Weaver offers New York protection against a staff that's logged a lot of miles: Roger Clemens is 39; David Wells, 39; Hernandez, 37; Mike Mussina, 33; and Pettitte, 30. Weaver was only 39-51 in Detroit, but the opponents' batting average against him has dropped every season (.278, .267, .266 to .243 this year). At the time of the trade he led the league in shutouts (three), was tied for fifth in innings (121?) and ranked ninth in ERA (3.18). "He can be a Number 1 or Number 2 starter for us for the next eight years," Steinbrenner gushed.
The Yankees' talks with the Tigers about Weaver began in April—New York regarded him as too good to pass up, even without a pressing need for a starting pitcher—but fizzled a month later after the pitching prospect Detroit coveted, Brandon Claussen, underwent elbow surgery. On July 3, however, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane called Cashman to propose a three-way trade that hinged on Beane's getting Weaver and moving him to the Yankees. The deal was done in two days. Oakland traded first baseman Carlos Pe�a, minor league closer Franklyn German and another prospect to be named by Sept. 15 to the Tigers for Weaver. The A's then unloaded Weaver for Lilly and the Yankees' prospects.
"I like what Oakland got out of it, and I like what the Yankees got out of it," one AL general manager said. "I can't figure out what the Tigers were thinking. You can always find first basemen, but good, young starting pitchers? Put it this way: They gave up the most valuable piece and got the least"
The trade was not entirely unrelated to the perilously shifting financial tectonics of baseball. While Oakland will pay the balance of Lilly's $237,150 salary, Beane called Weaver's contract "totally not financially doable." Steinbrenner had no such worries. After his club lost Game 7 of the World Series last November, he promised to change the club and has added 10 players since then.
"I want to win," he said before an 8-3 loss to Toronto last Saturday. "Have you seen the crowds [here] the last month? The fans have been tremendous. We want to give them the best possible team."
Steinbrenner smiled, Cheshire-like. He was standing in that same hallway in which, on this day, he could survey Yankees old and new. Above him the venerable stadium rumbled with the noise of another near-capacity crowd. The paying customers had just enjoyed a ceremony dedicating a plaque to Jackson, signed by the Boss in 1976. Only in New York.