Shoot me if I disagree with just about everyone in the universe, but I like this infield. All due respect to my colleagues who I respect highly and most of our regular comment folks and most experts everywhere, I think the Yankees’ infield will be okay. I don’t want Didi Gregorius or Stephen Drew or Darwin Barney. I am fine taking this infield into the season. Wow…it’s lonely out here.
I have watched a lot of the spring games and I like what I see. I am a little worried about Derek
Jeter at the plate. Brian Roberts is moving around real well and looks like the Brian Roberts of five years ago. Mark Teixeira looks healthy and focused. And Kelly Johnson will be better than advertised. After all, he played for the Rays last year. Mick Kelleher likes what he sees.
The Yankees are in a very competitive division. As last year showed, a poor showing hit the attendance and television ratings hard, so there is a lot at stake this year. Enough was at stake for Boy Steinbrenner to choke his caviar down a bit and go over the beloved $189 million threshold. So I can see the clarion call for upgrades of this current bunch. After all, a win or two could make all the difference in the world with the AL East.
And then there is a highly entitled fan base (and writer base, I might add) that expect the Yankees to have an All Star at every position. Unless he goes out of respect for his career, this is an infield where no Yankees could be attending. To most, that is simply unacceptable. I get it. I really do.
The thing is, a team does not have to be stacked with three or higher win players everywhere to win it all. Go back in time with me to 1996, the beginning of the glory years. The Yankees headed into that season with a 38-year-old Wade Boggs at third. At second base was a guy who had finished with a negative WAR for five of his eight seasons before 1996. His name was Mariano Duncan. And they had this untested kid at shortstop and no one knew how that would turn out.
Despite the lack of depth and only the scrubbiest of scrubs to back them up, 1996 turned out quite well. Jeter was sensational, Duncan hit .340 and scored over two wins in value for only the second (and last time) in his career! The old man, Wade Boggs, hit .311 with a .389 on-base percentage.
I am not saying this group is anywhere near as talented as that one. Not even this Derek Jeter is close to being as talented as that Derek Jeter. But the point is that a bunch of people were probably pretty upset with the infield the Yankees were taking into that season (and the infield depth).
The Cardinals won the 2011 World Series with Ryan Theriot at short and Skip Schumaker at second. The 2006 Cardinals won the World Series with Aaron Miles at second and David Eckstein at short. Stranger things have happened.
I guess I do have a problem with the depth though. Brendan Ryan is the type of player whose defense needs to be in there all the time to add enough value to overcome his complete lack of offense. It would be great if Joe Girardi could convince the Captain to allow a defensive replacement to finish games for him. But everyone in the world knows by now that won’t happen. We have to have that fist pump at the end of the game.
And then there is Eduardo Nunez. I sometimes have pangs of guilt in how much I want him to go away. If I wasn’t a man of faith, I would curse him. And if I was to be fair, he does have a lifetime .727 OPS against left-handed pitching. But, man, what I wouldn’t give to see the Yankees try somebody else. Anybody! Wouldn’t it be amazing if they actually had the guts to DFA Nunez in favor of Scott Sizemore or Yangervis Solarte!? I only put Sizemore in there because my colleagues like him for some reason.
My bottom line here is that I am fully comfortable with the infield as it now stands. I do not want to give up depth or a draft pick to get anyone else. If Troy Tulowitzki was available in 2015, well, that’s different. Except for Jeter, it is a decent to good group of defenders. Roberts and Johnson will surprise some people with occasional pop.
The Yankees can win with this group. The pitching will lead the way and they have to score runs with some of the newcomers. Let’s see how it goes, shall we? And if you need me, I’ll be outside the gate here where nobody is sitting ready to say, “See?”