Briefly on The Yankee Years, Center Field

I’ve added some new baseball books on the right-hand sidebar, including Joe Torre and Tom Verducci’s The Yankee Years which I’m reading now.  I’ll add a review of the book soon enough, and I’m about halfway through.  It’s quite good, well-written, and engaging.  I’ll add this: while initial reactions from many were that it should not have been written, I disagree. I think many of the points and anecdotes raised thus far are not only easily justified, but also salient reminders of what characteristics made the 1996-2001 Yankees great–unselfish team play, focus, preparation, hard work, self-motivation, and experience in addition to talent, balance, youth, great play and very good managing.  There are also plenty of anecdotes about guys such as David Cone, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Paul O’Neill, and others getting out and playing despite significant injuries, something that worthless Pavano could never have mustered.  The comportment of the Yankees of that era–of those players–was something special, and the book is a terrific reminder of that.  Thus far, I think a couple of the best chapters are those only partially related to the Yankees, dealing with steroids and changes in assessing and acquiring players.  It’s well worth getting.

Chad Jennings has another good summary with predictions of the upper ecchelon of outfield players and prospects in the Yankees organization.  He forecasts Brett Gardner as the starting center fielder for the Yankees.  I agree, or at least hope that it will occur.  He shone late last season as the Yankees actively sought to replace Melky’s distracted, indifferent play with someone more energetic, more prone to hustle, and more capable of quotidian contributions.  Gardner provided that in the last several weeks.  As Jennings reminds in his Worth knowing category,

…Gardner has a history of slow but inevitable adjustments at each level. He spent half of 2006 in Double-A and hit .272. When he returned to Trenton in 2007 he hit .300 while raising his slugging percentage 101 points and his on-base percentage 40 points. Bumped up to Triple-A at the end of 2007, he hit .260. When he returned to Triple-A last year Gardner’s average went up to .296 while his slugging percentage climbed 91 points and his on-base percentage went up 71 points. In New York last year he hit .228 for the season, but .294 in his final 25 games.

In addition to good, helpful reporting from Jennings, that’s encouraging information about Gardner.  Who knows how much the Yankees and we as fans can expect from him.  However, if he’s a player with a learning curve as Jennings contends, perhaps Gardner is on track to make some steady contributions after struggling when first called up last season.

The Yankees need a good Spring Training from whoever will start, either Gardner or Melky.  Yet Cano’s robust ST last year, which was quickl;y followed by myriad bad habits, poor plate approach, a lack of focus, and pouting, was an object lesson that Spring Training is one thing, and the regular season quite another.  Whoever earns the jobs this Spring needs to earn it every day from April onward.

[Edit: As Pete Abraham mentioned this afternoon, what might affect this competition is the fact that Melky has no options left, so the Yankees risk losing him if he’s not on the 25-man roster.  Abraham adds, if Melky can’t beat out Gardner for the job, what difference does it make?  Fair enough.  Regardless, there’s a very important position battle for center that will transpire over the coming weeks.]

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Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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