Dan Bocchino is our next Pinch Hitter. He’s been a Yankees fan since attending his first game in 1985, and now that he’s a married 35-year-old father of one, he still shouts managerial moves and instructions at his television. Dan is a Website manager, writer, comedian/actor, and editor who previously co-wrote a now defunct Yankees blog. Dan wrote that when he’s not working or watching baseball, he can be found spending time with his family, spending time in the kitchen, or spending time on stage.
For the record, I’m rarely found doing any of those things.
For his post, Dan looked at the difficult decision of asking veteran players to change positions. The Yankees face obvious concerns at shortstop and third base, but Dan would like to also invent a new position for another Yankees infielder.
In the movie Office Space, the character of Milton is constantly being relegated to an afterthought by his bosses and co-workers. No one listens when he talks, and they move his desk to the basement while asking him to handle the bug problem in the building. Milton may not have deserved such treatment, but between the foul lines, some Yankees need to start thinking about other ways they can help the team.
The phrase “aging veteran” is a bit overused in the world of baseball parlance, yet every team faces the problem of having players that fall into this category on their rosters. These vets may be superstars who have done too much historically for their teams to toss them aside, or they may be true aging veterans — guys who have hung on in an effort to revitalize their careers with little to no success.
The 2012 New York Yankees are no exception to this aging veteran rule, but one of the most glaring problems took care of itself recently. Jorge Posada’s decision to retire let the Yankees off the hook and prevented what would have been, no doubt, an acrimonious and tense situation. Posada would either have been relegated to the full-time DH spot, a role that he certainly didn’t prove capable of handling last season, or would have found work elsewhere. A Yankee/Posada divorce that resulted in the catcher going to another team would have been a PR nightmare, and would most certainly have brought Joe Girardi’s tense (at best) relationship with Posada into the spotlight. Crisis averted.
The same doesn’t hold true for some other Yankees. Much has already been said about Derek Jeter and his impending move to ________ (fill in the blank with the position of your choice – DH, OF, 1B, etc.). But, he had a nice bounce-back year offensively in 2011, even if his fielding stats left much to be desired (albeit in 100+ less chances than 2010). So, for now, we won’t really worry about Jeter and any possible position moves; we all know he’s the starting SS in 2012.
But what about 2013 and beyond? Does he stay at short until he retires? Will he DH more and more until he fully transitions to that spot? He could play first, but why move a defense-first player you already have entrenched there (more on Mr. Teixeira later).
The answer for Jeter and the Yankees is very simple — keep him at SS as long as he wants and as long as the team is successful with him playing there. His wins above replacement (WAR) for 2011 was 2.3, his worst since 1996. I think the WAR stat is a bit of a stretch, but without a better stat to measure (in black-and-white) the value of a player, it’s all we have. As long as you can put a future Hall of Famer in a skill spot on the field and have him be better than any other option, you play him there.
Unless that player’s name is Alex Rodriguez.
According to FanGraphs, A-Rod’s WAR for 2011 was 4.2, even better than that same stat from 2010, but that doesn’t paint the full picture. Alex hasn’t played in 140 games since 2007 and appeared in just 99 games last season, his lowest total since becoming an everyday big leaguer. The injury bug has bitten his rapidly aging body, and that’s a major concern for the 2012 Yankees. I don’t envision a scenario in which you can expect to get more than 100-120 games out of him this year.
The only way to possibly prevent that and to stretch his value is to ask him to DH the majority of the time. In doing so, you keep those creaky knees of his rested and you exploit the real value he brings to the game – his offense. Never a shining star with the glove at third, DH’ing would reinvent A-Rod’s game in the twilight of his career. Plus, it would open up a spot at third base for Eduardo Nunez, either setting him up for a future with the Yankees or showcasing him to other teams prior to July 31st.
The rest of the starting nine are where they should be, at least for now. But, there is one glaring exception that, I for one, wish would constitute a drastic rule change in the game of baseball.
Remember in Little League, when a coach could use the DH for any player, not just the pitcher? Some leagues used this caveat as a way to get another kid into the game, adding a level of simplicity to the “everyone plays” rule. That’s what the 2012 New York Yankees need for Mark Teixiera. Tex’s WAR has been in rapid decline over the past three seasons, and his robust .248 batting average ranked him 5 and 3 points lower than jettisoned Yankees Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui, respectively, and only 2 points higher than that bastion of offensive prowess Danny Valencia. Tex’s ability with the glove, and the glove alone, makes him way too valuable to move, but then again, where would you move him to even if you could? Last time I checked, there’s no spot on the 25-man roster for a designated fielder.
Associated Press photo