The Complete Team

Yankees have been scouting Rich Harden
Game 124: Saturday Night
Team Necessities. (Photo copyright Amanda Rykoff, on flckr)

Over the course of the season, we’ve seen that this Yankees team really has strong components, even if they don’t all work at the same time. They pitch pretty damn well, they hit just fine, they’re pretty strong defensively, and they have an amazing bullpen. And while the stats may back this up, what’s more important is that the Yankees have players that embody the concepts that make a team great. You can have a great FIP or wOBA, but who cares if your team isn’t filled with true ballplayers? Let’s break down the team and make sure that, along with the best run differential, the third best bullpen ERA, and the sixth best ERA as a team, the Yankees know how to play baseball.

A Team Leader

One of the most important parts of a team is having a leader that can accurately explain what your team is going through at any given time, push their own problems and accomplishments by the wayside, and really encompass what a team is all about. Luckily, the Yankees have been gifted in this area of team chemistry for a long time with Derek Jeter at the helm. Three thousand hits? Winning is more important. Horrible, ground ball-induced slump? Small stance changes. Red-hot streak? Trying to help the team. Even before his anointment as captain in 2003, Jeter has always lead the team. The other important thing is that Jeter bats leadoff. The only places a true leader can bat are leadoff and cleanup, which helps noble fans distinguish who is a real leader and who is faking it. You don’t want to be mislead by fake leaders such as Jason Varitek (bats 8th) or Chipper Jones (bats sixth). But Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia….those players can really carry a team to victory.

A Professional Hitter

Sure, some hitters can get on base, hit homers, see a lot of pitches or take walks. Sure, some hitters can spray hits everywhere or beat out infield singles. While these are moderately important traits for a hitter, the most important tool is the professional at-bat. You want a guy who goes up there, spits on his hands, kicks the dirt, and really gets into a batting stance. In that case, there’s only one player that really qualifies: Andruw Jones. You can tell, from his massive biceps to his amused smile, that he knows how to hit. He goes up there with his doctorate degree in “sitting dead-red,” and he swings the bat. And he really swings the bat! He is never cheated out of hits, which is one of the most important parts of being a professional hitter. Also, only a man who truly knew how to swing the bat could do this. I don’t see Brett Gardner putting homers in the third deck, all right?

A Proven Veteran

Six hundred plate appearances is a lot. That’s a lot of time to practice something you have to be good at. Multiply that by ten or fifteen years, and you’re talking about thousands and thousands of plate appearances. While some people might just have a knack for baseball the minute they hit the bigs, the more important thing is having a player who’s had more plate appearances than you can even count. You don’t even have to hit in most of them. The experience is all that counts, and the Yankees have plenty of experience. The most experienced member of the Yankees? Jorge Posada.

I’m not talking about this in number of actual plate appearances, even if he has the most (I’m not checking because this article isn’t about numbers), but in the way Posada has had almost an unfair amount of experience at the plate. Blowouts both ways, playoffs galore, every possible situation leverage-wise that you could think of – the man’s done it all in style. He’s the kind of guy who can share his knowledge on how to get hits in the clutch with the young core of the team. It’s insane to think he might be cut or left off the playoff roster. A resume like Posada’s is a necessity.

Getting dirty. Just the way he likes it. (Photo copyright Amanda Rykoff, on flickr)

A Gritty Grinder

You know what’s coming with this one, right? In every baseball game, there are times where nothing is more important than hustle and grit. A player with a lot of grit can make close plays, dive headfirst into first base, and isn’t afraid to get their uniform dirty with a steal. A grinder goes out there and plays every day, every inning, every at-bat as hard as they can, with an almost indescribable amount of ferocity.

It’s true that no player on the Yankees can match up to the absolute grittiness of Dustin Pedroia. There is no one better than him at playing every inning as hard as he can. Even those jumps before each play – what does that say about him? He’s ready. He’s ready for the line drive that jumps up on him, the diving catch and the dramatic double-play. There is no one in the history of baseball more ready than Pedroia.

That being said, the Yankees will have to settle for a fairly gritty man themselves: Brett Gardner. Even though his outfield station takes away from some of his grittiness, the way he plays practically makes it all back. Gardner makes every play interesting, from his on-the-run catches to his crazy dives. His real hustle, however, comes from the basepaths. THere is something to be said for the way he busts his ass to first base. There is even more to be said about his constant first base sliding. Why, only a person who really knew how to play the game would dive into first base. Additional speed? Momentum? Pfft! These are all things Gardner knows are less important than his incredible grittiness. His dirty uniform says it all: I move. I move fast. I play every inning as hard as I can. I am truly gritty.

I’m glad to see that this team has just as much (if not more) heart and soul than it has power numbers. From Posada’s sagedom to Jones’ at bats and Gardner’s hustle, there’s nothing we have to worry about in terms of the product on the field. Sure you could talk about the numbers – Granderson’s home runs, Cano’s batting average- but anyone could do that stuff. What’s valuable is our team plays the game the right way – and they certainly do.

Yankees have been scouting Rich Harden
Game 124: Saturday Night
  • Squishy Jello Person

    Left unsaid:

    Clubhouse Cancer: A-Rod
    Elite RBI guy: Mark Teixeira
    Knows how to put the ball in play: Francisco Cervelli

    Etc etc

    • JoeMoes

      A-Rod isn’t the club house cancer he once was. Him and jeter reconciled. And the young Latin american players he takaes under his wing.

      Mark Tex- good RBI guy. Granderson better.

      Cervelli sucks he’s not good at anything.

      • Squishy Jello Person

        Way to miss the point

        • Skye

          To be fair, I think you kind of obscured what was a good joke (A-Rod as Clubhouse Cancer) with two other examples that aren’t really baseball stereotypes (e.g.,”Elite RBI Guy”).

          • Squishy Jello Person

            Elite RBI maybe but “knows how to put the ball in play”? C’mon. =)

    • nsalem

      The A-Rod clubhouse cancer crap is a malicious meme made up by malcontent mainstream media monkeys. Besides his obvious greatness A-Rod comes to the park prepared, his game is played on a very intelligent level and he always hustles. I find it sad to read this kind of comment (even if itt may be in jest) especially when it comes from Yankee fans. Watching him as a Yankee for the past 8
      years has been a privilege and I would imagine a majority of his teammates feel the same way.

      • Jerome S.

        A-Rod is my favorite player. For a lot of people it’s Jeter, or Pettitte, or something along those lines which is very nice and all but A-Rod kind of has this evil reputation and it’s awesome.

      • Squishy Jello Person

        Once again, way to miss the joke.

      • nsalem

        Oh I go the joke. I just saw it was lame one.

  • YankeesJunkie

    I loved this article and I am sure that TBS will be picking it up to put before the playoffs as a Yankee preview!

  • Guns of the Navarone

    Haha, awesome stuff! This would be a great article in response to this:

    Notice how many commenters bitch and moan about the advanced stats. Who wants to hear about wOBA!?!? OPS?? Give me grit and leadership.

    Poor Bexy… that’ll learn her to write for ESPN.

  • Jesse

    Ha, a gritty grinder. The Yankees have none of those! But, the Red Sox are full of them! Look at Dustin Pedroia, he’s so gritty.


    • Dropped third superstar

      Yea lets spend 30 minutes whatching pedroia jump up and down on second base… Isnt he just the greatest ever??? I bet those jack ass commentators masterbate to his picture while wearing boston jerseys.

  • Mike

    Nice article, Hannah. Though I disagree with your statement that “There is no one in the history of baseball more ready than Pedroia.” I’m not sure what you meant by “ready,” but I’m sure some of these men (Mays, Cobb, Banks, Gibson, O’Neill, et al) would beg to differ.

    • Ivan

      Guys like Mays, Banks and Gibsin are automatically disqualified from the gritty category. Come on man, you know black guys arent gritty. You cannot be black and gritty point blank.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Let’s dfa Kim Jones and bring Hannah on board. We get younger, faster, grittier, more “saber”-toothed.

    I like it!

  • Cuso

    A lot of effort was put into this article. It was a nice read.

    But to be fair, a team could have a ‘Team Leader,’ ‘A Professional Hitter,’ ‘A Gritty Grinder,’ and ‘A Proven Veteran’ but still not be a “great team.”

    It’s possible that they can’t pitch a lick.

    And while the 2011 Yankees are having a terrific regular season, what happens if they get swept in the ALDS?

    They would still have all the same players aforementioned, but noone would dare refer to it as ‘a great team.’

    Like I said, a fun read. But a rather faulty equation in determining ‘greatness.’

  • Steve S.

    Once again, Hannah rocks.

  • Neil

    The reason Pedroia jumps is so he can be seen on camera!

  • Hamburger

    Give me a break. Chipper Jones is a damn good leader. Batting sixth means nothing when you’ve been the centerpiece of a team for sixteen years. And what is that crap about a “true” leader only hitting first and fourth? That’s just false.

    • Xstar7

      This entire article was intentionally facetious. Of course Chipper is a good leader.