Picture man’s best friend. The doorbell rings. Barking ensues followed by some scratching at the door. Open the door and the dog is hopping up on the visitor, salivating and happy to meet his new friend.
Now it’s late at night. There is some rustling in the yard. A little bit of glass shatters. That same bubbly, friendly mutt is still salivating and barking. This time man’s best friend is ready to defend his master’s territory and sink his canines in the thug who was hoping to break in and enter.
Shelley Duncan brings that same dog-like enthusiasm to the New York Yankees.
In 2007, Duncan made a big splash with the Yanks, belting some monster homeruns in his first few at bats a la Kevin Maas and Shane Spencer.
Duncan also got noticed in the dugout (and by the dugout cameras) for his intense high fives and forearm bumps after his own and others’ homeruns. Duncan, along with Joba Chamberlain, injected some life into the floundering 2007 Yankees and helped them reach the playoffs.
This spring, after manager Joe Girardi became furious with the Tampa Bay Rays for injuring a minor league catcher, Duncan took it upon himself to make a hard slide into second base, sending a clear message to the lowly Rays:
Mess with the Yanks and there will be consequences.
This is something the Yankees have lacked over the last few seasons. Really, the only guys who have gone the extra mile to show toughness or intimidate the opponent are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez—not something a team necessarily wants out of its highest paid superstars.
Most remember Jeter’s face first plunge into the field level of Yankee Stadium to catch a foul ball. This led to some great energy for the Yankees and a disfigured face for Jeter. Derek will often “lay out” for bloopers and balls in the hole and never slows down on the base paths.
Rodriguez has been willing to mix it up in different ways. Many remember his war of words with Jason Varitek and the Sox in Fenway. Most recall last season’s “Haaa” incident against the Blue Jays, causing third baseman Howie Clark to drop a routine popup (Good work, A-Rod).
A lesser-known play occurred in the playoffs against the Red Sox. A-Rod hit a weak grounder in the infield and ran hard to first base. The throw pulled the first baseman off of the bag, forcing him to make a tag play on Alex. A-Rod hit the glove, knocking the ball out and was initially rules safe. The Sox whined and cried about it and the umpires reversed their decision. No, this didn’t help the Yankees, but it showed that A-Rod was trying to do all that he can to help his team win, even if it meant trying to stretch the rules in a non-performance enhancing drug kind of way.
While Duncan could be a valuable contributor to the Yanks, he is not nearly as important as A-Rod and Jeter. Getting a bench/utility/platoon/pinch-hitter type to mix it up now and again should be seen as nothing but a positive asset for the boys in midnight blue.
(Otherwise, Mr. Duncan would be welcome [at least by this fan] to join the guys in blue and orange across town.)