Honestly, Michael Young’s bottom-of-the-MVP-ballot season was one of the best stories in baseball this year, and now that story is gaining some traction in New York because of comparisons to Derek Jeter.
Jeter quieted his doubters with a tremendous second half. Young reasserted his value with one of the best seasons of his career. Young did what I have to think Jorge Posada wanted to do: Came into camp with a chip on his shoulder, then became a relentless hitter who made the Rangers look silly for ever doubting him.
The Yankees are never going to shop Jeter on the trade market the way the Rangers shopped Young, and it’s hard to imagine any of the Yankees being asked to fall into a kind of everyday utility role like Young played this season, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees don’t have players capable of a Young-type told-you-so season.
These four could take next season as a challenge to prove themselves all over again.
Mark Teixeira — If the Yankees stick with their playoff lineup, with Teixeira dropped from third to fifth, their first baseman could take that as a challenge to prove he’s still an elite all-around hitter. To some extent Alex Rodriguez fits here as well, but his problems seem more easily connected to injuries than disappointment. Rodriguez just wants to stay healthy. Teixeira’s the one who wants to prove himself all over again.
Nick Swisher — I still expect the Yankees to pick up his option and let Swisher move quietly to next season, but I also expect the Internet to remain full of folks calling for Swisher to be replaced in right field. Swisher’s been a fan favorite ever since his first roll call salute. Would a big season — more importantly, a productive postseason — put him back in everyone’s good graces?
Phil Hughes — A.J. Burnett is a different situation (he’s played his way into having to prove himself again). Hughes, though, had a strong first full year as a big league starter, the had his second full year cut short by shoulder and back injuries. This winter he’s been called out of shape — to be honest, I didn’t think he looked much different than when I saw him in Scranton four years ago — and already there are plenty wondering if he’s a bust. He’s in a very different stage of his career than Young, but Hughes could certainly reassert himself after falling quickly to the margins.
Joba Chamberlain — Four years ago he was an elite rotation prospect, one of the top young pitchers in the game. Now it’s entirely possibly Chamberalain will return from Tommy John surgery to find himself relegated to middle-inning relief appearances, setting up for the late-inning trio of Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera. Not sure he could take that as a sign of disrespect, but he could certainly take it as motivation.
Associated Press photo