"My Dad wanted me to be a baseball player." - Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural
Me and my girl went to Yankee Stadium recently. We got there early enough hoping to catch batting practice. We had seats in the lower level of right field. It was prime home run territory. Unfortunately there was no batting practice that morning. No big deal. We just walked out to Monument Park. It's like going to Cooperstown. Walking by monuments such as Lou Gehrig gives me chills every time. He was the first athlete to have his number retired in the history of sport. Then you have Don Mattingly, a more modern Yankee legend. Another first baseman and another number retired. Both won awards as the American League's Most Valuable Player. Both were considered to be among the very best in the game during their respective primes.
Since Gehrig and Mattingly there have been other first basemen to have had strong impacts for the Yanks. Tino Martinez looked dreadful when he first replaced Donnie Baseball but that was short-lived. Images of his grand slam in the 1998 World Series or clutch two-run shot in the 2001 Fall Classic will stay with me forever. When Tino's days were over Jason Giambi came to town. It was 2002 then, a year in which Giambi finished within the top five of the AL MVP voting the third straight year. His walk-off grand slam against the Twins on a rainy May night at the Stadium a year later still shows up on YES. Then in game seven of the '03 ALCS his two solo shots kept the Yanks close against Boston. Neither Tino or Giambi will ever have their jersey retired. They were like Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius. They came in to put the puzzle together and win championships. They were clutch players. If they ever got booed, they are admired and remembered for coming through.
When the 2009 season began I thought for sure the next great Yankee first baseman had arrived. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe he has gotten lost in the shadows. Maybe playing for the same team and position as his idol is getting to be too much. Somehow, though, in the biggest city Mark Teixeira is flying under the radar.
Going into '09, Teixeira was the best position free agent available. The Yanks had already signed CC and AJ. They probably could have just gotten CC. Anyways, they shocked the baseball world when they signed Teixeira moments before he signed with the Red Sox. He was coming off a '08 season where he was a trade deadline sensation for the Angels. In 54 games he batted .358 with 13 homers and 43 rbi. Even though the Angels would lose in four games to Boston in the playoffs, he would bat .467. Cha ching. Freakish streaks like that are how guys like this get big paydays.
It hasn't all been bad for Tex since the Yanks signed him. He was on the team in '09 when they won the World Series. Aside from his line drive walk off against Minnesota in the divisional round, the guy was more about his defense. When you factor in his playoff performance with the Yankees along with the Angels in '08 his numbers are dreadful. He has batted .214 with three home runs and 14 rbi. This number would obviously be much less if you take away '08. Heck, against the Rangers in the '10 ALCS the guy went 0-14 with three walks. How has this guy NEVER gotten booed?
I've been at games the last two years where I have tried to enlighten fans around me about how misleading this guy's numbers are. I get laughed at like I am the clown behind home plate with price tags on his Yankee shirt. This guy continues to get a pass without a whisper of fans getting restless when he fails to come through consistently.
A-Rod won two MVP awards for the Yanks and got booed both postseasons of those years because he was the reason they got eliminated. Really? Just remember if you were one of the uneducated fools booing that A-Rod was reason #1 why the Yanks won in '09. Not Teixeira.
Now this season Tex is being praised for his 35 home runs and 96 rbi. Funny how his .248 average never hits the newstands. Oh wait. His .345 on base percentage is very notable. Who cares how much this guy walks? He gets paid to hit for a high average and be clutch. He may hit home runs and have a high rbi total but I don't remember too many of those bombs being in clutch moments.
Anybody who thinks this guy is an MVP candidate needs to check the stats. The real MVP on this team plays to the right of this bum with a big smile on his face. When was the last time you thought about Tex after a game with a big smile on YOUR face?