Saturday, October 6, 2012
Swisher: I might pull an A-Rod this October Nick Swisher hears the critics. In 100 postseason at-bats with the Yankees, he is batting .160. In those 28 games, he has just four homers and five RBIs.
In his four regular seasons as a Yankee, Swisher batted .268 and averaged 26 homers and 87 RBIs. So the postseason Swisher has been a very different player than the regular-season Swisher.
Nick Swisher celebrating after the Yankees clinched the AL East title on Wednesday.
"It is one of those things that a lot of people give me a lot of flak over," Swisher said.
The disparity is downright A-Rodian -- which, unsolicited, had Swisher thinking about doing something as big and as memorable as Alex Rodriguez's October during the Yankees' last championship run, in 2009.
"I might pull out an A-Rod this postseason, you never know," Swisher told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this week.
These playoff at-bats could very well be Swisher's last as a Yankee. There are indications from both sides that Swisher will not be wearing pinstripes next season.
With free agency looming shortly after his 32nd birthday, Swisher is staring at what's likely his final opportunity at a big score. He loves the Yankees, and GM Brian Cashman loves Swisher. But Hal Steinbrenner's goal to cut payroll by 10 percent to get under $189 million by 2014 might prevent the excitable right fielder from staying in "the BX," as Swisher calls the Bronx.
Swisher is not the player that Rodriguez or Barry Bonds were when they went through their postseason struggles. Those two had been described as chokers, ignoring Reggie Jackson's theory of talent rising if given enough opportunities.
So what has been the problem for Swisher? Is his outgoing, "Hey everybody, this is Swish" act not suited for the playoffs, or is he just a guy with a small sample size?
"I'm such a hyper guy," Swisher said. "I get so emotional. I want to win so bad and I care a lot. I just got to go out there and do what I can do, try not to get too caught up and give us that two-run lead. There might be a situation where I bunt someone over -- instead of thinking about trying to launch, think about hitting a line drive up the middle. The playoffs are a whole different game than the regular season. Everyone is a little sharper."
There were signs in September, and early this month, that this might be Swisher's October to shine. In the final 16 games of the regular season, he hit .407 with four homers and 15 RBIs. He got on base an incredible 52 percent of the time.
Swisher always looks like he's having a good time, with teammates and with the fans.
"That month of September, I couldn't have been more proud of that," Swisher said. "It has been a playoff atmosphere ever since September 1st."
Cashman doesn't have an exact philosophy on why Swisher has struggled so much in the postseason. He sprinkles Swisher with praise. And how could he not, considering the deal for Swisher might be the best trade Cashman has ever made? Buying low after the 2008 season, Cashman only had to give up Wilson Betemit and minor leaguers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nuñez to acquire Swisher.
Swisher was coming off a down year with the White Sox, a season in which he and manager Ozzie Guillen feuded, when he ended up hitting just .219. But the Yankees' statistical department felt that was due more to being unlucky than Swisher fading as a player.
Swisher has done everything Cashman could have hoped for -- except attain individual October success.
"I know he wants to do well for everybody," Cashman said. "Maybe that plays against him. I have heard that theory, but who is to say? You are facing some great players and at the same time, some great pitching."
Swisher is a crowd favorite. He is the player they can relate to the most, because he seems to enjoy living the dream in the "BX" as much as they would.
"He gets all of it," Cashman said. "He is there for the fans, for the customers, for the ticket holders, the cancer kids -- he is there for all of them. He is really a man of all people. Some people aren't comfortable in difficult circumstances -- (like with) people with handicaps or illnesses. That's where he is even at his best. He is a really spectacular person and a great baseball player too."
Whatever happens from here through the offseason, Swisher has made his mark in Yankees history. He has a ring, and a special place among the Bleacher Creatures.
"I believe in him," Cashman said. "I believe in a lot of our guys and I believe in Nick, too. Hopefully, we can play enough in October and he can get a lot of big, important at-bats because I believe he will succeed."
Who knows? This could be a breakout October for Swisher, just like A-Rod's three years ago.