Saturday, July 11, 2015
IT'S TIME FOR THE OBSESSION TO END
Those of you who read my articles and follow me in social media know that I am none too happy with the Yankees management’s unfounded obsession with Stephen Drew. I have made a nearly daily effort to point out the obvious when it comes to Drew and the decision to start him on a regular basis.
It’s not that I have anything personal against Stephen Drew. In fact, I’m sure he’s a great guy, leader in the clubhouse, hard worker, etc…. My rising blood pressure - when it comes to who is playing second base for the Bombers - stems from our general manager constantly saying he can find no better choice for the position, and then our manager obediently following the GM’s lead.
Both appear to refuse to allow players they drafted and signed and have allowed to progress through our minor league system the opportunity to prove themselves at the major league level. Apparently neither Brian Cashman nor Joe Girardi followed last season’s playoffs and World Series, otherwise they would realize that giving a shot to players aged 25 and younger can result in success (short and long term). This season both the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals own the best records in the American League – and both feature stars younger than 30. The ‘Stros and Royals have given the players on who they banked their future the chance to pay them back for their trust. No such trust exists with Cashman. The existence of Stephen Drew on the Yankees roster is living proof of that.
Let’s look at some facts about Mr. Drew. In 46 games last season he hit .150 for the Yankees. The excuse makers for him reasoned that he hadn’t played a full Spring Training slate and were sure that once he had done that, he’d be at least a solid .250 hitter. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has been one of his biggest proponents and touted the benefits of the Yankees re-signing Drew. With Scott Boras as his agent, Brian Cashman happily signed the former Red Sox to another one-year deal worth $5 million.
That full Spring Training sure has made a difference eh? Drew is now hitting a bold .179 with 12 home runs. He is the only regular player in the lineup below .200. In fact, at no point as a Yankee (122 games) has Drew’s average gone above .193. The Jon Heymans of the world – as well as Drew’s immediate family I suppose – will point out that the Yankees main objective in getting Drew was to solidify the infield defense, and that clearly Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela (the primary internal options at second base) need development in that area before assuming a regular spot in the infield. That would be fine and dandy if Drew truly was so much better than those two in the field – to offset how much worse he is at the plate. Only, defensively Drew isn’t all that much better. A look at current MLB second basemen reveals that Cashman’s obsession ranks 16th in fielding percentage and 22nd in range factor. Couple that with Drew ranking last in batting average among qualifying players at the position and you have a thoroughly below average player.
I’m guessing that, at this point, anyone still making excuses for why Drew should remain a regular in the Yankees lineup isn’t going to change their mind no matter how much data you throw at them. For those of you still on the fence about it, here’s some more: Among qualifying second basemen in MLB, Drew ranks 20th in RBI, 25th in runs scored, 20th in on-base percentage, 13th in slugging percentage, 19th in OPS and yes, 2nd in home runs. On the fielding side, he’s 22nd in assists. Is this really a resume of someone you’d like to throw even one million dollars at – let alone $5 million?
As far as Stephen Drew’s new-found power goes, it appears he hits home runs in groups, then does close to nothing after. On April 12th and 13th he hit dingers in back-to-back games. He followed that up by going 2 for his next 17 (.118 avg). Drew hit two home runs in each game on June 6th and June 9th. He went 7 for his next 33 (.212) following that outburst. Finally, on June 21st he had yet another two-dinger game. True to his pattern, Girardi’s favorite son managed just 2 hits over his next 26 AB (.077) before hitting a late solo shot in last night’s game (as a pinch hitter). Here’s a look at Drew’s season at the plate broken into 10 game spans:
One has to ask Brian Cashman if he’s serious that this is the Yankees best option at second. In Scranton, Rob Refsnyder was hitting .287 with 7 home runs and 36 RBI’s before being called up for today's game, read HERE. In his career in the Yankees’ minor league system, he’s hitting .295 with a .824 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). While it is true that his fielding still needs work (he has a .965 fielding percentage – compared to Drew’s .987), it has improved. Refsnyder has a total of 13 errors at second this season in Scranton, yet only 2 of those have come since June 1st – a span of 36 games (Drew has one over that same span).
Brian Roberts was relieved of his duties as a Yankee after 91 games last year. During that time he hit .237 with a .300 OBP and .659 OPS. His fielding percentage was slightly lower than Drew’s at .974. Based upon what Cashman is saying, there’s no indication that he’s even considering showing Drew the door.
Why the double standard favoring Drew? Clearly his value in the field does not out-weigh the deficit he represents at the plate. It is even more clear that there are better options – right in our own organization. Good thing they are giving Rob Refsnyder a shot. And, if it doesn't last long with RR, why not give Jose Pirela a fair chance in the Bronx. Instead of half-heartedly using him as a pinch-runner or a spot starter once a week, let him take over the reins at second base for a span of two weeks? See what he can do when run out there on a regular basis. Don’t worry Joe; you can still use your beloved Drew as a pinch hitter and late-inning defensive replacement if your binder calls for it, but for crying out loud, give Pirela a chance to develop some rhythm as a starter. You might just be surprised, and your binder might even change its mind.
I’m guessing the obsession with Stephen Drew – yes, it’s an obsession in spite of Brian Cashman’s denial to Michael Kay – stems from our GM’s ego and pride. He doesn’t want to admit that there was no real necessity to re-sign Stephen Drew. His ego simply won’t allow him to admit a mistake.
In the meantime, our team manages to defy the odds – and the incompetence of its management – and remains in first place in the AL East Division. The problem is that once we get into the playoffs (if we do); an auto-out like Drew in the lineup will be magnified and exposed. We need to make a change now and give our future a chance. The more time goes by with Drew on the roster, the less our hopes of ever being able to reap what Refsnyder and Pirela can provide.
--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
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