Yankees have won the World Series with struggling key playersBy
For many reasons, Mark Teixeira probably didn’t appreciate Tuesday’s break in World Series action. He’s struggled through the first five games, as he has throughout most of the playoffs. Off-days aren’t kind to slumping players. The media, needing to fill column inches, tend to harp on these guys, endlessly pointing out their paltry contributions. Teixeira was no exception.
Not only does Teixeira have to deal with nearly every major media outlet harping on his struggles during an off-day, but he has to deal with the off-day itself. From Jim Baumbach’s “Teixeira is struggling” column, regarding the frequent days off in October:
“I’m not going to make excuses because everyone has to deal with it. But being a switch hitter and being a guy who lives off hot streaks and lives off a rhythm, it doesn’t help.”
Thankfully, most of Teixeira’s 10 postseason hits have been pretty big. His two hits in the ALDS were a single before an Alex Rodriguez game-tying home run, and then a walk-off homer in the same game. He had just one extra base hit in the ALCS, and that was a bases-loaded double that brought the Yankees within one of the Angels after being down 4-0 most of the game. In the World Series he has just two hits, one of them a home run off Pedro Martinez that tied Game 2.
Instead of just lamenting Teixeira’s struggled, I’d like to look at some other key Yankees who struggled through a postseason or World Series in which the Yankees won. Maybe that will put his struggles in perspective.
Bernie has 22 postseason home runs, second all time to Manny Ramirez. We’ve seen some big postseason moments from Bernie over the years, and he contributed a lot to the Yankees four World Series titles of the late 90s. Yet Bernie always seemed to struggle in the World Series. In 141 career Series plate appearances, Williams is just 25 for 120 with three doubles, five home runs, and 20 walks, for a slash line of .208/.319/.358. There have been some pretty atrocious performances in there, but none worse than the 1998 World Series in which he went 1 for 16, his lone hit being a home run.
While he generally hit well across the LDS and LCS rounds, Bernie has turned in a pair of poor postseason performances. The first was 1998, when he went hitless in 11 LDS at-bats and then had that terrible World Series. He did pick it up against Cleveland in the LCS, though, reaching base 15 times in 28 plate appearances, though he had just one extra base hit, a double, in that round. Then in 2000 he did the same thing, going 5 for 20 with no extra base hits in the LDS, smacking around the Mariners in the LCS, and then going back into hiding for the World Series with a 2 for 18 performance.
Bernie will always be revered by Yankees fans for his contributions to the four championships, but there have been times when he’s fallen short. He’s never hit well in the World Series, though his bat was sometimes a big reason why the Yankees got there.
In his first World Series in New York — the team’s first appearance since 1981 — O’Neill couldn’t hit the Braves. He picked up just two over 12 at bats in that series, though both were doubles. He continued that slump into the 1998 World Series, where he went 4 for 19 with a double as his only extra base hit. Then again in 1999 he was 3 for 15 with no extra base hits. It wasn’t until 2000 that O’Neill would hit in the Series, as he also did in 2001.
O’Neill has also struggled through an entire postseason. In 1999 he had just 11 hits in 44 at bats, which is bad enough, but even worse it came without the benefit of extra bases. Just 11 singles was all O’Neill could muster. Yet the Yankees went on to win each of the series on the way to a sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
There’s quite a connection here between Martinez and Teixeira. Martinez struggled in his first Yankees postseason, much like Teixeira is now. He went 4 for 22 with two doubles in the LDS, 4 for 22 with one double in the LCS, and then 1 for 11 with no extra base hits in the World Series. That one hit game in the Yankees 12-1 Game 1 loss, making it hurt that much more. Martinez’s struggles were so pronounced, in fact, that Joe Torre opted to start Cecil Fielder at first base when the team was in Atlanta.
The Yankees survived his 0 for 3 performance in Game 6 of that World Series to defeat the Braves 3-2. That game centered around one inning in which Martinez did not bat, and was controlled by excellent pitching by Greg Maddux and Jimmy Key.
Teixeira’s struggled are frustrating, but they’re not unprecedented. Key Yankees have had bad postseasons, and even more have had poor World Series performances. That didn’t stop the Yankees from winning four titled last decade, and it shouldn’t stop them from winning it this year. It would be nice to see Teixeira contribute to a big Game 6 win, but if he doesn’t he still has a great group of hitters surrounding him. “If we were losing games 2-1 and I was leaving a ton of guys on base, I would have been squeezing the life out of the bat,” he said. “But my teammates have been picking me up just like I picked them up all season. That’s how a team works.”