That’s how La Velle Neal in the Star-Tribune sees it, in a column headlined, "New Twins GM shows he knows how to play poker":
Hank Steinbrenner demanded action. Peter Greenberg was ready for a nine-figure negotiation. The media wanted details.
And yet, unless Twins GM Bill Smith slipped down to the gym for a workout between negotiating sessions, there wasn’t a noticeable drop of sweat from his brow all week during Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings.
Neal gives Smith credit for ignoring Steinbrenner’s attempt "to bully him into a decision with an early-week deadline."
It’s an interesting take, and not one generally shared in New York and Boston, where Smith has been portrayed as vacillating and possibly disningenuous — telling teams what it would take to trade for Johan Santana, then asking for just a little more when the teams agreed.
Indeed, it seems from media reports (which need their requisite grains of salt absent named sources) that it’s actually been Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman who have been the pillars of strength in this deal. Smith reportedly shopped their offers around, appearing to beg someone, anyone, to come in and offer more for his ace. The Sox and Yanks, meanwhile, stayed firm, refusing to offer more than what they believed Santana to be worth.
By failing to agree to a deal, Smith may be allowing a team like the Mets or Dodgers to swoop in with a sweeter offer. More likely, he’s increased the possibility that neither the Sox or Yanks will be inclined to give him the same deal later in the offseason. After all, Steinbrenner, for whatever it’s worth (and it’s not worth much), has since declared Hughes, Kennedy and Cabrera — along with Chamberlain and Cano — "as close to untouchable as you can get."
So, yes, while it’s great that Smith didn’t buckle under the blatantly artificial deadline imposed by Sir Hank, I don’t know that inaction in the face of pressure is necessarily a sign of strength.