The Melk Man is no longer going to be delivering in the Bronx.
24-year-old Melky Cabrera has been sent down to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He had been a mainstay in the Yankees' lineup since he was last called up in 2006, but a .242 average, a paltry .296 on-base percentage, and just 21 extra base hits in 401 at-bats spelled the end of the Melky era in centerfield.
The Yankees had high hopes for the young centerfielder after his rookie 2006 season showed some promise. A .360 on-base percentage and good defense was enough for a then 22-year-old to keep his spot in the lineup.
His numbers slipped in 2007, but this season had been very disappointing. He'll probably be called back up in September once the rosters expand, but the Yankees clearly are hoping for a spark.
The first person to try to ignite the Yankees' offense will be Brett Gardner. He had a chance earlier this season to win the job, but a .153 average and no power could not make up for his electric speed.
His .414 on-base percentage in Scranton is enough to think Gardner can be a scrappy hitter who can get on base and wreak havoc on the basepaths. Cabrera ran out of time with his poor hitting; the Yankees are willing to give Gardner another chance, figuring his offense can’t be much worse.
In another roster move, the Yankees cut ties with first baseman Richie Sexson. The former Mariner hit a home run in his first game in pinstripes, but a .764 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) wasn’t enough to keep him on the roster.
In his place comes infielder Cody Ransom. While not as feared a hitter as the 6'8" Sexson by any stretch, the 32-year-old journeyman infielder provides some more versatility off the bench.
He has played all four infield positions in the minors, and he has above average patience at the plate. He won’t get a lot of playing time, but if he can be a defensive replacement and provide a little more speed off the bench, he could stick.
In AAA this year, Ransom is hitting .255 with 22 home runs, a .338 on-base percentage, and 24 doubles. He’s a career .226 hitter in 140 at-bats with San Francisco and Houston.
However, no doubt the biggest move made today is Cabrera’s demotion. It is clear that his offense has been an extreme disappointment. It had gotten to the point where he was a major liability, and Gardner will get another shot at the job everyone in Yankee-land wants him to win.
It will be interesting to see how this affects Cabrera’s friend Robinson Cano. Cano has struggled all season long, and this could either be a wake up call or it could hurt him.
Clearly, however, the Yankees realize time is running short. Even though Hank Steinbrenner says next year is the year, there is still enough time this year to make the wild card. But the wins need to start now.
Brett Gardner might not be the answer right now, but he can't be much worse than Cabrera. If he can hit at all, he can provide an element of raw speed that the Yankees lack in their lineup.
Will it be enough? Time will tell.