Veterans Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are on their way back to the Bronx, so its time for the fill-ins to step aside. Despite how well they’ve performed the last several weeks, the likes of Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and David Adams are about to have their roles diminished–and rightfully so.
They helped make for a thrilling month that saw the Yankees climb back into first place with a team that was–at times–nearly unrecognizable. No matter how well the understudy’s played, the roster spots were never their’s to lose.
Teixeria is the first baseman, just as Youkilis is the third baseman. Same for Derek Jeter who, no matter how strong his ankle is, will undoubtably take shortstop back.
Even if their placeholders were hitting above .300 and slugging well into the .400′s, there is no way the proven vets were going to ride the pine when they got back.
When asked about Teixeria’s role when he is activated to the roster, General Manager Brian Cashman made no bones about what will happen–”Mark is our first basemen, so there is no working him in”.
And to paraphrase Cashman’s further assessment of the ‘B-Bombers’, as he so affectionately calls the backups, it takes more than a month of production to replace a guy who has produced for the last several years.
No matter how callous the comments Cashman made about guys like Overbay and Nix, they have to take it with a grain of salt. And Cashman is right, you can’t allow yourself to get hung up on a small sample. Did they really expect to continue to play all season, let alone at the perceived level that they are performing?
I say ‘perceived’ because there is some rumbling within Yankees Universe over whether Tex and Youk should be allowed to take their positions back right away. I totally understand the bond the fans have built. After years of star power in the lineup, they suddenly have a team filled with unproven talent, grizzled veterans and journeymen thumbing their nose at the experts who aren’t giving the team a chance to compete for the division title.
Its exciting, in a way, because it’s as if it’s a brand new team. The fans who’ve been in a winning lull because of who the team puts on the field every night the past few years have been shaken awake by these newcomers.
Alas, much like the story that has developed over with the Atlanta Braves and Evan Gattis, a feel-good story is never usually grounded in reality.
In 187 plate appearances, Overbay is hitting below the league average at .251. In the last two weeks, he’s hit .213 with a .275 OBP. Though he’s hit eight home runs and a pretty good .217 ISO, Overbay has not proven he can be an above average MLB hitter since 2009. His defense has been OK–needless to say almost no one plays a better first base than Teixeria.
Most likely the odd man out, Adams has shown that he could be the future third baseman for the Yankees. In 50 plate appearances he’s hitting .265 and slugging .449. He’s not ready to be a full-time player and needs more conditioning in the minors. He’s played well defensively and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him later in the year should Youkilis become injured again.
Of course you have the rest of the ‘B-Bombers’–Nix, Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco, even catcher Chris Stewart–who have all played a hero at some point in the last month or so. This group is playing together as a team, almost as if the lack of elder star-power in the clubhouse has made everyone much looser.
Could that attitude be the reason why the Yankees have hung around first much longer than most expected? Maybe, but you can’t ignore that the under achievement of the rest of the division–save for the Boston Red Sox and maybe the Baltimore Orioles–has allowed this Yankee team to stay relevant as long as they had.
Yet the cloud of regression has began to take shape over these Yankees as they are currently mired in a losing streak that has knocked them out of first and allowed the third place Orioles to come within a game of leap-frogging them. The returning bats may be coming at the perfect time.
Let us give thanks to these ‘scrubs’ that have carried the Yankee winning tradition on a wave of momentum that we never saw coming. It was a fun ride, but now its time to hand the wheel back to the first of the returning greats.