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2019 1B Dilemma: Bird, Voit, or someone else?

The Yankees have failed to solidify the first base position ever since Mark Teixeira retired after the 2016 season. Over the last three seasons, New York has gotten nowhere near the production the 2015 All-Star Teixeira gave them. That year, he slashed .255/.357/.548 with 22 doubles, 31 home runs, and 79 RBI before his season was cut short to a broken leg.
Many believed 2011 fifth-round pick Greg Bird was the solution at first base as he tore up the minors in 2013-2015, leading to a mid-August call up to the bigs in 2015. Bird started 44 games in August and September amid some Teixeira injuries, and he hit .261 with 11 homers and 30 RBI.

Three things the Yankees need to acquire in the offseason that aren’t Manny Machado


The speculation started during the regular season, even prior to his trade from the Baltimore Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Where would Manny Machado go upon his free agency at the end of the 2018 regular season? And, with that, which teams would be knocking on his door?

No sooner did the Yankees’ regular season come to a close after their fated ending in the American League Division Series, the talks of Machado coming to the Bronx took off as though pushed by a speeding 4 Train behind Yankee Stadium. The truth of the matter is that the rumors started even prior to Machado’s free agency being on the horizon -- they started at the trade deadline.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports


Between the Yankees’ postseason fall, and Machado’s free agency, it could look a bit like fate. The Yankees clearly need something to bring them to the next level in 2019, that will bring them beyond the division series and hopefully, to that 28th World Series win. But… is Machado the answer?

At the risk of getting a lot of heat for this opinion, I’m just going to say it: I don’t think he is. There are three areas, that if worked on in the offseason (or, in one case, a position acquired), can help move the Yankees to next level in the 2019 season. While Machado is a winner of multiple Gold Gloves, as well as a three-time All-Star, he is another right-handed slugger who hit 37 home runs and struck out 104 times in the regular season.

Now, whom does that sound like? Hmm… how about Gary Sánchez, who bats right and hit 18 home runs and struck out 94 times? Or, Giancarlo Stanton, who also bats right, hit 38 home runs and struck out a whopping 211 times? And (as much as it pains me to include him here) even Aaron Judge, who yes, you guessed it, bats right, hit 27 home runs and struck out 152 times? Hey, Cash: we don’t need ANOTHER one of the same.

And let’s not get started on the fact that Machado freely admitted he doesn’t hustle to first base. I don’t care who you are or how many home runs you hit: you always hustle. It may be a Girardian philosophy that is lost on the 2018 game of baseball, but so much can be assumed about a player who won’t hustle to first base. It’s not a team philosophy -- it’s an individualized philosophy. We already know that the Yankees have one player who doesn’t hustle when called upon to do so (gee, whom could that be?). Why would they want another?

So, what is it that the Yankees need much more than they need Machado?

A starting pitcher
What a concept… another starter in the rotation who could take some of the pressure off Luis Severino?! Sure, Masahiro Tanaka made several quality starts during the 2018 season, but he still doesn’t show enough consistency. And what with C.C. Sabathia’s increasing age and decreasing ability to go deep into games, the Yankees may be down to four pitchers as it is. Also, let’s not forget that Sonny Gray started the 2018 season as part of the starting rotation. Not only is that no longer the case, but, the rumor mill definitely thinks the Yankees will trade Gray in the offseason.

But getting back to Severino, a case can be made for the fact that Severino’s second half, on the heels of his Cy Young contender-level first half, had to do with the fact that he was the Yankees’ only consistent pitcher during the first half. The pressure was all on him, and he just may feel burnt out, both mentally and physically. Another pitcher -- maybe not quite of Severino’s caliber, but beyond Tanaka’s caliber -- in the rotation, could relieve Severino in 2019.

Severino aside: especially in the postseason, there is the renowned philosophy that good pitching beats good batting, and this philosophy applies to the current state of the Yankees. The bullpen is one of the Yankees’ greatest strengths, and comes through even against the strongest offenses. The starting pitching rotation needs to be in the same shape.

Focus on situational offense and RISP
Yankees Twitter has essentially beat this complaint to death, but there’s a reason for that. The Yankees were 11th in MLB in leaving RISP on the 2018 season. Which isn’t first, but it certainly isn’t last either. And back in September, mere weeks prior to the postseason, the Yankees were 13th in batting average with RISP in the American League. Not in MLB. The American League.

In the meantime, the Yankees beat the single-season home run record in 2018.  That’s great… but every hit can’t be a home run, and doesn’t have to be, either. A well-executed single can sometimes help in a clutch, game-deciding situation, even more than a monster home run -- and it will certainly help more than a strike out ever will. The sacrifice fly is terribly underrated, and in the correct situation, drives in runs the same way that home runs do. And solo home runs, which were popular among a certain Yankees DH on the regular season, don’t drive in any runs at all.

Over the course of the 2018 season, I lost count of how many times I tweeted about how the Yankees needed to score runs. I didn’t mean “hit home runs.” I meant “capitalize on situations in which a single will bring one or more runs.”

A change in coaching philosophy
For all of the heat that Aaron Boone received in his rookie year as a manager, there are two facts that fans and commentators alike lose sight of: 1) His Yankees won 100 games in 2018. 2) A first-year manager led a team to the postseason and won the A.L. Wild Card game. That’s nothing to sniff at.

However, this is still the Yankees. And The Boss would roll over in his grave at a) the fact that people gave Boone any accolades at all, considering the fact that he didn’t bring the Yankees beyond the ALDS and b) Boone’s approaches as opposed to, oh I don’t know, Girardian approaches. Yes, Joe Girardi was intense, and didn’t necessarily fit in on a clubhouse level with some of the so-called Baby Bombers. Yes, he’ll unfortunately go down with the 2017 non-challenge being one of the greatest managing mistakes in MLB postseason history. But… he owned up to it. And, to borrow a line, a manager who dodges the heat for making a decision, especially in the postseason… is not what you want. We don’t want to hear about soothing '80s music after Game Three. We want to know that you won’t treat your team like a bunch of snowflakes and instead, push them to win.

Should Boone be fired? Maybe if The Boss were alive, he’d think so, but I don’t think so. At least, not after his rookie year. And when a team loses, the manager is far from the only member who is a responsible party. Should Boone take a serious look at his approaches -- from leaving pitchers in too long, to challenging very few plays (presumably to not ruffle any umpire feathers), and his place as, the New York Post calls him, the “Anti-Joe Girardi?” Absolutely. And chances are, he’ll learn.

Photo Credit: New York Post/Anthony J. Causi


The Yankees have a great team without Manny Machado, but they clearly didn’t have a winning team in the 2018 postseason. The improvements that they can make in-house -- save, of course, for the acquisition a starting pitcher -- could very well be enough to make all the difference. They don’t need another right-handed home run hitter. A 2019 home run record would be great; but, it’s not a 28th World Series win.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson

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