Sunday, March 12, 2017

Four more years of Ellsbury, and at least one should be a bounce-back, right?

The prophet Tino Martinez once described playing for the Yankees as to read your obit every week. To maintain sanity, a Yankee must practically live like an O.J. juror, holed-up in a Motel 6 with guards slicing up the newspaper. Even then, there's no way to avoid the hurricane of bile that comes with playing for the Yankees. Thus, every soul who comes to Gotham needs a summer - if not more - to adjust.

(By the way, that's one of the reasons why this feral, wild-haired kid, Clint Frazier, seems so appealing: His dynamic personality - almost a young Joe Namath - seems made for NYC. Frazier could be Nick Swisher-times-10 - IF he hits. If he doesn't, mama mia... God help the guy.)

But let's talk about the washed-up celebrity in the center square: 33-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury. For the first time since arriving, Ellsbury is starring in the role of Yankee Team Pariah. This is because A-Rod is gone, and the Yankiverse always needs a rented mule to whip. Ellsbury - who has hit a crappy .264 with the Yankees, 33 points below his career in Boston - has already reached Def-Com A-Rod status in talk radio.

Moreover, this is Ellsbury's fulcrum year. From now on, his days in NY are getting shorter. A wave of young outfielders is coming, rousing fan hopes. While there is loyalty to homegrown Brett Gardner, Ellsbury still looks like a Boston double-agent - a undercover Youkilis who comes to sabotage the team. In the previous millennium, the Boggses and Clemenses came to win rings. But since 2004, when the teams switched roles, whenever we sign a Redsock, he turns out to be Stephen Drew. 

So Ellsbury is a marked man, a la Chuck Connors - (Obscure reference sing-along: "Branded, scorned as the one who ran; what do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a man!")  In fact, it's hard to imagine the Ell-Train lasting the four remaining years on his contract in any meaningful role. There's already talk that Aaron Hicks is a better CF. Today, the whispers say Ellsbury might bat ninth against lefties. Can you imagine the boos if he gets off to a slow start?

All of which leads me to expect a bounce-back. There's no way Ellsbury will ever be worth the $21 million we're paying him. (Remember: Hal signed him to mute the impending yowls for letting Robbie Cano jog to Seattle.) But unless he gets injured - always a possibility - I think Ellsbury is as good a bet as we have. He won't hit 32 HRs, as he did once in Boston, but I gotta believe he's good for .290 - well above the .260s he hit the last two years.  

If not, he better get used to his obit. Because he won't be reading it once a week. He'll see it every day. 

3 comments:

Tom said...

PO-LO! PO-LO!

Alphonso said...

This optimism is making me ill.

John M said...

I agree, Alphonso. We all know Jacoby will continue to hit .265 with little power and few stolen bases. Maybe he's had it. Maybe he's got a secret injury nobody knows about. Maybe he's on the Russian payroll, like some others in our fair land. But a bounce-back year? In the stock market, they have this thing called a "dead cat bounce." Maybe that's what we get, but it won't salvage the year for him.