New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s articular cartilage tear in his right knee may very well have put an end to his career in the Bronx, raising the question of how to evaluate his eight years.
Heading into the season, everyone knew that 2016 was going to be Mark Teixeira’s last year with the New York Yankees; his last year in pinstripes. Age, the emergence of Greg Bird, and the general fact of wanting to move on made this walk year inevitable.
All fans and the organization wanted was one last healthy and productive year from the switch-hitter to help the lineup, make his mark, and part on good terms. The exact opposite has transpired and his career in New York is coming to a crash landing.
Early Saturday morning, Yankees PR on twitter released a statement that Teixeira had an articular cartilage tear in his right knee, an injury that often requires microfracture surgery. Being that it the final year of his eight-year deal signed prior to 2009, Tex may have played his final game with the Yanks earlier than he would have hoped.
With that being said, the latter end of his contract was marred with injuries and the quality of his Yankee tenure has truly been questioned based on a body that fans say is “made of glass”.
Everyone knows Tex’s standout campaign with the Yanks was back in his inaugural 2009 season. That season included a gold glove, a silver slugger award, an all-star appearance, and being the runner-up in AL MVP voting. He smashed 39 homers and drove in 122 runs, both highs for his Yankee career, and also hit .292.
The batting average is something Teixeira would never come close to touching again.
His 2010 and 2011 seasons were powerful yet marred by the existence of over-shifts. .256 and .248 were his averages as he continued to be pull-happy with the ‘314’ sign in right field at Yankee Stadium.
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In 2012, the injury bug set in. He missed 30 games near the latter end of the season with a left calf strain, only allowing him to hit 24 homers. However, that was no problem as the Yankees entered the postseason and won the ALDS.
2013, on the other hand, was a severe problem. He appeared in a mere 15 games, severely hurting the Yankees chances of making the postseason. Aggravation of his wrist led to a torn ECU sheath that never fully healed, and he did not appear in a ballgame after June 15 due to season-ending surgery.
The 2013 injury led to a questionable 2014 in which he did not look comfortable all year. He played in 123/162 games and was sidelined by a right hamstring injury for a portion of the season. His batting average (.216) displayed he was not close to 100-percent and he was only able to drive in 62 runs.
A gluten-free diet following that down year for Tex nearly solved the puzzle. For four months of 2015, he was right in the midst of AL MVP candidacy as he carried the offense at times. He was named an all-star and would have hit above 40 home runs if it were not for a season-ending blow to his shin. He fouled a ball of the lower half of his leg, putting him out for the season when a ‘bone bruise’ diagnosis turned into ‘fracture’.
Well, isn’t that the story of his last five years in the Bronx? A potential force put aside by the injury bug? Why should this year have been any different?
The injury to his knee came to no surprise, but his production leading up to it did. His 12 RBIs in 48 games, .180 average, and .263 slugging make his sendoff all the more horrific.
Assuming that his injury ends his season, he will have finished his Yankee tenure with 194 home runs, a .250 batting average, and one world series ring.
Teixeira brought major positives, major negatives, and ultimate frustration to the table. His inability to stay on the field given all his witnessed potential sparked sheer disappointment.
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With all that went right and wrong, fans will be left with a bitter taste. However, the real feeling will end up being one of indifference. Plenty will say that “he was productive WHEN healthy”. Some pessimists will describe his Yankee career as a “piece of glass”. The optimists will thank his contributions.
A mix of all of those responses and you have a player in Teixeira that could have done more.
The one factor that never fell off the table was his glove, which made his absence sting at times. Yankee fans were indulged by the numerous errors he saved, the highlight reel plays he made on his own, and the sure-handedness that came with having him out there.
Regardless of the health and production of whoever replaces him this year and so on, outsiders will look on and compare their defensive efforts to those of the guy who was so “on the mark” when manning the right side of the infield.
Whether he appeased fans or not, the Yankees will be hard-pressed to ever find a switch-hitter with the pop of Tex and the glove he possessed. He was relatively taken for granted.
So before jumping to conclusions about what his Yankee career was and wasn’t when 2016 officially concludes, consider it up against what the Yankees could have replaced him with.
2013 and 2014, two injury-marred and unproductive years, were two seasons where the Yankees fell short of postseason qualification. Every year Tex was either completely healthy, productive, or a combination of the two, the team played into October.
Does that sound valuable? Two words: it should.
Ungrateful are fans that will dismiss his positive contributions as if they never happened.
The end of his tenure may be disappointing, frustrating, and bitter, but his overall production can be looked at positively when put in the right perspective.
One factor is all that is separating the common fan from coming to terms with his value: the post-Teixeira era. If Greg Bird ends up being more than Tex ever was, his presence will not be missed. With that being said, it will be painstaking to find a player close to the stature of a man whose value was overlooked, under-appreciated, and frequently disregarded.