By Sweeny Murti
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Evan Roberts is wrong and here’s why.
And let me start by saying that lead is better than what Evan suggested to me in a text, which was “Evan Roberts is an idiot and here’s why.”
I told Evan I would never call him names, and proceeded to give him credit for giving me an idea for this column.
Anyway, here’s why Evan’s an idi…I mean, here’s why Evan is wrong.
While driving Tuesday and listening to Joe and Evan, as I often do, I heard them discussing the number of plate appearances Greg Bird would get for the Yankees in 2016. Evan said it would easily be over 500 because of all the playing time he will get as Joe Girardi rests Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, not to mention the fact that both will get hurt.
When I pulled over (state troopers, please take notice) I texted Evan “Under 500 PA. Easy.”
Evan responded with “I’ll take the bet.”
“Done,” I replied.
Seconds later Evan shoots back with, “Since you say easy we should negotiate down to 450!”
It took exactly three seconds for Evan to realize he was wrong. But the bet is 500, with a side wager that Bird will get more plate appearances in the minors than he will the majors in 2016.
This has little to do with my opinion of Bird and his ability. And that by the way is very favorable. Plate discipline, power, attitude, determination. As the GM likes to say, he checks a lot of boxes. But there are many other reasons why Evan is wrong. Let’s count the ways, shall we?
First of all, Ev, I assume you have seen and heard Brian Cashman state early and often since the end of last season that he expects Bird to start the year at Triple-A. Cashman has stated many times that Bird does not project as a guy who will play multiple positions. And given the way the Yankees have constructed what looks to be their bench they don’t seem to have room for a left-handed hitting, first base-only option.
Second of all, bro — that is a name you answer to from someone other than Joe B, I take it — while the Teixiera injury factor is certainly something to consider, let’s take a closer look at that.
Teixeira hit 31 home runs last year before his season-ending foul ball/broken bone disaster and he finished with 462 plate appearances in 111 games. For realistic purposes we have to throw out the 2013 season (when he played only 15 games because of the wrist injury) and note that both of those totals are the lowest of his career, other than 2013.
Teixeira was remarkably healthy all season until the freak injury, which is a different kind of injury than a nagging or recurring type that gives you a strong feeling the playing time will be an issue. That was the case heading into last season and Teixeira finally showed his wrist was healthy again.
I don’t expect Teixeira to play 160, 150, or even 140 games next season. He will get some regular days off for sure, but not as many as you think. I will concede that at age 36 there is a smaller number that is more appropriate. But even if that is in the 110-120 range, it means getting between 400-500 plate appearances for Teixeira. How many does that leave for Bird?
Could you DH one and play the other at 1B? Sure, I suppose. But it doesn’t make sense to DH Teixeira while Bird plays first because Teixeira is the superior defender, and Bird showed his inexperience there at times last season. He would stand a better chance to improve his defensive skills by playing there every day at Triple-A. So, why not play Teixeira at first and have Bird DH? Well, I seem to remember the Yankees already have one of those.
And you aren’t wrong in pointing out, Evan, that Bird can also take over for A-Rod when he inevitably gets hurt. That really didn’t happen last year, though — he amassed 620 plate appearances and made 135 starts at DH — and in 2016 A-Rod will once again be strictly a DH.
I’ll be the first to admit I was shocked — SHOCKED — that there wasn’t a pulled muscle of some kind that shelved A-Rod for several weeks. And I still think the same will be possible in 2016. Even Cashman said the other night on YES he has no idea what to expect from A-Rod, similar to last year. It’s another roll of the dice for a player who will turn 41 in July, and whose numbers fell off a cliff from the day he turned 40 right through the crucial last two months of last season.
Teixeira and A-Rod will both get some days off, but especially in Teixeira’s case not as many as you might think. Remember that unlike Bird and A-Rod, Teixeira is a switch-hitter and his bat stays in the lineup more because of it.
The DH does provide an opportunity to move some things around. But it’s my belief that Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will be more likely to sub for A-Rod in that spot than anyone else.
Listen, I’m a big fan of Bird. I mean, of course, Bird is the word. I think his future is bright and I think his time is coming soon since Teixeira is signed for only one more season, and no matter what kind of numbers Teixeira puts up in 2016, I don’t see the Yankees bringing him back after this year. Will Bird be the opening day first baseman in 2017? I wouldn’t bet against that.
But when the GM says every day that he plans on starting Bird in the minors and then essentially backs that up by building a bench designed for flexibility, I don’t see where Bird gets his major league plate appearances without some catastrophic injury to Teixeira. Could that happen? Sure it could, but you are banking on it by throwing up 500 major league plate appearances for Bird in 2016. I can’t bank on catastrophe, so I’m taking the under. Way under.
Great show guys, I’ll hang up and listen.
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN