Midseason grades: bats and brass
But injuries and underproduction have taken their toll, and right now it looks as if the Yankees might have to tear up this blueprint and start all over again in the upcoming offseason. Problem is, they’re still locked into a half-dozen players who may be at or near their expiration dates. And oh yeah, No. 13 is coming back next season.
Before we get to that soap opera, let’s take a look at our annual midterm report for the 2014 Yankees -- and keep in mind, as my former students at LIU-Post already know, I’m a pretty lenient grader.
Brian Cashman, general manager
Cashman is in the crosshairs this season after spending more than $438 million on roster upgrades,and his contract expires at the end of the year. Things haven't worked out the way the GM expected, but if you're going to blame him for signing Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, both of whom have underperformed, you have to credit him for Masahiro Tanaka and Jacoby Ellsbury. And you certainly can't blame him for Masahiro Tanaka's injury. The barren farm system is another matter, however.
Joe Girardi, manager
Once again, he's gotten more out of this team than a lot of managers might have, although he has gone a little shift-crazy this season. Still manages the bullpen well, keeps his aging roster rested for the most part, and has made the best of an injury-riddled roster for the second straight year.
Dean Anna, shortstop
He showed versatility -- even pitching an inning -- but little else in his brief tenure, cut short when the Yankees needed a pitcher to replace the injured Ivan Nova in April.
Derek Jeter, shortstop
In his final season, he's accomplished two things that are nothing short of remarkable: he's managed to play shortstop virtually every day at 40 years old, and unlike some of the greatest players in baseball history, he has not embarrassed himself once. That being said, he looks a lot like the player he was in 2010, when a lot of people considered him washed up. He wasn't then, but there's a reason why he decided to call it quits before this season even began.
Kelly Johnson, third base
He was asked to do way too much from the start of spring training, penciled in as both the starting third baseman and the backup for just about everyone else. Predictably, he hasn't done any of those things well, and his left-handed bat, which was expected to provide some thunder in Yankee Stadium, hasn't lived up to expectations either.
Brian Roberts, second base
He hasn't made anyone forget Robinson Cano, but he's one of the few Yankees who has played better than his numbers indicate. Despite relatively feeble numbers (.246-4-19), he's hit the ball hard in the past month or so and has played a more than acceptable second base.
Brendan Ryan, shortstop
Small sample size due to a spring training back injury, but he's shown he is still the player he always has been: weak hitting, strong fielding, a player who is useful but by no means indispensable.
Yangervis Solarte, third base
The April sensation cooled down rapidly in May and June as the league began to figure him out at the plate, and as his playing time increased, his defensive liabilities became more obvious. Still, he provided a spark early and could still be a factor going forward.
Mark Teixeira, first base
It's been a strange post-wrist surgery season for Tex, who has shown a lot of his old power at the plate -- he leads the club with 17 home runs, 47 RBIs and an .808 OPS -- but he's made some puzzling errors at first base, where he has always excelled. Still, his is the only fearsome bat in a punchless lineup.
Zelous Wheeler, third base
The emergency call-up got out of the gate quickly with a home run in his second major league at-bat, but he's struggled since. He brings energy to the table and might hit more down the road, but it's too early to grade.
Zoilo Almonte, left field
He has shown signs of being a useful player someday, but 25 plate appearances in emergency call-up duty is way too small a sample to make a judgment.
Carlos Beltran, designated hitter
A questionable investment to begin with, the Yankees' decision to commit to the oft-injured 37-year-old looks really shaky now that he is on the DL again with a concussion caused by a freak batting cage incident. He has shown some pop at times, but can't seem to stay on the field long enough to make a real impact.
Jacoby Ellsbury, center field
For a player with the reputation of falling apart if you breathe on him, it's been so far, so good with Ellsbury. The numbers are slightly down from his career averages, but well within acceptable range for a player making the transition to a new team. He should not be hitting third, which might account for some of that. As expected, he plays a mean center field.
Brett Gardner, left field
He strikes out too much, but he's been the best and most consistent offensive player on the team this season, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's good because they've tied him up for four years at a reasonable rate, and bad because it just emphasizes how ineffective nearly everyone else has been. He's already matched his season high in home runs (8) and it's only mid-July.
Alfonso Soriano, designated hitter
The second part of his second Yankees tenure turned out to be a sad story -- the amiable Soriano was genuinely liked by all his teammates, and in his two months as a Yankee last year he provided a real jolt to the offense with his power bat. But he never got it going after missing a week in spring training with the flu, and his eventual release seemed inevitable.
Ichiro Suzuki, right field
He is showing his age somewhat this season, but he's still hitting for a higher average than any other Yankee regular -- which, like Gardner, says more about the rest of them than it does about him. He has zero power, but has hovered around .300 all year. Girardi's use of him -- or more accurately, non-use -- had been a subject of head-scratching until Beltran's injuries and Soriano's release forced the manager's hand.
Francisco Cervelli, catcher
The Yankees' hard-luck kid still brings the noise, and he was having another good spring when he got cut down by a hamstring injury. He has shown an improved bat since returning to the lineup, and is better than serviceable behind the plate. But a small sample size makes it impossible to give a definite grade.
Brian McCann, catcher
The pitchers rave about his game-calling, and the manager assures us his bat will come around, but the move from the NL to the AL, and from Atlanta to the Bronx, seems to be a tough adjustment. Maybe it's just early jitters, but his bat doesn't seem nearly as potent in pinstripes as it did in tomahawk garb, and a lot of times he looks uncomfortable in his own clubhouse, especially with the media. But give him time; his track record says he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
John Ryan Murphy, catcher
He showed plenty of potential filling in for the injured Cervelli, with a much improved bat and still-developing defensive skills. But his ultimate value to this club might be as a trading chip, because the Yankees have very few of them.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Wallace Matthews has covered NY sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He joins ESPNNewYork to cover the Yankees, which he's done since the days of Stump Merrill for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years as a sports writer at the New York Post.
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