By Sweeny Murti
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The Yankees have as deep a bench as they have had since the championship teams of the late ‘90’s. In the wake of Brett Gardner’s injury, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have filled in well and Eric Chavez has gotten more at-bats. Three guys who have more than 900 major league home runs between them and they are sharing playing time, while DeWayne Wise and Jayson Nix have made key contributions as well.
Joe Girardi thinks there are similarities to the teams that he won rings with as a player:
“Pretty similar. Productive guys…whether it was Straw or Tim Raines…Cecil Fielder, Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledee…we had guys that could hit the ball out of the ballpark, could play every day other places, but chose to come to New York because they wanted a chance to win, and it worked out pretty well for us.”
Chili Davis was another key member of those Yankee teams, and he is currently the Hitting Coach of the Oakland A’s. His thoughts:
“I think they’ve got a better bench this year than we had…Andruw Jones is a proven big league stud…I’ve always liked Chavez…that team is solid. They come into town, you know you’ve got to play nine innings…the difference between this team and the 1998 team is that we won the World Series. This team has yet to win the World Series.”
Did anyone ever complain about diminished roles or playing time on the ’98 and ’99 Yankees?
“No one,” Davis said. “What I remember about that team was there was a lot of joking around, a lot of chattering…once we stepped between the white lines we knew what we had to do.”
*Reggie Jackson decided to keep both feet on the ground this week instead of sticking either of them further into his mouth.
With reporters waiting to get reaction from Jackson on his first official visit with the team since dissing A-Rod and a handful of Hall-of-Famers in Sports Illustrated, Jackson actually walked away from reporters, saying only “I’m here like you, to watch the game, to watch them keep winning.”
So is Reggie back in good graces? Maybe not with everyone. Jackson stood behind the batting cage during batting practice Thursday and A-Rod didn’t say one word to him the entire time.
Still, it’s probably better than the treatment he would have gotten this weekend in Cooperstown.
I have seen Ruth, Aaron, Cobb, Gehrig, and Maris records all fall in my lifetime. But I don’t think anyone will ever come close to Joe D’s 56. Not. Even. Close.
*If the Yankees make a trade before July 31st, I can’t think they will part with any of the top four names that teams ask about — Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Manny Banuelos, and Jose Campos.
Banuelos and Campos have both been sidelined most of this season due to injury, but their ceilings remain high. Williams and Sanchez have both moved up to High-A Tampa, and while Williams struggled at the start, he has gotten hot recently.
Some other prospects who you might be hearing about soon—P Jose Ramirez, OF Ramon Flores. Ramirez has been clocked at 96-97 mph with a major league changeup and power slider. Flores is considered a very good outfielder with a smooth stroke and developing power.
*Heard Braves President John Schuerholz on the radio out here in the Bay Area, asked what the difference was between the Melky Cabrera that is an All-Star and the one Atlanta had two years ago. His answer: “About 25 pounds.”
Cabrera got himself in shape and now is probably better than even the Yankees imagined he could be. He will make a lot of money soon.
*Ever wonder why Mike Trout wasn’t the first overall pick in the draft instead of 25th? There might still be a bias against high school kids from the Northeast. The last high school player chosen first overall from this part of the country was Shawn Abner by the Mets in 1984. Picked from my neck of the woods (Mechanicsburg, PA), Abner was a bust who played sparingly in parts of six major league seasons.
Yes, there are good players from this part of the country. They just become riskier picks for some teams compared to the baseball hotbeds like Florida and California. And when millions of dollars are on the line and jobs are at stake, sometimes the safer picks win out.