There may be no stranger feeling for Yankee fans than the one they experienced when Mark Teixeira stepped in to face Ryan Madson on Monday night. The voice in your head saying "If Alex Rodriguez gets up to bat, we'll win this game" probably won't ever feel completely right, but it was there and you believed it. A-Rod didn't get up, though, because Teixeira struck out and continued his descent into the postseason hell that Rodriguez called home before this year.
A.J. Burnett's implosion drew more notice after the game and on Tuesday morning, but Teixeira's massive slump isn't totally escaping attention. The back cover of the Daily News has a picture of Teixeira striking out in the ninth with the headline "$181M For This?" splashed across the page.
The storyline of a highly paid Scott Boras client struggling in clutch playoff at-bats is overly familiar, as are the details of the way things are playing out for Teixeira. Save a slow start, Teixeira made the game look easy all season long and never seemed to let pressure affect him en route to leading the American League in home runs and RBIs. Although he won't win the award, he garnered some MVP attention and, just like A-Rod, looked like he was worth every penny the Yankees were sending his way.
But the similarities haven't ended there. October A-Rod used to look nothing like the player we watched all season long. The rapid exaggerated gum chomping, hands gripping the bat tightly and bulging eyes would appear all of a sudden and A-Rod's game would disappear. Teixeira doesn't have any of those traits, but his at-bats have been sloppier than any we've seen this season as he chases bad pitch after bad pitch despite making his bones as a player with excellent strike zone judgment.
Last night's at-bat in the ninth is a perfect example of how screwed up things have gotten for Tex at this point. He dug himself an 0-2 hole by flailing wildly at a changeup in the dirt from Madson, took the same pitch for a ball and then swung and missed the same exact pitch for a third strike. He never looked comfortable and never looked confident that he would be able to come through with a hit. That's been the look all month, even after Teixeira comes through with one of his infrequent big hits.
Even though he's only started twice, Hideki Matsui leads the Yankees in total bases. That's a clear sign that Teixeira isn't the only problem with the team's offense, but, as A-Rod learned, to the most prominent go the rotten tomatoes.
The good thing for Tex is that there's still time to make the struggles a footnote and, as last night's strikeout following a key eighth inning double proves, people tend to only remember your last impression.