Mark Teixeira was a guest host on "Mike And Mike" this morning and a quick sample of tweets I saw makes it sound like he was pretty entertaining. If you're a Mark Teixeira fan, you probably already knew this and probably checked it out. What you might have missed was this post by Wally Matthews last Friday that took some jabs at Teix's desire and quoted an anonymous "baseball insider" who suggested that Teix's off-field interests are part of the reason he has declined on the field over the past few seasons:
"A baseball insider I spoke with this week said Teixeira's 'outside interests' -- he is financially involved in real estate holdings, a chain of juice bars, and is working to create what he called a "marriage of baseball and social media" -- had become a point of concern, with some wondering how badly he still wanted to be a baseball player."
I'm not even going to get into whether or not it's fair or right for writers to be taking shots at Teix's perceived level of desire and effort when the guy has already said he's going to work out all offseason to make up for how poorly his body held up this year. Pageviews rule the internet, the pot ain't gonna stir itself, and that's fine. What I am going to get into is how ridiculous it is for someone, anyone, to honestly believe that Teix's other interests and activities off the baseball field have anything to do with his regressing performance on it. If you subscribe to this line of thinking, please kindly stop reading this post and go turn on some cartoons.
Think about the implication there for a second. Because Mark Teixeira is a fully-functioning human being with a fully-functioning brain that allows him to have all kinds of thoughts and feelings about anything and everything in the world, he is now a worse baseball player than he used to be because some of those other things in the world affect his brain in a positive way and interest him. If Mark Teixeira only liked playing baseball and not doing other things, he would not have fallen off as badly as he did this season.
I can't even coherently describe how insane that is. And how incredibly unfair it is to Teix, as if he's the only player in Yankee history who's had outside interests. Babe Ruth had outside interests. He liked to drink a lot. Derek Jeter had outside interests. He liked to have sex with lots of women, especially famous ones. Mickey Mantle had outside interests. He liked to drink a lot AND have sex with lots of women.
I didn't hear anybody complaining or any writers scrambling to their laptops to pound out trash pieces on Jeter when he took a day to shoot that Gatorade commercial everybody loves so much on his way to the ballpark. A guy hitting as crappy as he was should have been there early for extra batting practice and film study with Kevin Long. That's the standard that should be applied if we're now going to target Teixeira for having personal and business interests, right? Or is this another classic case of the Derek Jeter double standard where everything he does is awesome because he's The Captain and everything everybody else does is crap because they're not?
And the point here isn't for me to trash Jeter, so let's get off that comparison. The point is that Teix is no different in having outside interests than any other Yankee, any other professional athlete, or any other human being on this planet. Nobody's mind stays focused or interested in only 1 thing all the time, especially not their job. Throwing that natural fact of life back in Teix's face as an explanation for why he performed poorly this season is wildly unfair.
Mark Teixeira didn't have a bad baseball season this year because he's opening a juice bar or because he started recording "Foul Territory" videos. He had a bad season because he's got a shredded, crappy, weak wrist, old, tired, injury-prone legs, and a poor hitting strategy that plays right into what opposing teams want him to do. If you want to criticize his strategic approach, that's fine. But don't start to question the dude's heart and desire because he's no longer the player he was in his prime.
Teix is a 34-year-old ballplayer going on 35 who's not what he was, is never going to be that again, and who has admitted all of that openly and publicly. It sucks but that's the reality and it's a reality that I thought everybody out there knew. What's happened to him is no different than what happens to tons of other baseball players when they get into their mid-30s. To suggest otherwise and to even casually point the finger towards his off-field activities is lazy, low, and plain silly.