‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns
The New York Yankees need someone to inject energy and enthusiasm into their lineup. Allow me to put forward Chris Dickerson as that man. Corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner have done little to warrant the playing time they’re receiving. The Andruw Jones experiment has been a disaster and the Yankees are best off waiving him or eating the remainder of $2M contract.
As a 29-year old who hasn’t played over 97 games in a single season, Dickerson isn’t by any means a long-term solution. Until Brian Cashman decides to pursue another outfielder via trade, Dickerson is deserving of a decent run of games to show the Yankees’ organization what he is capable of. Why not give him that chance now and see what kind of effect it has on both the player and ballclub as whole?
Dickerson collected a hit Thursday night but it was his first at bat since May 25th. When given his opportunities, he actually looked like a competent hitter. It may be a small sample size but he’s batted .357 through 14 at bats and was part of the Yankees’ eight-run rally on May 22nd against the Mets. Dickerson drove in a two-RBI single during the seventh inning offensive explosion en route to a 9-3 victory. Even in some of his lesser cameos, Dickerson has provided a spark whether with his speed as a pinch-runner or by making an important catch as defensive replacement.
For those who don’t know his story, Dickerson has always been blocked from getting a legitimate opportunity. Through injury, he had the misfortune of losing playing time during his time with the Reds. Overall, he put up respectable numbers in Cincinnati. Dickerson collected 15 RBI through 31 games in a 2008 debut season where he batted .308 in 102 at bats. A year later, he was able to take part in 97 games and compiled a .275 average while stealing 11 bases while only getting thrown out 3 times.
Dickerson possesses solid all-around tools. Those who have followed him closely can attest that there isn’t much of a weakness in his game and injuries have been the only deterrent to what should have been a flourishing major league career. At 6’3” 230, Dickerson is deceptively-quick on the base paths and covers plenty of ground in the outfield. He’s made a number of great catches and can play all three outfield positions. His best tool in his laser arm that scouts raved about throughout his minor league career.
Swisher or Gardner have both regressed greatly this season. After an All-Star 2010 season, Swisher looks like he’s lost his confidence and may be pressing knowing that Cashman can elect to buyout his 2012 option for $1M. Gardner is even more worrying as his on-base percentage has dropped 44 points from 2010 and is batting .254. He becomes a much less valuable player if he gets on base less frequently and strangely, Gardner has been caught stealing 7 times this season compared to a total of 9 times in 2010.
Gardner committed a very costly base-running mistake in the 6th inning of Wednesday’s 11-6 loss to the Red Sox by making a mental error by not taking home on a wild pitch. As Derek Jeter desperately waved him toward home plate, Gardner stood at third base shell-shocked in a world of his own. Girardi pointed out post-game how critical of the mistake was. “It’s not a good read. It changes the complexion of the game a lot. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but he didn’t read it and it ended up hurting us,” he told reporters.
Blunders like these are especially stinging when Gardner is playing unproductive ball and it’s becoming ever more likely that both he and Swisher will be wearing uniforms that aren’t bearing the interlocking ‘NY” in 2012. Both deserve a reminder that their places in the Yankees’ lineup aren’t guaranteed and that’s precisely why Girardi should allot Dickerson a significant portion of their playing time.
I’m not saying that Dickerson is the answer to all the plagues the Yankees but he certainly couldn’t do worse than any of the three corner outfielders above him on the depth chart. It’s clear that Cashman desires a proven outfield bat that can play either of the corners but that could be weeks away. For the moment, Dickerson might as well be given his opportunity in pinstripes.
Could Dickerson be a short-term remedy for the Yankees and how much patience do you have in Gardner and Swisher? Leave your feedback below or send Sean a tweet @HartyLFC.