USA Baseball: Mark Teixeira Must Perform Well to Salvage MLB Reputation

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 5, 2013

February 24, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) works out prior to the game during spring training against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Team USA announced its roster for the World Baseball Classic, we instantly noticed a fair blend of rising stars and established talent. The one glaring question mark, however, was none other than a five-time Gold Glove Award winner who has been labeled as a star on the decline.

In order to salvage his damaged MLB reputation, that man must shine at the WBC—that man is New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.

Teixeira is coming off of a season in which he hit .251 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 123 games played. Those were Teixeira's lowest home run and RBI totals of his 10-year career.

His batting average marks the third consecutive season in which he's gone from a .300 hitter to one barely above .250.

From 2005 to 2008, Teixeira hit at least .300 in three of four seasons. In 2009, his first year with the Yankees, he hit .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI.

In the two seasons following, however, his power remained lethal, but his ability to make contact faltered.

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To be fair, Teixeira battled injuries in 2012 and he still managed to win a Gold Glove. With his third consecutive slow start, however, one can't help but feel baffled at what we have witnessed.

Perhaps the two-time All-Star is beginning to doubt himself.

Countering His Own Remarks

In a candid interview with Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal, Teixeira made comments which caught some by surprise. Most notably, Teixeira suggested that he was hitting the downswing of his career.

He even put a cap on his longevity.

"Maybe I'm slowing down a tick. Look, I'm not going to play forever. Eventually you start, I don't want to say declining...[but] this is my 11th year. I'm not going to play 10 more years. I want 5 or 6 good ones."

"Agents are probably going to hate me for saying it. You're not very valuable when you're making $20 million...there's nothing you can do that can justify a $20 million contract."

As refreshing as it may be to hear such honesty and humility, Teixeira better start living up to the money.

Tex is set to make $22.5 million in each of the next four seasons. Not only does that make Teixeira one of the highest paid players in baseball, but it classifies him as yet another highly-paid player on the Yankees.

We all know how the "overpaid" label Alex Rodriguez has received has impacted his production—can Teixeira afford to deal with the same burden?

Starting Fast

In each of the past three seasons, Mark Teixeira has started as slowly as any player in baseball. If you don't believe me, simply check the numbers.

Over the past three seasons, Teixeira is hitting .211 during the opening month of April. In May he's hitting .269, but in June, that number drops back down to .228.

And then all is back to normal.

During the past three years, Teixeira is batting .301 in July. While that number drops to .260 in August, Teixeira's power surge continues through the late months of the season.

Fortunately for the slow starting first baseman, he has a chance to create momentum at the WBC, thus neutralizing his early season woes.

If Teixeira comes out swinging at the World Baseball Classic, he can set the tone for the MLB regular season. With Opening Day less than a month away, Teixeira can get hot at the World Baseball Classic and maintain that level of play throughout the season.

Lord knows he's capable.

Truth be told, few teams across the MLB would oppose acquiring Teixeira at a more reasonable price. He's one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball and has the ability at the plate to anchor a quality lineup.

With that being said, production trumps talent 10 times out of 10.

If Teixeira is able to build confidence at the World Baseball Classic, he can create the momentum necessary to thrive come the regular season. Perhaps more importantly, he can salvage his damaged reputation.

The WBC is big for Team USA—perhaps no individual has as much on the line as Mark Teixeira.

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