Mark Teixeira’s three-run home run on Wednesday night beat the Mets. Well, that and Joe Girardi finally taking Chad Green out of the game and replacing him with Luis Severino, who should have been given Ivan Nova’s rotation spot to begin with. But it was Teixeira’s home run, a “Yankee Stadium home run” like the one Curtis Granderson hit to lead off the game, that gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Teixeira has had a bad season. Actually, he’s had an awful season. For $22.5 million, which is what he’s made every season since 2011, it’s been an historically bad season if you’re looking at return on investment. Even with his three-run home run, his numbers are still an embarrassment.
After hitting a home run in the seventh game of the season on April 13, Teixeira went homerless until June 26. His average hasn’t seen .200 since May 19, he hit two doubles in July after hitting none in June, and of course, he had a patented DL stint in June as well. For a player who’s an impending free agent, who hit 31 home runs in 2015 and who said he would like to play five more years, the only way Teixeira plays in the majors in 2017 is if he takes an 80 percent pay cut or more and gets a contract filled with incentives.
But while Teixeira has slumped, or rather sucked, for the entire season, nothing has changed for him. From Opening Day through May 17, Teixeira hit third or fourth in the lineup. Then he hit fifth for two games before being moved back to fourth. After he came off the DL in June, Girardi hit him sixth for one game before putting him back in the middle of the order despite his incredible home run drought and the fact that not only was he not hitting home runs, he wasn’t hitting at all. He has his sixth twice this season. He has been moved down to seventh due to a lack of production twice as well. So four times this entire season, Mark Teixeira hasn’t hit in the middle of the order.
In 77 games and 303 plate appearances this season, Teixeira is hitting .198/.287/.340 with eight doubles, 10 home runs, 27 RBIs, 32 walks and 76 strikeouts. Those numbers are not just good enough to keep Teixeira in the lineup, they are good enough to allow him to hit third, fourth or fifth every game. If Greg Bird hadn’t needed season-ending shoulder surgery, Mark Teixeira would have been gone long ago with those numbers. But things seems to works out for Teixeira just like they did in 2009 when he was carried to a championship in 2009, so that he could get an eternal free pass in New York.
The player who carried Teixeira to that championship in 2009 and prevented Teixeira from facing the never-ending scrutiny that “he can’t win in New York” is having a similar season to Teixeira production-wise. But while nothing has changed for Teixeira with his release-worthy numbers, everything has changed for Alex Rodriguez.
In 62 games and 234 plate appearances this season, A-Rod is hitting .204/.252/.356 with six doubles, nine home runs and 29 RBIs, 14 walks and 65 strikeouts. His numbers are nearly identical to Teixeira’s yet A-Rod has become the last man off the bench on a team rather than a staple in the heart of the order.
A-Rod pinch hit on Aug. 2. He pinch hit on July 31. He started on July 30. He pinch hit on July 29. He started on July 22. He started on July 21. A-Rod has started three games in 13 days and has lost nearly all of his at-bats to Aaron Hicks (.188/.250/.289) because Brian Cashman won’t admit he made a mistake in judging Hicks, a player who just this week he said could become Jackie Bradley Jr. (I will now give you a minute to collect yourself.)
A-Rod played every day in April (except for the days when Joe Girardi gave him unnecessary rest), hit the DL in May, played every day in June and hit .267, which would make him one of the best hitters on this awful Yankees team, and then watched his playing time diminish in July. He has become a $21 million bench player and the most expensive pinch hitter of all time, for someone who has never been a bench player and has never been good at pinch hitting. He has no chance of becoming an everyday player again on these Yankees unless they experience an extended losing streak and turn to his quest for 700 home runs to save face on attendance.
The worst thing that has happened to Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner is that they switched places at the top of the order. The worst thing that has happened to Starlin Castro is nothing. Chase Headley was never benched during his historically bad season-opening six weeks and despite being the posterboy of first-round bust, Hicks is continually forced into the lineup only to never improve. And on the good side of things, it took nearly half the season for Joe Girardi to move Didi Gregorius up in the order because “he didn’t want to mess with a good thing.” That’s right, the Yankees manager based lineup decisions off superstitions rather than performance.
Now the Yankees claim they are ready for a youth movement. They traded away possibly the best two relievers in baseball and their best hitter for a plethora of prospects. Since Monday, they have called up Ben Gamel and then Gary Sanchez and put Chad Green into the rotation (though I’m sure that will change in the next five days). But who was it that got hurt by the call-ups? A-Rod. (Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ third-best prospect, who we have been hearing about for years as their next catcher started at DH on Wednesday night against the Mets.)
The youth movement won’t impact Jacoby Ellsbury, who will still be a Yankee four years from this moment. It won’t take away at-bats from Brett Gardner, who should have been traded in the offseason and then again at the deadline. It won’t put Chase Headley, who still has two years and $26 million (!) coming to him after this season. It won’t put Starlin Castro on the bench no matter how many sliders he waves at in the other box. It won’t stop Brian McCann from starting even though the Yankees, reportedly, could have paid him to go away on Monday and chose not to. I’m not so sure it will take away from Cashman’s desire to give Hicks unlimited chances even if Aaron Judge gets called up and goes on a Shelley Duncan-esque tear. And forget about the rotation and the jobs of Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. The only thing safer than their jobs is Mark Teixiera’s.
A few weeks ago A-Rod almost made his return to first base, but it didn’t happen, and there have never been talks about him playing third base again. Why not? Last season, it seemed like it was a health concern. What’s the reason now? If he gets hurt and can’t play, well, he’s already not playing. And as a 41-year-old pinch hitter, the Yankees can’t be too concerned about his future since he has one year left on his current contract and it’s becoming more and more likely he won’t be collecting that money as an active player. The 2016 Yankees aren’t going anywhere other than near the top of the 2017 draft order. And if the other underperforming Yankees are going to play, A-Rod should too. Give A-Rod playing time and give him at-bats and give him the chance to get 700 home runs. (He technically has 697 already since he hit a home run in 2008 that was called a double before replay was instituted.) Give Yankees fans something to watch every night other than one prospect’s at-bats.
It’s not that A-Rod has had a good season and is being treated unfairly. He’s had a bad, inconsistent season and is being unfairly treated because everyone else on this team aside from the players who were traded and Didi Gregorius has had a bad, inconsistent season, but nothing has changed for them, and I don’t expect it to. Whether it’s Teixeira hitting a three-run home run on Wednesday or Hicks maybe one day doing something productive, there will be those who say they deserve to play because of their one big moment after a month of no moments. Given enough chances, any player, even the bad ones, will eventually do something (OK, maybe not Hicks). Unfortunately, for A-Rod, on a team of bad players he’s being treated like the worst even though he’s far from it.