President John F. Kennedy once said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” While it may be seemingly pretentious to open with a JFK quote, I find it incredibly pertinent to the situation the New York Yankees are currently dealing with.
After an abysmal start, the Yankees have righted the ship, to a certain degree, and put themselves back into a situation where, at the very least, a Wild card berth is still a possibility (a lot more of a possibility than when the team was 9-17). And yet, they’re still facing some of the same problems that they were facing during that terrible stretch in April. The most daunting problem facing the Yankees? Probably the old man shuffle they’re currently employing at the DH position.
When Alex Rodriguez is in the lineup, Carlos Beltran makes his way out to right field, where he can’t field as well as he used to and he stops hitting. A-Rod also stops hitting, Girardi becomes both flustered and frustrated, dishes out some wicked sarcasm on the New York media, fans get frustrated, and then we all do the same thing the next day.
Is it logical to suggest that the simple task of standing in right field is so taxing on Beltran that he stops hitting? No, it is not logical, but remember he’s also 39. At that age, any number of things can start affecting his bat speed, stamina, timing, etc.
Some obvious questions arise from this cluster: firstly, why are we putting a player who can’t hit in the designated hitter spot? Secondly, why are we doing that when we have another player who can’t field very well, but crushes it when he’s in the DH spot?
A-Rod is currently hitting a paltry .184 with a .421 slugging percentage and five homers. Beltran is hitting .262 with a slugging percentage of .512 with 10 homers. Additionally, the Yankees are 8-17 with Rodriguez in the lineup, and (a surprising) 14-7 when he is not in the lineup. If you break those stats down even further, When Beltran went to bat in the DH spot, something that happens when A-Rod isn’t in the lineup; he hit .322 with a 1.123 OPS in a sample size that is a lot closer to A-Rod’s current amount of at bats.
Numbers don’t lie. Surely Beltran’s time in right field isn’t the only thing affecting his numbers. But it seems clear that Beltran should be hitting in the DH spot. And that’s why this situation seems to be indicative of a larger problem. With such an incredible focus on the present and current contracts, and who’s making how much, it’s affecting the not-so-distant future. To keep this up, and to keep trying to make pieces fit where they don’t, the Yankees are putting themselves in a prime position to miss the playoffs.
Which brings me to my favorite fall back: recognizing that “change is the law of life….” The Yankees should be looking towards the future, seeing what they really have in their prospects, and giving more time to players like Refsnyder, Romine, and Ackley who have gotten limited at bats so far this season. This would mean the Yankees would need to consider selling before the trade deadline.
Sources have mentioned Carlos Beltran as a potential piece to move if things continue to go south, but that makes little sense in a system that’s crowded with old people vying for DH time. Carlos Beltran is definitely the better option over a hapless Alex Rodriguez who’s desperately trying to hang on to every second of baseball he has left.
Brian McCann was another suggested trade piece, and this option makes about as much sense as Beltran. However, with the Yankees ambiguous approach to the future this is another highly unlikely move. That’s because it would require putting Romine behind the plate full-time and calling up Sanchez (who is currently on the DL), to serve as the backup catcher.
Andrew Miller, one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last few seasons, remains an option as well. However, when it’s this early, it’s not practical to talk about who may get traded. There’s a lot of baseball to play between now and the August 1 trade deadline. But in the meantime, the Yankees need to start thinking about the future, and recognizing the power of change.