Chase Headley was all but run out of town at the beginning of 2016.
The switch-hitting third baseman started last season so poorly that many fans were calling for his head, no matter the cost. Headley started the season slashing .163/.253/.163 with no extra base hits and two RBI in the team’s first 25 games.
The Yankees stuck with him, however, and Headley picked himself up and dusted himself off to finish the year with respectable numbers. From May 15 through the end of the season, Headley hit .266/.341/.418 with 12 homers and 44 RBI. GM Brian Cashman was impressed with the way Headley carried himself and fought through his struggles.
“From fans to media, it’s tough to pull yourself out of that,” Cashman said at Yankee Stadium Thursday on the final day of the team’s inaugural Winter Warmup event. “That shows some toughness that most people don’t have.”
Because Headley survived the intense glare of the New York media and fanbase during perhaps the worst stretch of his career last year, Cashman believes his third baseman is in a position to have a better season in 2017.
“I’m looking forward to a bigger year with him this year because I think he’s even better for that type of experience; knowing that ‘hey, when I was in a downward spiral I didn’t lay down, I didn’t give up, I didn’t crawl in the fetal position. I actually battled through it’ and came out with a year that we’d definitely be proud of based on how he started.”
Headley was asked how can he get off to a better start this year. “That’s a great question! Try to get a couple hits in April would be pretty great,” he said with a laugh. The 32-year-old said that once a mechanical flaw from the left side of the plate was fixed last year, he started to swing the bat better. Once he gained confidence, results were easier to come by. “Hopefully I’ll be mechanically better, and I think honestly that will hopefully lead to better results in April,” he said.
With the Yankees headed towards a youth movement, there’s been plenty of trade speculation regarding Headley. Cashman said he wasn’t impressed with the trade proposals from other organizations and the fact that there’s no real third baseman waiting in the wings to take over. “I expect [Headley] to be here as we start our season and he’d be manning third base,” Cashman said.
For Headley, worrying about trade rumors is useless. “Me worrying about that or paying attention to that is going to change one thing one way or the other,” he said. “Trying to prepare myself and, obviously, I want to be in New York — that’s why I signed and wanted to be here — that’s the way I approach the season.”
The Yankees hope last season’s early failures can translate into prolonged success for 2017.