A tribute to Mark Teixeira

Mark Teixeira was rounding the bases, hearing the roar of approval from more than 50,000 Yankees faithful. He had just hit a walk-off home run, giving the Bombers the victory in Game Two of the American League Division Series against the Minnesota Twins. Less than a year after signing with New York in the offseason, he had already given fans a moment that many of them would never forget.
Photo Credit: Nick Laham | Getty Images

Teixeira made his MLB debut on April 1, 2003 for the Texas Rangers, who drafted him two years earlier with the fifth overall pick. He spent four and a half seasons in Arlington, where his best season was 2005. During that year, he posted career-highs in home runs and RBIs, with 43 and 144, respectively. He also earned his first All-Star nod that year. Two years later, the Rangers found themselves in a rebuilding season, and after failing to agree to a contract extension, they traded Teixeira to the contending Atlanta Braves. He lasted only a year with the Braves; before the 2008 trade deadline, Atlanta traded him to the Los Angeles Angels. In the last three months of the regular season, Teixeira hit .358 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. He helped lead the Angels to the franchise’s first season with 100 wins, and in the process made his first appearance in the postseason. Los Angeles would be eliminated in the first round by the Boston Red Sox.

After the end of the season, Mark Teixeira declared for free agency, and after high offers from several teams, the 28-year-old signed an eight-year, $180 million deal with the New York Yankees. Heading into the beginning of the 2009 campaign, “Tex”, as the fans called him, had only one thing on his mind; bring the Yankees their first championship since the 2000 season.

Yankees fans who had grown up with the dynasty team of the late 90’s/early 2000’s had enjoyed much success. In 2008, New York failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1993. That, along with the fact that the new Yankee Stadium was getting ready to open, drove management to recruit the talent necessary to win it all. While big names like CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Nick Swisher were also added, Teixeira arguably had the most long-term success during his time in pinstripes. His numbers in 2009 were excellent; he batted .292 while slugging 39 HRs and driving in 122 runs. Both of those numbers would be his highest during his eight years in pinstripes. His offense production and Gold Glove-winning defense helped the first baseman earn the second All-Star nod of his career. 

The Yankees finished the regular season with a record of 103-59, their best record in seven years. They finished as champions of the American League East, and had the best record in the entire league. While the fans loved seeing the numbers that Teixeira was putting up, many fans wondered how he would handle the pressure of playoff baseball under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. 

While he didn’t put up monster stats in the postseason, he had some huge moments during the magical 2009 run, including the walk-off home run against the Twins in the ALDS. He would hit one more October home run that year, and it would be another big one. Already down 1-0 in the World Series to the Phillies, the Yankees found themselves down by a run in Game 2, with veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez on the mound. Pedro left a 1-0 pitch over the heart of the plate, and Tex didn’t miss it. He sent the ball into the Yankees bullpen, tying the score at one. The Bombers would end up winning the game and tying the Fall Classic at one game apiece. Just six days later, Teixeira would catch a throw from Robinson Cano to win the sixth game of the World Series and clinch the 27th Championship in the storied history of the Yankees.

The 2010 season marked saw Tex’s numbers drop from the previous season, including a .256 batting average, which at the time was a career low. He also managed to hit 33 home runs and driving in 108 runs. The highlights of his season was his sparkling defensive play, which earned him his fourth career Gold Glove Award. Much like the season before, there were struggles offensively in the postseason. He hit only .148, and the Yankees bid for a repeat was ended in the ALCS by the Texas Rangers.

Teixeira would also have another solid season in 2011, posting his third consecutive campaign with at least 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. He also accomplished a big milestone, hitting his 300th career home run during a June game against the Brewers. He helped lead New York to the AL East title, as well as the best record in the American League. In the ALDS, Tex struggled mightily, once again failing to reach a .200 average. The Yankees were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers in five games.

In the 2012 season, Teixeira put up respectable numbers, batting .251 with 24 HRs and 84 RBIs. He would go on to win the Gold Glove Award for the fifth and final time in his career. The Yankees would once again emerge as the AL East champions, and had a first-round meeting with the Baltimore Orioles, a series they would win in five games. They would not make it back to the World Series, however, as the Tigers would pull off a shocking four-game sweep. Mark had his best postseason that year in terms of average, as he hit .281. This would be the last playoff appearance Teixeira would have in his career.

The 2013 campaign was an absolute nightmare for the Yankee first baseman. Various ailments and injuries kept Teixeira sidelined for a majority of the season, as he played in only 15 games. The lack of consistent playing time led Tex to hit .151 with just 3 homers and 12 RBIs. The next year saw more playing time, but he still sat out 39 games with injury. It was the third straight season that Teixeira failed to played more than 123 games. At this point, many were ready to write off Mark Teixeira. Many said his career was over. Going into 2015, he was ready to prove the doubters wrong.

Teixeira was notorious for slow starts to the season. He tended to struggle the first month or so before getting into a groove. That was not the case in 2015. He was a consistent hitter throughout the season, finishing with a .255 AVG while hitting 31 homers. He also had the second fewest strikeouts of any season in his career, as well as more walks than he had drawn since 2011. In the second half of the season, however, he suffered an injury after fouling a ball off his shin. It would eventually end his season. Tex played in only 111 games that season, but his offensive production in that time had many Yankees fans optimistic that he would continue hitting that way into the next season.

Teixeira managed to play in 116 games during the 2016 campaign. Statistically, this was the worst season he had at the plate. He hit only .204 while hitting 15 homers and driving in 44 runs. He also hit his 400th career long ball in a July game against the San Diego Padres. He had minor injuries during the season but was able to finish out the last several months without many problems. On August 5th, the Yankees and Mark Teixeira announced a press conference at Yankee Stadium prior to their game that day. Fighting back tears, Tex announced that the 2016 season would be his last. His retirement announcement showed just how much he meant to the fans, as an outpouring of love and support flooded social media. 

With the playoffs out of reach, every fan wanted to see him have one more big moment. It was obvious he wanted to give that to the fans. Well in the final week, he gave us two memorable hits. On September 26, playing in the final road game of his career, Mark Teixeira hammered a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against Blue Jays in what was a game with lots of emotion being shown by both teams. He admired the shot and emphatically flipped the bat in the air. Many wondered if that would be the last homer in his career. But it turned out he had one more in him, and he saved the best for last. Just two nights later, Teixeira would hit his final home run as a Yankee, this one at the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, Tex hammered a ball into the right field bullpen for a walk-off grand slam against the archrival Boston Red Sox. He was handed a championship belt, and proudly showed it off to the fans at the ballpark. At 36-years old, Mark was playing with the same enthusiasm that he undoubtedly had as a young child. He knew there were only a few days left in his career, and he was clearly enjoying every single minute of it.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac | Getty Images
Come Sunday afternoon, the day of his final game, everyone could see that Teixeira was at peace with his decision to walk away. The Yankees had a nice pregame ceremony, giving him a base signed by his teammates as well as a framed jersey from his final season. He was quiet offensively, going hitless in the game. What stood out was his incredible defense that fans have grown accustomed to over the past 14 years. He was removed from the game in the seventh inning to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd as well as players from both teams. He was embraced on the field by his teammates during the ovation, which lasted roughly two minutes. He then made his way back to the dugout, having played the final out of his career.

During the 14 years Mark Teixeira played in the big leagues, he amassed 1,862 hits, 409 HRs, 1,298 RBIs, and scored 1099 runs. His fielding percentage (.9966) is the fourth highest of any first baseman in the history of the MLB. He is also just the fifth switch-hitter to ever hit 400 home runs, joining Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, and former Yankees Mickey Mantle and Carlos Beltran. And if you talk to any fan who had the pleasure to meet him, and they will tell you he is one the kindest and most humble people you could meet. From his Yankees 2009 introductory press conference to the last on-field interview, there was always one constant; his love and appreciation for the fans who cheered him on every night. He will no doubt be in Hall of Fame discussions when he is eligible in 2021. The voters will have the final say, but I believe he should be enshrined in Cooperstown before his eligibility is up.

Mark Charles Teixeira will be missed on the field by the fans and other players who have been able to watch him do what he loved for nearly a decade and a half. The Yankees have a bright future ahead of them, but nobody should forget what Tex did for the team, helping lead the way for the 2009 championship run that fans will remember for a very long time. He loved thanking the fans for all they have done for him. Now that it’s all over, it is our turn to return the favor.

Thank you, Mark.

Written by: Dan DeGregorio
Follow me on Twitter: @DanDeGregs
Follow the BBB: @BronxBomberBlog


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