On Tuesday night at Slate NY in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, former Yankees first baseman, Mark Teixeira, sat down for a discussion and Q&A about his career and the current Baby Bombers with Thuzio, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Teixeira, 37, was known as an intense competitor on the field during his 14 year career, which included stops with the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Anaheim Angels and of course, the Bronx Bombers.
But after his playing career, Teixeira joined ESPN as an analyst for Baseball Tonight, and revealed a refreshing and entertaining side of himself. Since he retired in 2016, Teixeira has offered up his opinion on various topics concerning the game.
“As an analyst, you get paid to have no filter. As a player, you have a huge filter,” he told Sherman. “The weight of having that off my chest and being able to just freely talk about the game has been great.”
When Joe Girardi was let go at the end of last season, Teixeira was vocal and honest about Girardi’s managing style.
Teixeira noted on Tuesday that over his tenure in the Bronx, Girardi’s intense and uptight nature didn’t bother the veteran players. But as the front office embraced a youth movement over the past couple seasons, the organization felt like a new voice and vision was needed in order to foster the next generation of Baby Bombers.
“The worst thing you want a young player to do is play tight and to feel like, ‘if I don’t respond today or if I don’t have a good game today, my manager’s head is going to explode and I’m never going to get on the field again,'” Teixeira said. “As much as everyone liked Joe, I think he had a little bit too much of a tight grip on that team [last year]. A veteran team can get through that. But for a young team, I don’t think that’s the best type of manager.”
Sherman pointed out that the criticism of Girardi was accurate, but it didn’t play out on the field in 2017 since the team was one game away from the World Series. Teixeira credited veterans such as Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius as being calming influences within the clubhouse.
“[They could] take a kid like Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez aside and say, ‘hey listen man, don’t worry that Joe’s uptight. We love him, he’s our manager, and even though he might have been tough on you in this situation, we’re a team we’re going to move forward,'” Teixeira said. “When [the other young prospects] get to the big leagues, you want them playing loose. You want them to just have a free, clear mind and let their talents shine through.”
Sherman asked Tex about expectations for this year’s Yankees following a magical postseason ride last year. Tex recalled an instance during his first year in the Bronx in 2009, when Suzyn Waldman pulled him aside and reminded him the regular season means nothing in New York; it’s all about October.
“This year, if the Yankees get bounced in the first round, it’s a complete disaster of a season,” Teixeira said. “That’s unique to New York. If this team does not win a World Series within the next three years, it will be total panic mode in the Bronx.”
Because the expectations are so palpable, Tex said, Boone will help the young players stay focused.
During the Q&A portion of the event, Teixeira was asked if he’d like to see Bryce Harper don pinstripes in 2019, when the Yankees will essentially have a blank checkbook.
While the move would grab headlines, Tex said it wouldn’t necessarily make sense. With the corner outfield spots taken by Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and top-prospect Estevan Florial on the rise, spending money on a big-name outfielder would be foolish.
“There’s a much bigger place for Manny Machado, but you might block Miguel Andujar, who could be a great player,” he said. “If I’m the Yankees, I’d save that money for pitching. I’m not sure Clayton Kershaw would ever come here. To me, pitching wins championships.”
Sherman then delved into Teixeira’s own playing career — one that saw him slash .268/.360/.509 with 409 homers, 1,298 RBI, three All-Star appearances and four Gold Gloves.
Teixeira said that his parents and uncle were major influences on his life.
“I am a big proponent of kids having strong leaders in their life. Mom, dad, teacher, police officer, coaches. My dad was my father obviously, but he was my best teacher and coach growing up,” he said.
As a rookie, Tex’s first manager, Buck Showalter, played an important role. After struggling early on in the season, Showalter approached Tex, put an arm around his shoulder and said, “You’re going to have a long career, kid. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Tex went on to smack 26 homers and drove in 84 RBI as a 23 year old that season.
“I saw Buck and told him after the 2016 season, I said, ‘Buck, I know we’ve talked a bunch since then. I just wanted to tell you again thank you for giving me that kind of confidence and letting me just go out there and play the game.”
Off the field, along with broadcasting, Teixeira has dabbled in acting with an appearance in the Showtime series, Billions. He runs a real estate company in Atlanta, and said he enjoys spending extra time with his wife and three children at home in Greenwich, Conn.
But could Tex return to the Yankees as a coach?
“I don’t know if I’ll even have the desire to, but if the Yankees wanted me to be a bigger part of the organization, I will always listen,” he said, noting that he’d likely wait until his kids graduated school.
Sherman said he believes Tex will make it onto the Hall of Fame ballot, where he should receive some consideration.
Having played in the tail-end of the steroid era, Teixeira, who ranks fifth on the all-time switch-hit home run list, said he’s selfishly compiled a list of PED players and compared his career.
“What do I have to complain about? If I’m complaining about my career, my life, and my standing in baseball, what a jerk,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. I let the selfish part of me make that list, and then I crumple it up and throw it away. If I never make the Hall of Fame, I had a great career. I had an incredible run, and I got to win a championship.”
Although the end of his career was marred with injuries, Teixeira will always hold a place in Yankees history. He was a vital cog in the 2009 championship, and he always conducted himself in a classy, professional way. His defense was especially underrated, and he impacted countless games with his glove.
Since he played with four different organizations over his career, Sherman asked Tex if being a Yankee was extra special for him.
“I played the most years here, I won a championship here, I live here. When you’re in Texas, it’s great. Atlanta, the same thing. But the passion for the Yankees outmans everything.”