My whole life someone has been the “Face of the Yankees”. I worn born in 1986 and back then it was Don Mattingly. When he retired after the 1995 season, Derek Jeter was the starting shortstop, Rookie of the Year and World Series champion in 1996, so it was a nice seamless transition from one era of Yankees baseball to the next. But now that Jeter has retired (or so he says since I’m still holding out hope he will be in the Opening Day lineup), the Yankees need a new face.
Brian Cashman was recently asked about who would be the next captain of the Yankees and he said, “As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not the decision-maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2. I wouldn’t give up another captain title to anybody else.”
Being the captain of a team doesn’t make you the face of it, but it’s just worked out recently that it has been the case for the Yankees. I’m not sure that the Yankees should never have a captain again. I mean if somehow the Baseball Gods give us another Derek Jeter (please) then that’s one thing, but for now, I do agree with Cashman. The Yankees don’t need a captain. They do however need a face. The Yankees can’t be faceless. They can’t be the Blue Jays or A’s.
On the 2015 Yankees, you can eliminate Stephen Drew, who will be designated for assignment at some point this season and hopefully by Opening Day, from being the face of the team. Drew will be part of the Everybody Gets to Be a Yankee Once Team the second he is released, so at least he has that going for him.
You can eliminate Didi Gregorius, who hasn’t played a game for the Yankees, and you can also eliminate Chase Headley, who is just a guy on the team and not “the guy” on the team. I’m a Headley fan, but he isn’t the reason people are going to spend their nights watching the team on YES or spend their hard-earned money going to the Stadium.
Aside from winning an MVP award, it’s equally as hard for a starting pitcher to be the face of a franchise since they will at most play in 21 percent of the team’s games (based on 34 starts) and only having the face of the team play once every fifth day isn’t an easy sell. Well, unless you’re Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez. The only starting pitcher that even comes close to that level is Masahiro Tanaka and while he comes close to that level, he isn’t there yet and deeming someone whose right arm status is being treated as a ticking time bomb isn’t the most sound decision.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran were all free-agent signings in the same offseason, so they’re out of the question because they were free-agent signings. But that’s not a bad thing since I don’t want a player who won two World Series with the Red Sox, a catcher who hit .232/.286/.406 last season or a soon-to-be 38-year-old oft-injured outfielder the Yankees signed nine years too late to be the face of the team.
CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira were free-agent signings in the same offseason, so like the pre-2014 class, this pre-2009 class is also eliminated. But also like the pre-2014 class, it’s not a bad thing since I don’t want a 34-year-old starter coming off a serious knee injury, who has made 40 starts in the last two seasons, going 17-17 with a 4.87 ERA to be the face of the team. As for Mark Teixeira, or “The Mailman” as I have decided to call him since he has mailed it in for the last three years despite making $22.5 million, I obviously don’t want him to be the face of the team.
That leaves us with Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez, the two longest-tenured Yankees. Gardner isn’t “face of the team” material despite being homegrown and having been in the majors with the Yankees since 2008. And when it comes to A-Rod, he is loved and hated by the fan base, is coming off a full-season suspension for PED use and is somehow still viewed as a postseason failure and unclutch even after he single-handedly carried the Yankees to the 2009 World Series.
But also when it comes to A-Rod, he’s been the focal point of every Yankees story since the last out of 2014. He’s the reason people have paid attention to spring training since Joe Girardi has made it clear there aren’t any position battles to follow. He’s the reason people will go to the Stadium this spring and summer. He’s the only Yankee that has the Yankees star power that every era of Yankees baseball has had. With Jeter gone, A-Rod is the first person someone names when you ask them “Who do you think of when you think of the Yankees right now?” A-Rod is the face of the Yankees.
Having 2015 A-Rod as the face of your team isn’t exactly the most exciting idea and maybe not the proudest moment of being a Yankees fan, but every team needs a face, and for now the Yankees’ is a 39-year-old, who has played 265 games in the last four seasons. A-Rod represents what the Yankees have become, which is an old, broken-down, non-homegrown, overpaid player trying to stay healthy enough to play out of the rest of a bad contract.
Aside from October and the beginning of November 2009, very little has gone the way I envisioned it going when A-Rod was traded to the Yankees in February 2004 when he was still viewed as a face of the game. But in this new era of Yankees baseball, I want to add 2015 to the very little that has gone right for A-Rod in the last 11 years.