Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE RIGHT STUFF


I loved that movie from the 80’s, which chronicled the American race to space and the Moon. It showed a bunch of astronauts thrown together for an impossible mission that was a critical goal for the United States at the time. It is not unlike the situation the Yankees find themselves in this season. Okay, we are not in a cold war with the Soviet Union, but we are in a battle for pride and for a championship. I want to look at three trade deadline acquisitions and ask, were they the right fit? Do they have the right stuff for the Yankees?


Of those acquisitions, Chase Headley was the most fortuitous. He went from the airport to the dugout the day the Yankees acquired him, and started shaking hands to introduce himself to his new teammates. “Can you take an at-bat?” The call came in the 8th inning of his first game and he answered. He struck out, but he showed heart. Then he took his glove and manned third for the rest of the game. The game ended six innings later, on a walk-off base hit from Headley. It was just one game, but I saw something special in this guy. Since joining the Yankees, he increased his batting average by 30 points, his OPS by 50, and his fielding percentage by 20. In the process, he went from a flop in decline to a respectable third baseman who is contributing to a team struggling but still competing.


Martin Prado is the classical story of the person from whom there is a question about “The Fit”. The first news that came out about him was his own concern about playing in New York (read HERE). On paper, he was the perfect guy to acquire. He has played every position except catcher and center fielder. With all the Yankee injuries, having a career .290 hitter that can play any position would be a gold mine. The problem is that he does not do well in densely populated urban areas. You know, like New York. ”It’s crowded. I do not like the crowded stuff … I do not like this city.” Nevertheless, he promised to try, and he certainly has made the effort. The latest walk-off winning hit notwithstanding, his numbers tell the story. His average is 60 points below his career average and his OPS is more than 100 points off since joining the Yankees. We certainly would like to see him turn it around, but so far, he looks like a fish out of water.


Stephen Drew came to the Yankees in a rare Boston/New York trade. For the Red Sox, Drew was on the interstate with no hope for redemption. I mean, why else would the Red Sox trade him to the Yankees? In Boston, he was on the interstate with a .176 average. Since then, not only has he stayed on the interstate, his average has actually gone down (.167 since joining the Yankees). Some thought he may have been the successor to Derek Jeter at short. You cannot replace a Derek Jeter, but you would like to give up less than a hundred points in average with whoever replaces him. He was clearly a gamble, and the trade was only for cash considerations, but this guy cannot play here. His best days were in small market towns like Arizona and Oakland, and that’s probably where he best fits.


Look, history has many examples of teams that have tried to buy players, and it never works. It is a difficult and delicate balance getting the right mix of people with the right temperament to handle the environment, especially one as difficult as New York and the Yankee clubhouse. With players like Chase Headley and others, it was worked out well. With Prado and Drew, the experiment may be over.




--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row



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