Friday, March 24, 2017


Photo: USA Today Sports
I'd like to spend this at-bat in the BYB batting order to thank everyone in the Yankees' fan base, and  the handful of writers egging  them on who made impassioned pleas for Gleyber Torres to swoop into the Bronx from Single A like some kind of comic book superhero. I can see the title of that comic now. Will Torres snatch the shortstop gig from that evil super villain  "WBC Dummy" Gregorius.

It was an amusing 15 minutes hearing all the fantastic action adventure plots about Gleyber and his Wonder Bat, Gleyber and his Wonder Glove and how Gleyber and his Wonder Future are a waste of time because, you know... he's practically Albert Pujols now. Look, I get it, people are angry about the WBC and our injured Didi, but they also are wrong to think Torres can just swoop in!  Let's keep it real folks... Super Torres I not ready! Instead, look for a sequel entitled Gleyber's Adventures Mastering A New Position coming soon to a stadium near you in Trenton.

(Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)
My condolences to you if you're one of those special people who are genuinely disappointed he didn't get a chance to make a Wally Pipp out of Didi. But honestly, did you really believe that's how it SHOULD happen? Or was it more like just wanting to believe it COULD happen. Like for example, when Joe has you believe the best players will play? Or the best pitchers, veteran or prospects, will be in the rotation?

Speaking of pitching prospects, anybody seen Dietrich Enns lately? Best pitcher in the system last year. He was the ace for the national champions of all minor league champions. His stats were totally dominant. Nobody else was even close. But he didn't even get a start in Spring training. They made him a reliever this year.  Made a couple of middle relief appearances and got sent down in the first cut.

For me, that's the stuff I think about. It's a far more puzzling question and frankly a far more pertinent one than why Gleyber's Wonder Clock should start ticking on Opening Day or a few months later. But I digress. Sort of.

(July 25, 2016 - Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America)
Frankly, it never even entered my mind that Torres could be Didi's  replacement and I was amazed by the outpouring of serious suggestions that he should be, because I think the plan to continue cross-training him at another position in Trenton could be the right way to go. But there's more; I didn't give Gleyber a serious thought as Didi's replacement was because of what happened to Didi under identical circumstances on Opening Day three years ago. That's the deal breaker right there, for Torres and every other not-yet-proven-ready-for-prime-time prospect in the Yankees' future.

(March 9, 2015 - Source: Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America)
To be blunt, the way this fan base and team's media treated Didi in the very same role three years ago that many pounded the drum to fling Torres into this Opening Day -- with little warning, a little before his time, into an ill-defined role replacing an established starter in a transitional year filled with question marks -- was downright nasty. And so, there can be no doubt that an organization that has infamously held petty grudges and lived by the feud for decades battling within and without itself to its own detriment has committed that awkward and unpleasant transition away from the Captain to institutional memory as a cautionary tale to avoid at all costs in the future; even though it seems nobody else beyond the team's own personnel appear to have taken the lesson to heart.

Now, you may say Didi is no Captain and Torres is no Didi. But that wouldn't matter to the Yankees -- or the media. They would  spin their Torres Takes Over takeover stories; a certain segment of the fan base, impatient for the future to get here, would jump on their bandwagon and start judging him like this Torres (and this team) was the finished product; and the mud would begin to fly again. And when Didi came beck, all hell would break loose as sides would be chosen and the clock would start clicking on both players to produce or be damned. That's certainly not healthy for team building.

Think it couldn't happen again? Well, let's think back...

(June 2, 2015 - Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)
Didi wasn't supposed to be our starter that Opening Day. The Captain had just retired and Brendan Ryan was the transitional starter.  Didi was never been a regular starter with his two previous teams, and that, plus a poor split hitting lefties made platooning him behind Ryan a no-brainer until he learned how. But just a few days before Opening Day, Ryan became injured and Didi was suddenly thrust into the Jeter takeover role without any supporting cast to back him. A starter for the first time in his young career, he suddenly found himself debuting on the biggest stage in sports.

He never had a chance.

(July 4, 2015 - Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)
The sharks were circling in the water for whoever that next guy was. Every move he made was magnified.  "He is no Captain."  With that, the entire team was stinking up the joint. Even Tex was missing easy picks in the beginning and looking like he was past it. But Didi was the lightning rod because he was the newest face replacing the oldest and most familiar face. The mistakes piled up. Meanwhile, looking around us, longtime fans were giving up on the team, attendance and TV viewership had become a national scandal and the social media interactions were truly depressing. It was more vicious than I'd ever seen it and symptomatic of a team disconnect from its fans.

Of course, you know the rest. By the end of the second month, he finally started showing marked signs of improvement, and after that every month was a new plateau of achievement. And by the trade deadline, instead of calling for his ouster, fans were calling the trade a steal. Pretty fickle of them, huh?

(Sept. 1, 2016 - Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)    
Didi had over two years of experience in Triple-A and years and years of minor league ball under his belt when he went through that. He had a reservoir of  experience overcoming adversity, meeting his limitations and overcoming them as he rose through the ranks to get him through that moment and sustain him through that ordeal. Torres has none of that. He's fresh meat who's had everything come easy to him so far. He hasn't come close to facing the daily grind of major league game speed and major league pitching in games where the relievers don't wear high numbers and the at-bats often only get tougher at the end.

Still don't think this make Torres a non-starter for this Opening Day?

OK, try this on for size. In this scenario, Didi isn't retired. Torres would have a month to six weeks tops. And he could either be outstanding or he could stink or be something in between. But whatever he was, what would be the point?

If he stunk, he'd be gone when Didi returned, the plan for him to learn another position in Trenton would be set back more than a month, his service clock would be started, and whoever got bounced from the roster to make room for him would've been lost for nothing. Oh yeah, and he's likely to get a good thrashing from the fan base as a bust and the team's media pack would be meticulously chronicling all of the above and more as he circled the drain counting the days until Didi returned.

And if he was terrific, then what do you do with a healthy Didi  -- arguably the team's most consistent offensive and defensive weapon last year.  You can't bench either of them and neither of them can really play another position. And you're not going to send Didi down to start learning a new one or trade him.  He's still young and an invaluable part of the transition from rebuild to new era; and playing side by side with the Torres he would be an invaluable mentor as well as combine with him to make for a potent defensive and offensive middle infield duo.

Who else could better help Torres navigate the taunts and and poison pens than the one who weathered an entire stadium derisively chanting for Jeter to replace him long after the Captain had left the building?

Photo: New York Daily News
And so the answer is there's no good that could come from bringing Torres up in my opinion. There'd just be a lot of nasty media stories, ill will and fan hostility directed at him if he sucks, and a lot more of the same directed at the team and Didi if he did good and got sent back down to resume his defensive re-training when Didi returns to reclaim his spot, as he should.

And the team will never, ever again put him or any prospect in a position to fail after they've already publicly acknowledged he still has work to do before he's ready for the Bigs. They will never  risk another one enduring the public scalding Didi suffered unless they're more than reasonably certain he can handle it. It's a no-win situation to bring Torres up now. It's a no-lose situation to stick to the Trenton start-up plan.

If you want to see Gleyber in the Bronx as soon as possible, root for him to wrap his wonder arms and glove around playing second or third base as quickly as possible while continuing to knock the snot out of pitchers in the Eastern League with his wonder bat.

What's waiting for him after that, we can only wait and wonder.

Hopefully, a couple of rings in pinstripes before he splits to chase whole lot of wonder bread somewhere else further on down his wonder road.

 --Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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