When you watch the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s hard not to be struck by their athletic ability. Not baseball ability, athletic ability.
Carl Crawford was a Division I prospect in football and basketball. Rocco Baldelli was recruited by Pac 10 schools to play volleyball. B.J. Upton has the speed and strength to be an NBA point guard of NFL receiver. Akinori Iwamura had nine triples this season.
As the Yankees work to remake their roster, they need those kind of athletes. That brings us to Mike Jones.
You’ve probably never heard of Jones. He was taken by the Yankees in the 29th round of the draft in June. The outfielder hit .184 in 14 games in the Gulf Coast League but had to leave the team early because he’s a starting wide receiver at Arizona State.
The Sun Devils are 2-5 and have lost five straight. But Jones has caught 36 passes for 377 yards, a healthy average of 13.3 yards. The senior is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and can really run. Once the football season is over, the Yankees are eager for Jones to devote himself to baseball.
None of us have any idea whether he will become a player for the Yankees. The odds are against it. But it’s good to see the Yankees trying to work some athletes into the mix. I’ve heard good things about 11th round pick Ray Kruml and fifth-round pick Chris Smith was a three-sport athlete in high school. This process will not bear fruit overnight. But at least it has started.
The Rays aren’t going away any time soon. The Yankees need some guys who can keep up with them.
As baseball deals with the PED issue, teams have to get younger and more athletic to compensate. Just because a guy in his 30s has a track record doesn’t mean as much any more unless you know for certain he wasn’t cycling steroids in the offseason and gulping greenies before games. And you can’t know for certain.
By no means am I saying take stats out of the mix as you evaluate players. But the Yankees can’t keep loading up on DHs.