Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Plucky "Yankees"

If the season were to end today, the Twins would host a ballclub called the New York Yankees in the playoffs next week. The Yankees are a very established ballclub, but don’t be shocked that you’ve heard very little about them. Being based in New York, they are often overshadowed by the other attractions available in such a large city. Their players are also rather elderly, and thus sometimes treated by the New York media as something of an afterthought.

(You’re probably wondering – what is a Yankee? It basically means “An American,” like in Yankee Doodle. I suspect that in their ballpark – cleverly named Yankee Stadium – they play that song often, and with great pride, given that it was written during the adolescence of many of their players.)

As such, I thought it might be a good idea to introduce you to some of the “Yankees,” so you are at least familiar with their names prior to their probable early playoff exit.

The Lineup
The Yankees lineup includes several fellows who can hit home runs at the top of the order and a complete player smack dab in the middle. But limited resources and sentimental ties to the elderly make the bottom half of the order much easier to navigate.

Derek Jeter – Jeter is one of the “senior” players on the ballclub. His position of shortstop is largely honorary, as he clearly lacks the energy and youth to field the position adequately. The same might be said for his position atop the order, where his .267 batting average acts as a weight for the rest of the lineup to carry. However, he is much beloved by their provincial fans for his winning attitude. Think of him as a taller Nick Punto, though with perhaps less attention from the ladies.

Nick Swisher – Well, that’s an unfortunate last name, especially for a guy with 134 strikeouts this year. However, the plodding Swisher can hit the ball a long way when he connects, with 28 home runs this year. That is likely his preferred way to round the bases, as his under-tall and over-round stature limit his abilities on the basepaths and in the field.

Mark Teixeira – Teixeira struggled to find a team that could tolerate him earlier this decade, being traded away from teams in 2007 and 2008. However, he seems to have found a home in New York. He hits lots of home run – 33 this year, but is also a rather lumbering runner, and so the Yankees protect his defense by playing him at first base. He’s also struggled to make contact against right-handed pitchers, hitting just .251 this year. Good thing they only account for 2/3 or the league’s pitcher population.

Alex Rodriguez – Rodriguez found a home with the Yankees earlier this decade after essentially being rejected by the Boston Red Sox, though the Yankees made him move to third base before agreeing to take in someone of his advanced age (35 years old). Like many aging ballplayers, his ability to play baseball is showing signs of decline, but he is still very dangerous against right-handed pitching. However, he also plays against left-handed pitching - apparently the team doesn’t have the heart to insist on moving him to a platoon.

Robinson Cano – He’s athletic, young and a complete player. He’s the exception that proves the rule in this lineup.

Jorge Posada and Mike Cervelli – Jorge Posada was a wonderful catcher at the beginning of the millennium, but now the 39-year-old is allowed behind the plate mostly as a courtesy. The 24-year-old Cervelli is his exact opposite: young, defensive and overmatched at the plate. If you could combine the two, you would likely get a substance with neutral acidity, like water.

Curtis Granderson – Everything a team would want in a centerfielder, except that he has a history of looking lost defensively and can’t hit 1/3 of the pitchers in the majors (a .215 BA against LHP for his whole career).

The last two spots in the lineup are distributed among several lads who are either on their last legs (Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns) or players with part-time talent (Brett Gardner, Marcus Thames).

Tomorrow we’ll get to the starting rotation, which is top-heavy – in more ways than one – and touch on the unfortunate limits the Yankees deal with in their bullpen.


If you’re looking for some extra Twins coverage, check out Seth’s Podcast from Monday night. It included the Twins minor league hitter and minor league pitcher of the year, as well as an entertaining interview with Jamie Ogden. I downloaded it last night and really enjoyed it.