Sports fans love for their favorite athletes to be brutally honest. If a player isn’t performing up to his or her standards, we prefer they say it instead of using the same cliches over and over about rounding into shape or waiting for their game to eventually click. Be honest and fans are more likely to support even more instead of bombarding with boos. So it was refreshing to hear Mark Teixeira say in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he is being overpaid and knows he won’t be able to continue putting up his level of production for much longer.
There’s just one itsy, bitsy problem with Teixeira’s thinking. If the New York Yankees have any hopes of making the postseason for the fifth consecutive season and 18th time in the last 19 seasons, they need a huge year from their $180 million first baseman.
Since joining the Yankees prior to the 2009 season, Teixeira has been one of baseball’s best run producers. In his first three seasons he hit over 30 home runs, drove in over 100 runs and scored over 90 runs in each season. Last season those numbers dipped to 24 home runs, 84 RBI and 66 runs, mostly due to appearing in just 123 games as he suffered thru a left calf injury that forced him to miss 30 of the team’s last 34 games. Prorate his numbers to a 162-game season, he would’ve finished with 32 home runs, 111 RBI and 87 runs scored, still very good numbers that would’ve placed him among baseball’s top sluggers.
However, looking at his peripheral numbers, you notice a player clearly in his decline. Since putting up a .292 batting average in his first season with New York, Teixeira has accumulated a .252 average the past three seasons, a steep 40-point drop. His slugging percentage has taken an even steeper drop, from .565 in 2009 to a combined .484 the past three seasons. His on-base percentage (.383, .365, .341, .332) and OPS (.948, .846, .835, .807) have dropped in each of the past four seasons. Clearly, Teixeira is in the backside of his career.
Yet, despite the decline in his averages, the Yankees need their first baseman to continue putting up his customary 30 home runs and 100 RBI. There is too much uncertainty surrounding the Yankees offense this upcoming season. Will Alex Rodriguez play at any point this season? What exactly will the team get from Kevin Youkilis? What will the catching tandem of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli give them offensively? Can Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner bounce back from injury? Will they get the .261 hitting Ichiro Suzuki or the .322 hitting Ichiro? Can Travis Hafner stay healthy and replace Raul Ibanez?
The days of Teixeira hitting .300 with an OBP above .400 and a slugging percentage over .500 are clearly over. He hasn’t put up that type of stat line since 2008. However, as Brian Cashman mentioned in the WSJ article, the team doesn’t need him to be that guy. As long as they still get the .250 hitting, .800 OPS, 30 home run, 100 RBI Teixeira, the team will take that. Forget take that, they NEED that. Anything lower than that this upcoming season and the Yankees will most likely be watching the postseason at home instead of participating in it.