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December 14, 2013

Yankees' Ellsbury is a businessman in the outfield

Jacoby Ellsbury’s jump from historic Fenway Park to Yankee Stadium will hit some Red Sox fans as an act of treachery. Players might say it’s about the rings and banners that are all but assured to those who play in the Bronx. But, in Ellsbury’s case, it’s about the Benjamins, a calculation that makes sense.

Ellsbury reportedly will get $153 million for seven years work for the Yankees. That obviously appealed to him in the short term - but there had to be long-term considerations, as well.

A friend who played professional basketball once explained to me the three stages of his athletic career: High school was about having fun. College ball was a job. The pros were all business.

What seemed like a harsh assessment at the time has proven true as I’ve seen players come and go. Fans see the glamour of a celebrated player’s life, but athletes in the spotlight — like Ellsbury — must know their fame is fleetingm even as obligations and expectations will surely persist.

For the Yankees, signing Ellsbury was undoubtedly a short-term move. They needed to get fans excited for the 2014 season, especially after missing the playoffs for only the second time since 1994. What better way than steal the darling of the Red Sox’s world championship team?

Ellsbury brings excitement to a team in need of good news. He’s a capable outfielder who batted .298 last year and produced a .355 on-base percentage. Hitting from the left side should help him clear the short right-field fence in Yankee Stadium more often than he did in Boston, where he had nine round-trippers in 2013.

If Ellsbury stays healthy, the Yankees should benefit from his speed. The fleet former American League all-star stole 52 bases last season.

The down side is that Ellsbury is susceptible to injuries. He played in 134 games for the Red Sox last summer. That makes the Yankees’ offer of a seven-year deal more than a stretch for someone who may have already seen his best days.

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