I May Have Been Wrong About Didi Gregorius…
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I RARELY admit when I’m wrong. I’ll argue until there is no argument left to have; however I think I owe Sir Didi Gregorius an apology. A little over a month ago, I wrote an article bashing Gregorius and his overall baseball talents. This may be a bit premature, but judging from how Gregorius has played of late, I’ve decided to write a complete repudiation of my previous piece. I’m not ready to crown Didi the shortstop of the future yet, but I must give credit where credit is due. Over the past couple of months, Didi has gotten progressively better. Obviously when the season began, there was an insurmountable amount of pressure put on Gregorius, due to the legend he was replacing. It really seems as if Didi has worked very hard to become a more complete player, and for that I applaud him.
My biggest critique of Gregorius was his uppercut swing, which I compared to a golfer hitting the ball out of a sandpit. In April and most of May, it appeared as if with every swing he was trying to pull the ball into the right field stands. Judging by his stats, we can conclude this was a failed approach. Presumably due to some work with hitting coach Jeff Pentland, Gregorius rectified the glaring holes in his swing. There’s no doubt in my mind that Didi would still be hitting around .200 if Kevin Long had been brought back for another year as hitting coach. As someone who advocated for Long’s dismissal since the 2011 season, I could honestly say that was one of the best moves the Yankees made in a very long time (no pun intended). Instead of simply pulling the ball, Didi has been hitting to all sides of the field. It’s no coincidence that this approach has made him a far superior player. Didi’s offensive improvement, compiled with that of Chase Headley, makes this lineup much deeper.
For the first two months of the season, our lineup was essentially four to five players deep. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner got on base, while Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and occasionally Brian McCann drove them in. Our six through nine hitters were rather inconsistent, to say the least. Having two black holes in the lineup at shortstop and second base scared me, however Didi has helped quell those fears, at least temporarily. Currently, Stephen Drew is our only offensive liability, and unfortunately we all know he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
I know this latest road trip is just a small sample size, but Gregorius has been on fire, batting .472 with 13 RBI’s and 9 runs scored over his last eleven games. Since May 28th, the young shortstop has raised his average from .206 to .260. Considering at the beginning of the season many doubted he would even hit .250, that’s quite an impressive turnaround. Something seems to have clicked for Gregorius, and he’s really thriving because of it. His defense has also been much improved, as he’s only committed two errors since June 6th.
In April and May it seemed as if Gregorius and third baseman Chase Headley were making errors every game. Headley has also improved drastically since his early defensive struggles. Gregorius’s progression from month to month is something worth nothing. In April he hit .206, May .232, June .258, and .333 in July. I’m excited to see what August brings for our young shortstop.
All this positivity is a little too much for me, so now of course I must say something negative. If Gregorius is really improving and the Yankees believe he can be our shortstop of the future, then why did Cashman so adamantly refuse to give up 20-year old shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo? Gregorious is only 25, so if he continues to improve he can be a mainstay on this team for years to come. I’m sure if Mateo had been the centerpiece of a deal for David Price the Yankees may have been able to pull it off. Nonetheless, I’m writing this to praise Didi Gregorius, not trash Brian Cashman. I’ve done plenty of that lately. As much as it pains me to say this, Cashman may have been right when he acquired Didi Gregorius. He insisted that Didi was a project who would progressively get better, and that has been the case for the most part. Even if this hot streak is an aberration, does anyone miss Shane Greene? He’s worse than CC Sabathia, and that’s saying something!
As one of Didi’s biggest doubters and detractors, this article has been very tough for me to write. Even the great Alex Rodriguez has noticed there is something different about the way our young shortstop carries himself on and off the field. For whatever reason, Gregorius turned a corner in July, and if this is a sign of what is to come, then I’m very excited to see what his future holds. Due to my stubborn disinclination to admit the error of my ways, I should also note that it’s possible he regresses and again becomes the unbearable player we saw in April, but I highly doubt this will be the case. Needless to say, Didi Gregorius has went an awfully long way from the D-E-R-E-K J-E-T-E-R chants of opening day following his boneheaded decision to attempt stealing third with first and second, two outs, and Mark Teixeira at the plate. I think it’s safe to assume those Jeter chants have been retired for a while. So once more, I apologize to Didi Gregorius for doubting him, and I hope he is the shortstop of the present and the future!
Article by Steven Eareckson
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