I recognize that in this cool new millennium the coolest fans talk about WARs and BABIPs and ISOs - (yep, the ol' Isolated Power index, which compares something with something, to coagulate, um, goddammot! Don't ask questions, just get with the program, goddammot!) - so it's rather embarrassing to ponder something as dorky as hits-per-at-bats. Nevertheless, when the Cashman Administration pulled the plug on A-Rod last summer, the most cited reason was not his negative 1.2 WAR - (down slightly from A-Rod's career WAR of postive 117.7) - but that he was batting a measly .200.
Yep, .200 - which is said to be the exact point of the famed Mendoza Line, even though Mario Mendoza, the Mexican League Hall of Famer for whom the line is named, finished with a career average of .215. (He was a glove man.)
I note this because, beyond all of last year's sickly offensive stats, it was batting average that roused the most pathetic Yankee numbers. Our leading everyday hitter - Didi Gregorius - batted .276. Unless it hits 300 home runs, no such lineup plays far into October.
For example, consider Boston's batting averages last year for the front nine: .310, .286, .318, .294, .242, .255, .267, .318, .315. Four players hit above .300. Nobody hit below .242. The team has since added Chris Sale and is debuting its most heralded rookie since Fred Lynn, and we're supposed to be a starting pitcher away from striking distance? Whoa. That's some serious sour diesel we're smoking.
But here's the question: Who on the 2017 Yankees could hit .300? And in lieu of such a creature, are we not bullshitting ourselves in thinking this team is anything but a plank in a long-term rebuilding plan?
Let's go down the lineup.
Brett Gardner: Last year, he hit .261. The highest he's ever hit in a full season - 2010 - was .277. He is 33 years old. Three hundred? Nah.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Hit .263 last year. Since 2011, when he hit .321, he has progressively worsened. A lifetime .286, but clearly on the downslide. He's 33 and his stolen bases are now down to 20. Still... a rebound year? Maybe. Three hundred? Doubtful.
Gary Sanchez: Hit .299 last year in 201 Yankee at bats. But his BA was plummeting at the end. Before they called him up, he'd hit .282 at Scranton. He's a power hitter, not to be judged by BA. Three hundred? Nope.
Greg Bird: Hit .261 in 2015 cup of coffee with Yankees. Missed all of last year, but has had a nice spring. Before they brought him up to NY, he'd hit .301 at Scranton over 34 games. Over his minor league career, he hit .282. Three hundred? Uh-uh.
Chris Carter: Be serious. Two hundred? Maybe.
Matt Holliday: Hit .246 last year, worst of his career. He's a lifetime .303 hitter, based on numbers he put up in his twenties while with gangbusters Colorado. His last .300 season was 2013. He's 37. Three hundred. Too much to ask.
Chase Headley: Hit .253 last year after a disastrous start. He's 32 and has never hit above .300 in his MLB life. Never will.
Starlin Castro: Finished at .270 last year. Twice with Chicago - at ages 20 and 21 - he hit over .300. There is talk that he is odd man out with the Yankees, that the talent wave known as Gleyber Torres (a career .282 hitter in the minors) will bounce him from the lineup. Without a good season, Castro is an endangered species. Also, he doesn't walk enough, so his BA needs to soar. Three hundred? Possibly.
The Aarons, Hicks and Judge: In the minors, Aaron Judge is a career .270 hitter. He does not look like a hitter for average in MLB. In his fourth year of the majors, Hicks is a career .229. Still, there was an uptick in August, before Hicks tweaked a gonad. If you believe in Santa, you can believe Aaron Hicks could hit .300. Just don't travel to Skull Island.
Didi Gregorius: Our hitting leader last year - DH of the vaunted Netherlands team - ladies and gentlemen, here is our best bet. Last year, he emerged as the best player on the Yankees, and if he takes another step toward self-improvement, he's only 24 points from the magic number. He's 27. He's near peak foliage. Three hundred? Maybe.
But, seriously, folks, for this team to win anything, somebody has to hit .300. It's not as if we are the 1994 Braves, with Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. So whenever you get feeling hopeful, maybe some spring training victory pools the waters of optimism, let the numbers bring you back. I'm not trying to being cruel. Over a long season, anything can happen. Let's just not get carried away, okay?