I've known guys in my life like Nick Swisher. We all have.
I went to college with a guy, I never even knew his name, but he would show up at my 8 AM English Lit class amped up like John Belushi at Studio 54. He perpetually wore one of those goofy winter hats with flaps that cover the ears, and and he always—always—had a toothbrush sticking out of his mouth.
I kid you not.
I suppose he did this to show how wacky life was living on campus, or because he's just one of those people who are always cold. Maybe he just had really strong feelings toward dental hygiene.
In any event, he was always giggling and making wildly unfunny comments, and sometimes, just sometimes, his ever-boisterous nature made me daydream of punching him in the nose as hard as possible.
But again, that was the case only sometimes, and for the most part I appreciated his jovial attitude toward life, however many inner demons bubbled underneath his exterior. On balance, Toothbrush Guy was a good person.
The same can be said about Swisher, a legitimately nice guy who has certainly embraced being a Yankee (though I suspect Nick would embrace being a Port-o-John cleaner, as well).
The quintessential Swishalicious moment for me came prior to a FOX Game of the Week on April 18, the infamous afternoon in which the Indians systematically removed Chien-Ming Wang's will to live in a 22-4 squeaker.
Swisher was asked—okay, he probably begged—to handle FOX's lineup introductions for the Yankees. He proceeded to pour every ounce of himself into the performance, giving each of his teammates zany nicknames and throwing up devil horns when introducing himself as the cleanup hitter.
Clearly, it was pretty awesome.
It's an attitude toward life that makes you almost forgive Swisher for being one of the most unpolished players in recent memory to wear a Yankee uniform. This is likely why Ozzie Guillen day-dreamed of, well, punching him in the nose as hard as possible.
Swisher does have his attributes, of course. For starters, he came on the cheap.
He was traded for Wilson Betemit, which is the equivalent of the Yankees getting Swisher in return for a tire iron—or lint from a dryer—or a construction boot found in a junk yard. You get the idea.
So right away, we're playing with house money, but there's more.
He's a switch-hitter, which makes him a versatile asset in the lineup. He's very patient in his approach (.373 OBP entering Tuesday), a fact I'm sure you know since Michael Kay wets himself every time Swisher works a count to 3-2. He also has some pop—on pace for 31 homers in his first season in pinstripes.
But then there are the negatives.
He cannot play the outfield under any circumstance. I repeat: Under. Any. Circumstance.
He takes bad routes, he misses cutoff men, and like his compadre Johnny Damon over in left field, you never know if a routine fly ball will rightfully become a routine out. I have this horrible feeling that a defensive miscue in the outfield will cost the Yankees a playoff game—or series—if an upgrade isn't made.
Let's hope Brian Cashman is getting this same queasiness in his gut.
Swisher also seems to lack basic baseball instincts. He is a brutal baserunner, best illustrated when he was doubled off base on consecutive nights a couple of weeks back. He also has bunted on his own several times this season, a thoughtless move when considering the lineup he resides in.
Don't get me wrong, Swisher is a useful piece, and his positive attitude is absolutely welcome following a decade of humorless Yankees. It's just that he shouldn't be playing every day.
To the Yankees' credit, they may be sensing the same thing. Brett Gardner's recent surge seems to have won back the center field job for the time being, a development that also frees up Melky Cabrera to get some time in right. And in the wake of Xavier Nady's season-ending injury setback, Cashman added some corner outfield depth on Tuesday by acquiring utilityman Eric Hinske from the Pirates.
Hinske obviously isn't the answer, though, and you have to wonder if Cashman did his due diligence on Nate McClouth, a talented young outfielder who the Braves managed to acquire on the cheap from the Pirates last month. Cashman, for his part, has maintained in recent weeks that no big trades are imminent. He likes what he has.
This is good news for Nick Swisher and his growing legion of fans. Time will only tell what it means for the Yankees.
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