The room was freezing; that was the first thing Brian Sabean noticed. Before a list of possibilities could even arrange in his mind, he saw the broken window. Then he saw the workers below, scrambling to clean up remnants of chair and glass.
"Mr. Steinbrenner? Mr. Steinbrenner? I had an appointment with you?"
George Steinbrenner fidgeted in a leather chair, his teeth visible in rage.
"Grarrrrrraggghgggh! Grrraggghggaaaag! Grr," Steinbrenner remarked.
"Mr. Steinbrenner, I used to work with you years back. My name is Brian Sabean, and I think I have an answer to your playoff struggles."
"Here. Here is your problem."
Sabean pulled an 8x10 glossy picture of Alex Rodriguez from an attaché case, and calmly laid it on Steinbrenner's desk. It was a risk, as Sabean knew the picture, or even the entire desk, could likely end up in the same cement and splinter grave as the chair below. But there was no burst of rage. Instead, Steinbrenner quietly studied the picture.
"That's the problem facing the Yankees," Sabean repeated. "That is a problem you have to solve."
Steinbrenner almost looked relieved as he pulled a wallet from his back pocket. He knew what to do. He smiled at Sabean, crumpled up several $100 bills, and began throwing them at the picture.
"Uh, wait a sec," Sabean said. "That's not going to work this time. This goes deeper. And that's not really your problem, I mean, that was just a metaphor. In fact, just forget about the picture entirely. Just think of Alex Rodriguez."
Steinbrenner growled, and threw his desk lamp out of another picture window. Glass rained on the workers below, who were quick to voice their appreciation. "Thank you for the glass, Mr. Steinbrenner," shouted one of the workers. "We'll treasure this glass and broken lamp, sir!"
"Alex Rodriguez is a horrible clutch player. He is single-handedly sinking your team, and your fans will riot if he's with the Yankees next year. Now, watch this...."
Sabean pulled a portable DVD player from the attaché case, and pushed play, angling the screen toward Steinbrenner. A highlight reel started to roll, as a stocky hitter launched a homerun into the left field bleachers of SBC Park. After he rounded the bases, another clip started, and another homerun sailed over the same fence. A third video of a homerun followed, though this one seemed to be the same as the first one, just with a different camera angle. More came, but it was almost as if they were the same highlights, just with different effects added. One was the exact same footage as the first homer, but it was now being played in black-and-white. That was followed by the footage of the second homer, but this time there was a digitally created moon in the corner for the duration of the highlight.
"You see? Clutch homer after clutch homer. That's Edgardo Alfonzo. We'd love to keep him - man, how we'd love to keep him - but he misses New York. He came up with the Mets and, well, there's nothing we can do. The Mets aren't interested because they have a young third baseman already, so I'm really against the wall here. I have to trade him to you, and I'll be honest, I'm not happy about it."
Steinbrenner uttered intelligible words for the first time in the meeting. "I'm listening," he said.
"I have a sports psychologist on the Giants payroll who is convinced she can solve Rodriguez's problems in the clutch. She won't keep quiet about it. Then I got an idea. A brainstorm. If you ate the remainder of A-Rod's contract, giving him to the Giants, you can have Alfonzo. You can just take him. Yours. Boom. Done. Both problems solved."
"I'm listening," Steinbrenner said.
"Actually, I'm done. I don't really want A-Rod hitting double plays for the Giants, but I don't really see a choice."
Steinbrenner leaned back in his chair, and started to unwrap a lozenge from his desk. "I like you, Brad. I always have. We'll talk. Leave the DVD."
Sabean thanked Steinbrenner for his time, and backed out of the office door. Now came the waiting game. Did he come on too strong? Was he that transparent? The ploy couldn't hurt , Sabean knew, but it had to be played perfectly. It remained to be seen if it had. It probably was a waste of time. Nothing could be that easy. Sabean wondered if he still had the number for John Olerud's agent.
Before he could even push the button on the elevator, his cell phone rang. It was Steinbrenner. Check and mate.