June 9, 2007
It's time for the Yankees to get excited again.
Sure, the 2007 season is off to a slow start, and, yes, the once-untouchable Joe Torre is getting more and more bad press. But there may be cause for optimism in the Bronx, as this summer offers the Bombers a rare opportunity to get back on track.
All they have to do: Open the wallet a little bit further, toss a few prospects, and secure a deal for that most coveted of Texas exports, Mark Teixeira.
First, Teixeira is a second-half player. This would seem to be promising news in 2007, given that he's having the best first half of his young career.
With the Yankees and their fans clinging to ever-dwindling playoff hopes, it's clear that the team needs a jolt of momentum (Roger Clemens notwithstanding). If the Yanks can narrow their AL East deficit to single digits—and their recent uptick in performance suggests it's possible—Teixeira could give them the push they need to get over the top.
The second reason to bring in Teixeira is that the Yankees perform best when they have a quintessential slugger at first base.
There are many supposed reasons for the team's lack of success in this decade. Some say it's a curse. Others blame A-Rod. But the fact of the matter is that things really took a turn for the worse when Tino Martinez left town.
Let's face it, there's not a single player in recent memory whose performance was so tightly correlated to that of his team. Tino showed up in 1996, and everything changed that year for the Yankees. Similarly, as soon as his numbers fell, so too did the dynasty he helped to power.
So am I suggesting that Mark Teixeira is as good as Tino Martinez? Nope. I'm suggesting that he's better—much better. And just as Martinez longed to leave the Seattle Mariners for a spotlight contender, so too would the Rangers' best homegrown talent love to see his name in the Times Square lights.
The third pro-Teixeira argument is that the Yankees hitters are overrated and their pitchers are underrated. In fact, the Bombers have no fewer than four All-Star hitters who are drastically underperforming.
Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, and Jason Giambi are making clowns of themselves. Hideki Matsui isn't living up to expectations. And A-Rod? He's still riding his April numbers, but he's on the verge of falling under .300—and though it once seemed unthinkable, he's no longer a surefire lock for the home run crown.
As for pitching—what more could you have expected? Did anybody think Andy Pettitte would be a league leader in ERA? Were fans really confident that Chien-Ming Wang would prove himself to be perhaps the best bang-for-your-buck starter in the game?
The rotation will get its dose of Red Bull whenever Clemens arrives—but the limp bats are another issue. Fans should ask themselves this question: Which would you be more confident of heading into a potential postseason, the Yankees' lineup or the Yankees' rotation?
While an answer of "neither" might be fair enough, no informed fan is going to cast his lot with the hitters.
The bottom line here: The Yankees could use some new blood in their lineup, and Mark Teixeira would provide just that. Let's hope that the Cash Man can swing a trade and set up a long-term deal.
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