Should the Yankees throw mega-dollars at Mark Teixeira? It's a perfectly valid question, and one I'm not surprised to see Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via the OC) explore.
The argument not to pay the man is compelling: namely, the Yankees have several players (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez) who may need to move to a less defensively challenging position sometime soon, so it doesn't make the most sense to block their transition with a $100+ million slugger who can't play anywhere else.
But does Sherman mention that? Not at all. His arguments rests on the fact that Tex is a Scott Boras client. While that's never scared the Yankees in the past, Sherman thinks Brian Cashman will tighten the purse strings going forth. I don't see it, not with all the extra cash from the new stadium, but at least it's somewhat believable.
The second argument, though, is just plain ridiculous:
Teixeira has a mixed reputation. He has much in common with A-Rod. He is diligent about staying in shape year-round, is durable and works hard on all facets of his game. But his detractors - and there are more than a few - say that, like A-Rod, Teixeira is an accumulator who feasts on bad pitching, does his best work when his team is way ahead or behind, and is a corporation unto himself who does not mesh seamlessly with the clubhouse culture. Essentially the overall numbers are better than the total package.
"The statistics will be there, but this is not a player who will make anyone else on the team better," said a former teammate of Teixeira's. "The numbers indicate an elite player, but if you watch him every day you will realize he is a very good player, not elite."
Maybe the New York media doesn't realize this, but being compared to Alex Rodriguez isn't exactly a bad thing. But in this day and age, I'm shocked when people try to pass anecdotal observations like he "does his best work when his team is way ahead or behind" as fact. Baseball is a game of numbers, at least take a peek at them if you're going to dump on a player. Here are the facts:
-- Over his entire career, Teixeira has hit .334/.429/.651 when his team wins, and .247/.326/.435 when his team loses. When he hits, his team wins. Period.
-- How does he do in the clutch? Well, with two outs and runners in scoring position, he's a career .291 (1.070 OPS) hitter.
-- Late and close? .282 (.933 OPS)
-- Tie game? .290 (.921 OPS)
-- When the score is within one run? .290 (.902 OPS). Two runs? .284 (.908 OPS). Three runs? .285 (.902 OPS)
There is nothing about Teixeira's career that suggests he shirks under pressure, including his postseason debut this month in which he hit .467 (1.017 OPS) in four games. What about the rest of Sherman's insinuations? That Tex produces but doesn't make the rest of his players better? Considering he works the count and forces pitchers to throw more pitches, I'm calling B.S. on that, too.
He doesn't mesh with his teammates? For starters, I've never, ever heard a single story suggesting Teixeira was a problem in the clubhouse. But even if he's not the most personable guy (which seems like a stretch, but whatever), the fact that he's been one of the most consistent power hitters in the game his entire career and plays Gold Glove defense seems a bit more relevant, no?
There are a lot of valid reasons why the Yankees or any other team might want to pass on Teixeira, but they're entirely based on the fact that he's going to cost at least $20 million a season to sign. If you're only considering his performance on the field, there's not a team out there who wouldn't be better with him in the lineup.