Middle Infield Situation
Essentially, the two attitudes regarding Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius manning the middle infield were either “eh” or “ugh,” meaning you were either relatively indifferent or dreading it. I would have considered myself to be in the “eh” category as I am notoriously positive (in case you haven’t noticed from our twitter feed). But unless the duo gets it together and soon, their fan support will drop off a cliff and their days in pinstripes could be limited.
I’ve said from the beginning that in my judgement, the Yankees are planning for Didi Gregorius to be a one-year experiment. I absolutely could be wrong (and frankly, I hope I am!), but I honestly do not see Gregorius as a “franchise shortstop” at this point. Now I know it’s early, but if you look at his bat, it’s not there and may not come around as he’s hitting just .172 with no extra-base hits to this point. And on the fielding side, he’s barely a plus fielding shortstop. Generous home scoring has saved Didi’s error count from sitting at three, as he currently has just one. However, Yankee fans are already beginning to hold their breath when a ball is hit to Gregorius at shortstop.
On the other hand, Stephen Drew has not been much better at all. He gave us a jolt of optimism after his essentially game-winning grand slam against the Orioles, but other than that, he hasn’t hit the ball particularly well. Ironically, Drew hasn't gotten as much criticism, but he is currently hitting just .148 but the outlier is the he has two home runs. Also, Drew has made two errors in comparison to just one by Didi. As far as the criticism goes, maybe we should be pointing more fingers at Stephen Drew than we are Didi Gregorius. Unfortunately, life isn’t fair, and one player is the heir to Derek Jeter and one is the heir to --- well --- himself.
It is far too early to drown players in criticisms and that is why this focus on this article isn’t on their poor play, but on the emphasis that they have got to be better. My high expectations for Didi Gregorius have not changed, and although my expectations for Stephen Drew were lower, it is in the back of my mind that he could exceed them by a longshot.
Us Yankees fans are ruthless, but we’ve got to understand that this is the first time Didi has been on an opening day roster and it just so happens that he has (in my opinion) the hardest job in baseball at the moment. The key for us, as fans, is to avoid the Gregorius/Jeter comparison at all cost. Number 1, it’s incredibly disrespectful to Jeter, himself, as it is difficult to compare Jeter to anyone, especially a guy who could still be considered a prospect. Number two, we were SPOILED to have a player like Jeter. There’s only one Derek Jeter and it just so happened that he played on our favorite team…for a long time. Point being, most teams don’t have a player anything like Jeter, but we did, which means we probably won’t see another player like him for a very long time.
So why am I saying this? Because we can’t expect Didi to be anything close to the player Derek Jeter was! The amount of pressure Gregorius must be facing is like no other and he’s going to make mistakes as a young player that a veteran player wouldn’t make. The hope is that he can learn from the mistakes (on the base paths or in the field) and turn into a decent major league shortstop. Above all, he’s has to hit the baseball and has to provide solid defense. But let Gregorius put together his own body of work and mold into his own player pipe down on the criticism, if at all possible.
The case of Stephen Drew is a bit different. He’s a guy who’s a seasoned veteran, and is coming off his worst season as a professional hitter. Surely, that adds pressure that he knows he has to rebound from last year’s disastrous season and as fans, we should expect him to. Despite that, I’m not sure Drew will ever be the hitter he put on display a few seasons ago (which was solid, but never great). Therefore, he absolutely has to be the plus defender that he is advertised to be, no excuses. The first-week jitters are over, and it should be all business from here-on-out.
There aren’t many excuses for Drew’s lack production; he went through a whole spring this year, he’s in his 8th season in the MLB, he isn’t replacing one of if not the greatest shortstops of all time, and he shouldn’t have much pressure on his back. My point is that this is a guy who still has good seasons left in him. He’s not going to be a top player at his position, but with potentially 15 homers and a .260 batting average with 10-12 errors committed that would be a productive season by his standards. He has a bit of pop for a shortstop converted into second basemen, as stated earlier, and he’s a plus defender so we need him to show that.
The danger with these players is that there are “young guns,” if you will, who rival three “p’s” of Drew and Didi: pop (hitting), position and popularity. Yes, I am talking about Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
Pirela and Refsnyder were candidates to make the 25-man roster at the end of last season until the arrival of Didi Gregorius and resigning of Stephen Drew. Unfortunately, Pirela got hurt and the organization appears to lack confidence in Refsnyder going forward and they could potentially be right. His fielding is for lack of a better adjective, awful, but he is a fantastic hitter. The fielding concerns have since forced the Yankees hand into looking into other options (Drew and Didi) and now Braves top prospect, 2B/SS Jose Peraza. In the event the Yankees acquire Peraza, that will only put more pressure on Didi and Drew to produce but it could be motivating for them. What I am sure of is that Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and Hank Steinbrenner are going to do whatever they can to win and that should always be in the back of every Yankees player’s mind.
Again, just nine games in I am not saying the Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius have been complete failures, nor am I expecting them to! I just expect them to perform at their highest level from here on out. If that isn’t enough then the Yankees will make necessary moves to get this team on the right track. But as we’ve emphasized, it is crucial that you all stay behind every single one of our guys, remain positive, and hope that each player produces to their highest potential and in the event that happens, this team should rebound and contend this season in the AL East.
Article By: Chad Raines
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