So the ever popular sports rag the New York Post put out an article saying that Teixeria = the Phillies Howard in their ability to sink their respective teams. Mostly, I agree with some of the premise but I couldn’t help but think it was somewhat flawed so I sent it over to the triumverant of sports lovers I usually converse with. I’ll leave Bobby, my former cowriter, to make a feeble attempt at defending any part of the Ryan Howard conundrum which I’ll touch on below (he can’t, I’m more looking forward to him rant about hating Howard more than ever now)
Yankees fans, and writers, should be well reminded to the context that went into landing Teix in the first place.
First 1B was being patrolled by an even less-loved production of Jason Giambi. He was a fan favorite because he was endearing as hell, had amazing clutch timing for his biggest hits and generally played to expectation which is more than could be said for some of his team mates during those years.
The complaints about Giambi’s range and defensive ability as well as his flat foot speed (only slightly quicker than Posada) and predictable short right pop up were constant and howling even when he was cranking out 30 home runs and drawing 100 walks. DH Giambi and the bench behind him for the bag was so bad they could have run the Scarecrow of the Wizard of Oz out and no one would have blinked. Apart from the razzie-fest that was the MLB short bench during that era, the prospects at the time were all flailing and hardly belong within a sneeze of MiLB status, forget about being called up.
His 7 years in pinstripes were long, arduous and lumbering, but not because of his contribution, there were way worse contracts and way more underproductive players during those years. And, still, they made the playoffs every year, made some decent runs during the post-season too but his time was sandwiched between two other roster’s abilities to go all the way.
For as bad a J-G looked back then, compare where both players are now. J-G’s slash last year in Cleveland was 183/272/371 while Teix was 151/270/340 both under shortened seasons. What’s more glaring though is J-G in his age 34 season put up a 271/440/553 line which you’d take in a heart beat for production from Teix right now. Last season J-G was pushing 40 and besting Teix. Yikes.
But, more to the point, those first couple of seasons with Teix were such a VAST improvement over even a good Giambi campaign both at the plate and in the field that it more than justified the contract. At the time, like most 5+ year deals, there was some concern about the tail end of it, but that’s the chance you take for signing franchise-defining contracts rather than stopgaps. That’s the chance you take when you build for consistency of a roster as opposed to buying stopgaps for quick success. Sometimes guys decline goes slow and it looks fantastic in those end years (you could say that about J-G’s contribution to be honest). Sometimes the drop is steep and injury plagued and it looks like an albatross (which is what the complaint on Teix seems to be now).
When you think about Teix’s age and how many guys are still amplely WAR-friendly and have aided teams World Series aspirations it’s worth it to take the chance. Take, for example, Martinez. He came in to replace Mattingly at 28. Teix came in at 29. Tino’s slash was 292/364/466 in that first year while Teix was 292/383/565 in his first. Tino was 34 playing in the 2001 WS when his contract ended and he moved on. His numbers diminished in StL taking over for McGuire (which cast a darker shadow on his production), but his age 34 season he had a solid slash and was a contributor to the franchise success. The big thing is that Martinez was part of a long winning run on a team that had the depth to support him, Teix hasn’t been. His early years trump Martinez in terms of individual production and he did win a WS as well. But, no one could have forseen age taking it’s toll the way it has the last two seasons when he signed, especially considering at that age what his predecessors had done in that position (Mattingly, Martinez & Giambi)
The Yanks took a calculated risk. it paid off with a WS win for their first year in the new stadium giving them 2 wins in 3 appearances in the 2000s. It is hurting them now. It’s a problem, but it’s hardly the only big problem they have. Teix is responsible for thinning both the infield and the heart of the order with his injuries and lack of consistent production when he is available but all things being equal it wouldn’t be nearly as glaring if there was any other consistency in either the in field or the line up. It’s a bad situation all around even though that’s hardly an excuse.
Secondly, and perhaps just as important, the arch-rival Red Sox were also in on that bidding war along with the Angles who consistently were giving the Yankees a headache, as well as their division rivals the Orioles and Toronto (plus the Dodgers and Nats). Yankee free-spending aside, considering the lot looking for his service and even without the benefit he provided the Yanks it also was designed as an all important cock block for known holes in their rivals. The Red Sox knew Lowe was declining at 3B and Youks at 1B. They knew Youks chould move to 3B and Teix would fix two roster problems in one shot. Stealing him from Anaheim who had just brought him in to fill their gaping hole at 1B at the trade deadline left the Angles with the same hole they had before leaving them exposed again.
It was a good piece of business. Since that time the Sox tried platooning, stopgaps and finally brought in converted catcher Mike Napoli to fill the spot as the team went from medocre to last to first to back to being in last place as the glaring example of inconsistency. I would have to run more detailed numbers to tell you how much different the two teams were at 1B, but I think the Yanks even with the ailments this season and last probably come out on top. The Angles fared only slightly better having their own injury headache in Albert Pujos on the pad recently. Again, remember, the near term payoff was a World Series and the decline of rivals during that same period.
You worry about winning NOW, you worry about manipulating your roster around only the possibility of an albatross later. Now, is later in Teix terms and the Yanks for all intents and purposes I think have done a supurb job manipulating the roster around Teix. If they weren’t ALSO manipulating the roster around missing four starting pitchers and pulling stop-gaps down for 2B and 3B and covering for Beltran and a host of short-term OF injuries filling in for Teix and his downturn would have been much more manageable. They could still be doing worse than playing .518 ball (actually they should be doing much worse than .518 ball all things considered)!!!
The question is how long the injuries drag on. Through the remainder of the contract
From a contrarian position however Howard has been a noose over the Phils for a much longer time than Teix.
For starters, beginning the day Howard joined the team he was a power slugger with a strike out problem. Bobby may remember this damming analysis way back in 2009 and we’re now looking at a career 1.2:1 K to GP ratio and career .322 strikeout rate. Ouch. And, I won’t even get into the lack of production his .224 BA and consistently south of .500 SLG isn’t frightening anyone which is in part why his walk ratio is beyond pedestrian (like what I did there?) As bad as Teix is, or Giambi was they’re not the same kind of liability in the lineup for as long as Howard has been, which despite winning a World Series has dragged the team down on the whole for the better part of a decade.
One might say, Howard being the face of the franchise, for better or worse, is more like Jeter in that regard. Everyone’s known the defeciences but because of the player stature, rightful or not, it’s been prohibitive to do anything about it. Howard shouldn’t be at first any more than Jeter belongs at short. Nor should Howard be at the heart of the order any more than Jeter should be at the top of it. And yet, there they both are lagging and lumbering through their days because there is no other choice for the franchise.
Could Howard benefit from a change of scenery? Absolutely. Best case scenario is he becomes an AL DH and occasionally backs up 1B in a lineup where he can bat like 6th as a long ball threat while not being responsible for the heavy lifting of run driving that come from the 3,4,5 holes. The Phils being an NL team don’t have that luxury with no DH and cannot afford to carry him as a utility bat when competing with the Nats and Braves they way those teams are built right now. It’s a shame because the potential is there had the Phils not so severely overpaid him for so long. Think about it, they trade Howard rumors have gone on so long you’ve forgotten when they began. I remember them at the turn of the decade and not just from panicy Phils fans either, there were plenty in general that felt he should have been allowed to walk rather than being extended.
Can’t say the same for Teix who although there were grumblings a year or so ago when the injuries started to pile up only really turned on in this season’s spectacle. Teix also plays in the AL already and although there is a potential log jam in the current incarnation of the Yankees for DH, if he can stay healthy enough for enough of a season to DH, back up first and perhaps learn some OF he’s not a half bad option as an overpaid utility player who under less stress both in the field and in the batting order might even find some kind of partial renaissance before what will probably be an early retirement. I certainly don’t expect him to put up the kind of numbers he did in his youth at this point but he can probably put up the kind of lumbering slash line Giambi has at this point and if the team is lucky enough to rid itself of Cashman’s ignoring minor league youth Teix might even be a decent veteran bridge on the team to a possible future youth movement
Point being, Teix gave the Yanks what they needed for the first half-plus of his contract. Despite the apparent similarities of the Phils and Yanks both as teams and in particular at 1B the Yanks got more out of their deal with Teix than the Phils did with Howard to this point in time. Furthermore, the Yanks 22MM gamble through the 2016 at age 36 season is less exposed than Howards 25MM sinkhole that runs through 2016 at age 37 season and the Phils still have a 10MM buyout to boot.
To me, I expect the Post to approach the story the way they did, and intuitively you want it to make sense, but I think from a deeper dive it’s a pretty thin case they make, at least in the the 1B v. 1B focused on just this season was portrayed.
OK, off my soapbox for now.