Thursday, October 1, 2015
REFSNYDER'S MAKING THE MOST OF AN OPPORTUNITY
This Yankee season has seen the introduction of a few of our Baby Bombers to the Bronx. Two of them, Greg Bird and Luis Severino, have benefited from injuries to regulars and parlayed their promising performances into everyday (or every fifth day as the case is with Severino) roles. Others, like Slade Heathcott, Jose Pirela, and Mason Williams have flashed their potential but have fallen victim to management's philosophy that players from the farm system are nothing more than putty to be used when a regular falls - never getting a fair shot. One Baby Bomber however, has finally won enough of manager Joe Girardi's confidence to gain a legitimate chance to prove himself. That player is second baseman Rob Refsnyder.
For Refsnyder, 2015 has been a roller coaster ride. The off-season began with the expectation that he and Pirela would battle in the spring for the starting spot at second base. That was quickly doused by GM Brian Cashman when he signed Mendoza-line dreaming Stephen Drew (he hit .150 over 46 games with the Yankees, and .160 overall in 2014) and promptly named him the starter. Relegated to AAA Scranton, Refsnyder hit .290 through July 10th and had only two errors in the field after June 1st.
In the meantime, Drew was proving that 2014 wasn't a fluke - hitting .182 in the same time frame. Perhaps seeing an opportunity to take a look at what they had in "Ref", the Yankees promoted the 24-year-old and put him in the lineup against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. In only his second game, Refsnyder went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run that proved to be the game deciding hit in a Yankees' 8 - 6 win. Following two more hitless games, he was sent back to Scranton after the July 18th loss to Seattle.
In spite of questions from fans and media regarding the "obsession" with Stephen Drew, the Yankees kept Refsnyder at Scranton while Drew stumbled his way at the plate, only breaking a .200 average on August 30th. Drew would get his average "up" to .211 before slowly slipping back to .201 - where it currently rests. If it should stay there, Drew will go into Yankees lore as the team's worst hitting regular second baseman....ever.
Fortunately for Yankees fans, Dustin Ackley came off the DL and started hitting. That resulted in Drew losing playing time (Ackley is left-handed hitter - same as Drew). Brendan Ryan - the right-handed complement to Ackley/Drew - began the season on fire at the plate, and had his average up to .316 on August 1st. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep it there, and has looked like the righty version of Drew; hitting just .167 since. In the meantime, Refsnyder's roller coaster ride once again began its ascent when he was part of the September call-ups. Both Cashman and Girardi repeatedly alluded that the young second baseman would soon make another appearance in the lineup.
Only, the games continued to roll by without so much as a late pinch hitting role for him. When questioned about it, Girardi gave what may go down as one of the dumbest replies a manager has ever made: "He spent the whole year in Triple-A. He doesn't know the pitching staffs up here.". Apparently the binder-bound manager had forgotten Refsnyder's July call-up, or the fact that Heathcott (called up in September with others) had also spent the season at Scranton, yet Girardi had no problem inserting him into games. Clearly, "Ref" had fallen out of favor with Binder-Joe.
As he has throughout the season, Refsnyder patiently waited for his chance, and once he got it, made the most of it. In starting four of the last six games for the Bombers, the prospect has hit .385, and more importantly, proved he could handle the field - going errorless. Many had wondered if the bias against him stemmed from his slow development as a fielder.
During Spring Training I felt the Baby Bombers had far out-played the Yankees' veterans. I was excited about the promise this team has for the years to come. As we approach the end of the 2015 regular season campaign, it is clear that my optimism was justified. The ability of players like Refsnyder to wait out management's obsessions, and then seize the opportunities presented - as he has - shows great character on top of the talent.
Should Cashman be able to restrain himself( letting Stephen Drew fly this off-season), and not trade away our future, a Dustin Ackley / Rob Refsnyder combination at second base in 2016 will finally give us an offensive threat at the position which has been missing since Robinson Cano left.
Refsnyder has made the most of his chances, and at the very least deserves as much.
--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
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