Melky Cabrera has a special place in the hearts of Yankees’ fans. We watched him (and his .322 OBP) jump from Double-A all the way to bigs as a 20 year old in 2005, then watched in horror as he looked overmatched at the plate and misplayed routine flyballs into inside-the-park homers in Fenway Park. He returned the following season because of injuries, and has since established himself as a passable everyday centerfielder. He’s one of our own; he’s paid his dues and earned a job.
This season though has been a tale of two Melky’s. His Opening Day homer gave us all hope that he was in line for the breakout season that many predicted was coming, and as recently as May 4th it looked like the breakout was legit. After hitting .291-.359-.505 with a team leading six longballs through his first 31 games, Melky has become an offensive blackhole. The numbers aren’t pretty: .257-.293-.284 with a whopping three extra base hits (all doubles) in his last 30 games. A few days ago he misplayed a potential double play ball, and if nothing else a routine line drive hit right at him, into a bunch of unearned runs. Today he weakly grounded out to first to kill the Yankees’ 9th inning rally against Royals’ closer Joakim Soria, sliding into the bag after being told for two full seasons now not to slide into first.
Enter Brett Gardner. The Yanks’ third round pick in 2005 has spend the first two-and-a-half years of his professional career terrorizing the opposition, whether it be by working counts (.387 career OBP), spraying hits to all fields (.290 BA), or running wild on the basepaths (141 SB). He’s added another much needed element to this game this year: power. Through 60 games he’s already tripled his homer total of the previous two season combined, and is slugging at a .454 clip, almost 80 points better than his career output coming into the year.
Having seen time in both left and centerfield this year, as well as a handful of pinch hit & run opportunities, Gardner is poised to take over as an extra outfielder in the big leagues this year. He’s every bit as capable as Melky when it comes to running down balls in the outfield, and while his arm isn’t as strong, his speed and on-base skills make him a much deadlier offensive player. It is worth nothing that Gardner is just about a full year older than Melky.
While it’s hard to believe that Gardner couldn’t be a viable extra outfielder right now, we’re not here to discuss a bench job. Is it time to take Melky Cabrera and his limp noodle bat out of the lineup and replace it with Gardner’s speed demon game on a full-time basis? Could he perform any worse?
Discuss it here, and play nice.