For the last four days, the Yankee lineup has been Melky Cabrera-free. The benching of Melky was a move a long time in the making and well overdue. But later tonight, in the O.C., the center fielder, three days shy of his 24th birthday, will resume his duties in the starting lineup, and I have to wonder to what end?
First, a history lesson: Since May 6, Melky Cabrera is hitting .225/.275/.281 over his last 309 plate appearances. As Mike pointed out a few days, those totals rank him as one of — if not, the — worst every-day player in the Majors.
Now, we’ve been fairly critical of Melky over the last two years. We want him to succeed, but right now, he just isn’t getting the job done. With three years of Big League experience under his belt, Melky should be showing improvement. Instead, his numbers are getting worse each year. That .260 batting average with a low-.300s OBP and little power since the start of 2007 is about what you can expect from Melky right now, and that just doesn’t cut it on the Yankees.
When the team benched Melky earlier this week, they did so under the guise of giving him a rest. Melky Cabrera, the man who has played, on average, 150 games per season in his pro career, needed a break. The Yanks intended to give Melky just two days off, but Joe Girardi decided to add on an extra pair of days to that non-benching benching.
But here is where things get a bit ugly. According to that Ed Price notebook, Joe Girardi still views Melky as his everyday center fielder. “I think Melky’s a better offensive player than he’s displayed. And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us, I really do,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that he gets on base, and that’s what we need him to do more of.”
Now, I know and you know that Joe Girardi isn’t going to come out and say that they’re benching Melky for good. We know he isn’t going to throw Melky under the bus. That would completely negate whatever residual trade value Cabrera has. But I’m beginning to fear that Girardi isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.
Everyone loves Melky Cabrera’s supposed enthusiasm and love for the game. They love his energy, his center field prowess and his cannon arm. But it’s laughable to think that his presence in the starting lineup helps the team. For Girardi to say that “we need him to do more of” getting on base ignores reality. Melky, for the better part of four months, has gotten on base at a .275 clip. For the last two seasons, he has an OBP of .315. That’s not a sample size issue; that’s a full-blown trend.
What you see if what you get. If the Yanks choose to see boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm, they should know that those traits won’t win games. If they see Melky as a fourth outfielder capable of giving Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or Bobby Abreu a night off but don’t want to damage a young player’s psyche or trade value, then so be it. But as Melky returns to the starting lineup tonight, I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.