wasn’t much of a breeze, but what there was definitely carried the ball to the short porch.
“I don’t even think about that,” McCann said about hitting the ball to right. “If you did, it would mess up your swing. I hit like I hit no matter where I am. Here if you can get the ball in the air to right, you have a chance. But I never think I’ve got to pull the ball. I try to use all fields and hit it the ball where it’s pitched.”
The Red Sox wouldn’t have felt comfortable offering McCann a five-year deal. They have Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart in the minors and feel both will be very good, financially controllable backstops for a long time.
Why sign McCann for five years at $85 million when you can get an older and cheaper facsimile in A.J. Pierzynski, who has fit in well with the Red Sox and homered Saturday?
So the Red Sox, who have a $165 million payroll, let the Yankees spend the money and they took the value.
Despite his slow start (he’s hitting .195), McCann never felt he was pressing. He didn’t seem overwhelmed by his new ATM balance, nor did he feel like a fish out of water going from the National League to the American League, or from Atlanta to the biggest metropolis in the world.
For McCann, it was just baseball.
Sure, there are 10 times the media on a nightly basis in New York and there’s a new pitching staff he needs to get to know, but McCann has already received rave reviews on that end.
You’re not going to see McCann make a lot of defensive mistakes, and you will see a lot of power.
“He’s a really good baseball player,” Ross said. “He’s an all-around type of player in that he can catch, hit, calls a great game, frames pitches so well, hits, and hits for power. He’s also durable. He wants to play every day. He’s a force, no doubt. I had so much respect for him playing with him. He’s just a solid player.”
And McCann will always take the team approach. He’s been known to fight for his teammates with a fiery, tough Thurman Munson attitude.
He said of the Yankees’ explosive attack, “That’s what we’re capable of. We get on base and we’re capable of big innings. It was nice. I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well to be hitting in the hundreds.”
This might be the game that gets McCann going. He hit 20 home runs for the Braves last season. And that could translate to 30 at Yankee Stadium. Catcher has always been a focal point for the Yankees. Jorge Posada was one of the Core Four that produced five World Series championships. Munson was a mainstay. Elston Howard and Yogi Berra before him.
That’s what the Yankees were aiming for when they committed to McCann.
This is where he belonged.
The Yankees got their catcher and lefthanded power hitter suited for their ballpark. The Red Sox got the short-term commitment with Pierzynski and flexibility for the future.