Yankees turn to A-Rod for help with Didi’s defense

Game 22: Big Mike for the Sweep
Rays outlast Yankees in 13 innings, take series finale 3-2
(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Things have gone a little more smoothly lately, but the start of the Didi Gregorius era has been quite the roller coaster these first few weeks. He had some adventures on the basepaths, isn’t doing much at the plate, and his defense has been shockingly erratic. Simply put, he looks like a young player trying to do too much to impress his new team.

I’m not sure anyone realistically expected Didi to be a force at the plate this year, and the base-running mistakes are kinda whatever. He hasn’t had any problems on the bases since that first homestand. The name of his game was defense. Gregorius was brought in to solidify the infield defense and while he has made a few highlight reel plays early on, he has made several physical and mental mistakes in the field. It’s been painful to watch at times.

The Yankees have and will continue to be patient with Gregorius, which is absolutely the right move in my opinion. He has a chance to be the long-term solution at shortstop and the club simply doesn’t have another player like that in the organization. At least not anywhere close to the big league level. The success or failure of Didi’s time in pinstripes shouldn’t be determined by the first month of his first year with the team.

That said, the Yankees want to see some improvement from Gregorius. So, in an effort to get him right into the field, the team brought in a former two-time Gold Glove winning shortstop for help: Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees — specifically third base/infield coach Joe Espada — asked A-Rod to give Didi some pointers at short before last night’s game. “Just the basics,” said Alex to Brendan Kuty.

“It was more just game situations,” added Espada. “I think just kind of working on his game clock. Knowing runners, outs, when to charge a ball, when to stay back on a ball. Situations that we have been working on throughout spring training and throughout the season. But I wanted Alex to be out there to give him that kind of insight that I probably, as a coach, can’t give him.”

Despite all his off-field issues, A-Rod has always been considered a really good teammate who is willing to help others, especially young players. He’s a baseball machine, hands down the smartest and most instinctual player I’ve ever seen, so asking him to help Gregorius makes total sense. A-Rod knows the shortstop position and he also has experience having all eyes on him as a newcomer to New York. He’s a resource the Yankees are tapping into.

But, at the end of the day, this will come down to Gregorius’s ability to make or not make the necessary adjustments. No one can take ground balls or play the field for him. The Yankees are smart to remain patient and I’m sure Didi knows what a tremendous opportunity he has in front of him. He’s the starting shortstop for the New York frickin’ Yankees, after all. Getting comfortable here takes time. Hopefully Alex’s help can speed up the process for Gregorius.

“It takes time to come here and play in this arena,” said Espada. “I coached third in Miami for four years but it’s not the same as coaching third in New York. I don’t call it stage fright. I think it just takes time.”

Game 22: Big Mike for the Sweep
Rays outlast Yankees in 13 innings, take series finale 3-2
  • calripyankee

    I could see Arod coaching after he retires.

    • Bo Knows

      He’d be an excellent coach, but with all the crap he’s done it’s likely he won’t do it with a team. That said, the guy knows how to teach, and he’d be my go to guy if a player needs help

  • Alex Reddardriguez

    I always said Alex would infect the rest of the locker room like a virus and he’s done just that. He’s working with the kids, teaching them how to play defense. He’s taught the rest of the lineup how to work counts and wear down the starter. These are things he learned from Jeter, Posada, Tino and Hideki.

    I think Alex will be a good coach when he’s done. They let McGwire coach and they’ll let Alex too.

  • Robert

    DiDi and Petit are automatic outs. Good luck coach AROD.

    • BearNJ

      Didi isn’t driving anything but to be fair he has hit in 8-of his last 9 starts coming into today. He’s 8 for his last 25 (.320). He showing that he’s not just an automatic out over the last week.

  • YankeeB

    If Mark McGwire can be a coach in the bigs, there’s no reason Alex can’t be. Unless he reverts back to the narcissistic behavior we’ve seen in the past, he could be an extremely valuable asset for at least these next three years until his contract runs out. There are a lot of young Latin American players in this organization for whom he can do a tremendous lot of good.

    • W.B. Mason Williams

      With his money and reputation, I’m more inclined to think FO or joint owner

      • Tom_hamsandwich

        I’m all for keeping Alex around in any kind of capacity after his playing days are over. He lives and breathes baseball and is a true student of the game.

        • W.B. Mason Williams

          I seriously doubt he has any official connection to the organization for a loooooong time, much less work with them.

          • BigDavey88|formerly BigDavey88

            Can’t wait for Welcome Back Arod Day!

          • BigDavey88|formerly BigDavey88

            Can’t wait for Welcome Back Arod Day!

      • Deep Thoughts

        Founder and commissioner of the eXtreme Baseball League (XBL). PEDs allowed, visible pinetar allowed, bowling over the catcher allowed. Inside move (bluff to third and first) BANNED. Bonds, Canseco, McGwire, Manny, all welcome as player-managers.

  • terry

    It’s not about Gregorius’ “erratic” plays.

    In the same way this is not about one or two bad pitches from Tanaka or Pineda last year, or Warren this year. Their problem was and has been overthrowing on every pitch out the gate; it’s not one or two pitches that’s the problem, it’s every pitch and their cumulative propensity to risk injury.

    Pineda and Tanaka have had to ramp down their velocities, and the jury is still out on whether they can be effective and long term without their max-effort. And somebody should advise Warren accordingly.

    But Gregorius is an entirely different problem.

    The missed plays and bone-headed decisions are forgiveable in and of themselves – well, generously speaking considering he is in his 8th year in professional Baseball, 4th year in the Major Leagues, and 3rd organization.

    But as with Warren’s last performance of max-effort pitching, it’s not Gregorius’ singular misplays that are the problem – but the fact that every play suffers from the same flaws.

    Anybody who’s seen him play now recognizes it: The elongated wind up motion for his “strong throw”, the tangled and off-cadence footwork in the double play transition, stumbling at the edge of his range where he nearly falls to his knees as he gathers the ball – or where he falls in a “dive” with every Yankee fan knowing that even if he gets the ball, he doesn’t have the agility to get his feet under him to make the throw across the diamond, things that other Shortstops in the league can do with regularity – including the Shortstop who was moved to second in favor of Gregorius.

    This is not something that can be fixed by A-Rod.

    As has been stated since his acquisition: Gregorius is a below-average Defensive Shortstop. It’s why he lost his job with two previous organizations. And it’s ridiculous that the media has misrepresented his defensive reputation in the MLB to such a degree.

    And it is not likely to change because the basis of Shortstop play is derived from his footwork, and Gregorius’ footwork is poor. You’d have a better time getting Texeira to hit to the opposite field from his Left-side, than to get Gregorius pivot his feet before he shifts his weight and imitates the Leaning Tower of Pisa or shortens his strides and “sits” upright while fielding a ball.

    All A-Rod can do is to provide some media cover for him, just as he has been doing through the first month. Perversely, Rodriguez has done well enough that the media have lost interest in him. But NY journalists will shield Gregorius and he is here to stay. The Yankees will not willingly send him down unless the fans make it unbearable.

    Which gets back to an old point: Gregorius’ best chance to contribute to teh ballclub is not in his glove.

    It’s with his bat.

    Yankee fans will have to hope he improves on offense. And while Gregorius’ pitch selection has been – what it’s always been, there is power potential in his swing, especially in Yankee Stadium. Incidentally, I believe this is an area where Rodriguez would most ably advise and help improve Gregorius’ game: pitch selection, recognition, approach, situational hitting, etc.

    • pat

      Wait, so he can’t fix his footwork?

      • terry

        Didi Gregorius, like so many Shortstops in the Major Leagues, has played with his particular stride length, his gait, his body posture, etc, since he was a teenager.

        These are his attributes: his building blocks with which he has built a set of techniques through the years.

        In order to teach him new footwork, you literally have to break him down and teach him how to walk, run and stand a different way than what he’s been habitually been used to his entire life.

        Why can’t Texeira can’t learn to swing with a level cut with drawn in hands like Jeter.

        The question answers itself, doesn’t it?

        People refer to Gregorius as “unfinished product” because they want to create a false impression that he unquestionably has room to grow…when that is only partially true if at all. The adjustment in footwork that you are asking for, rebuilding the very foundation of a player and then the route running, new cadence, throwing mechanics, etc – to the Major League level from scratch – out of someone who’s already matured after 8 years of professional ball and is set in his current, conflicting style….

        …it’s not as easy as people make it.

        There are very few Scott Kazmirs in Baseball, and he was banished from the MLB and was scraping the bottom of the barrel to reinvent himself.

        I don’t think Gregorius would be willing to do it. He would probably think the idea is outrageous (it is).

        • ruralbob

          It appears, then, that the discussion is over.

        • Tom_hamsandwich

          Didi has the physical tools, he is an athletic guy. He can continue to improve and it doesn’t hurt to have Arod and Stephen Drew around him and in his ear. Players do have the ability to get better defensively, that entails improving footwork and stride and everything else you’ve mentioned.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner
        • Chip

          Jose Reyes ran a specific way his entire life…the Mets corrected it when they discovered it might be the cause of his hamstring issues as a young player.

          Roy Halladay pitched with a certain delivery all throughout his HS and minor league career. When it was ineffective in Toronto they broke it down and gave him a new delivery.

          Ball players change batting stances, strides, etc…things they have done their entire careers…

          You’re an idiot.

    • pat

      Wait, so he can’t fix his footwork?

    • Chip

      while I appreciate the amount of time and effort it took to compose this response I must say – you are so full of crap your eyes are brown.

      First off, who has ever stated that Didi is a below-average defensive SS? I haven’t seen that anywhere by a single professional talent scout or evaluator. In fact, more people call him an elite defender than call him even a good one.

      Second of all – he didn’t lose his job with two other teams, he was traded. When the Reds traded him it was to get Shin-Soo Choo, prior to him having any big league experience. He was behind Chris Owings in Arizona because Owings was a better hitter. Arizona then traded him to get a good young, LHP in Robbie Ray.

      But even if we assume that your alternate universe theory is correct and that Didi is a sub-par defensive player, you’re still wrong. Footwork can be worked on, just as anything else. Hell, Jose Reyes had to re-learn how to run because his original running style kept leading to hamstring pulls.

      • terry

        You know, this is the primary problem I have with the “Didi” pehenomenon – same with the “Jeter” phenomenon – same with every other overrated phenomenon who was “Elite”, that overcooked buzz word so favored among the publicist and fanboy crowd.

        To your first assertion that he is an “elite defender”:

        No, he is not.

        And this has been broken down in the posts on RAB ad naseum

        Incidentally you must be new here on this site as very few people have dared call him “elite” since many fans here have watched him play in live action – even Axisa has been backtracking on Gregorius’ “elite” status as a defender.

        His MLB reputation has always been at odds with his media reputation.

        In the end, the tape doesn’t lie.

        If I have an annoyance with how Gregorius is viewed by RAB today, it’s not that they don’t recognize him as a below average defender, it’s that they believe him to be a below-average defender for the wrong reasons. Too many are focusing on the end results of his missed plays instead of its causes leading up to those misplays – and too many are criticizing his miscues which happen to the best of fielders. Miscues can be rectified, errors which can be fixed. But the flaws in Gregorius’ technique are present and affect every play which is the real problem – from limited range, to retarding the delivery from reception to putout.

        But at least it’s an improvement from commenters responding to the news that Gregorius’ reputation in the MLB was as a below-average Shortstop, along with requests to break down his technique on tape, with charges of “Bigot” and “Racist”.

        And yes, he did lose his job in Cincinatti and Arizona – both to better defensive infielders – first to Zack Cozart, then to Chris Owings…and Owings himself had flaws.

        In both cases Gregorius should never have been promoted above the aforementioned players on the depth chart.

        On the Yankees, it’s clear by now to many on RAB – if only by an ephemeral sense – that Gregorius is not the best defensive Shortstop on the team. They may not understand why, and many may not want to understand it out of denial.

        But this is the story of Gregorius’ career thus far:

        He is not the best Shortstop on the team.

        But he gets the job nonetheless…

        (Until the person who promoted him gets fired or banished to a window-dressing desk)

        • Chip

          Wait a minute…now you’re saying that there were people who were afraid of being critical of Didi because he’s black?

          You’re right…there’s a vast conspiracy to promote Didi…it goes through national media and different organizations. It’s really all being done to advance the cause of players born in the Netherlands.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner
    • Asher Dratel

      Wait, are you saying there’s a conspiracy among the press, specifically in NY, to cover up critical scouting reports regarding the defensive prowess of the guy who came to the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter? Because I mean, think about that for a second.

      • terry

        Wait, are you saying that there was a conspiracy among the press, specifically in NY, to cover up Jeter’s shortcomings and overrated him as an “elite defensive shortstop”?

        Because, I mean, think about that for a second.

        • Asher Dratel

          Yes, because clearly the Post and NYDN would have held back the apparent consensus of MLB scouts crapping on Didi.

          • terry

            I mean, it couldn’t happen, right?

            NY media overhyping an elite defensive Shortstop?

            Excuse me: I meant, “It couldn’t happen….again…right?”

            • Chip

              Except when the NY Media was overlooking Jeter’s shortcomings at SS the national media was still calling it out.

              Now you’re saying that both the NY and National Media are working together to oversell Didi’s defensive abilities?

              • terry

                No.

                The national media did not call out Jeter, the same way they are not calling out Gregorius.

                Even Yankee fans today are embarrassed to the lengths the National media shielded Jeter. Who do you think you’re talking to? Nobody – Yankee fan or not – can credibly claim otherwise on pain of having a web search of the subject.

                NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC (ESPN) from Bob Costas to Dave barnett sang Jeter’s praises as an “Elite” and “Gold Glove” Shortstop up until the charade was too bloated to repeat in the twilight of Jeter’s career (and they were done broadcasting).

                To the degree that there was any pushback, it came from local broadcasting and small-time professionals in the industry – all of whom were drowned out by the noise making excuses for Jeter….as there undoubtedly will be for Gregorius in the years to come.

                And of course, anyone who doubted Jeter’s defensive reputation as an “:Elite” defender was vilified with accusations ranging from the obscene to the scandalous.

                We’ve seen this movie before.

                Stop trying to rewrite history.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner
                • Chip

                  Jeter was a Gold Glove Short Stop…many times over in fact. Did he deserve those awards? Probably not, but then again Raffy Palmiero won a gold glove.

                  Guys like Keith Law (national media) and the folks over at Baseball America forever railed on Jeter’s defensive reputation as being better than the actual defense he was playing.

                • http://shhhorsie.com Cheval Anonyme

                  Please stop. Jeter was an iconic figure. The media deferred to him. Didi is just some random guy. One is not like the other.

              • MikhelB

                Well, it is quite a bit interesting that Jeter’s defensive advanced metrics at home are considerably worse than on the road. Since defensive advanced metrics rely on human input to judge plays I would say there might be an element there to discuss whether there was bias or not.

    • Asher Dratel

      Wait, are you saying there’s a conspiracy among the press, specifically in NY, to cover up critical scouting reports regarding the defensive prowess of the guy who came to the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter? Because I mean, think about that for a second.

  • Trolledyouso

    If Tanaka is out for a long time or the season, the Padres are dangling Despaigne.
    I’d get him for a catching prospect (they need catching) and a middle relief arm in minors. We have tons.
    He’d be our No. 2 or 3 starter.
    Then fast track Servino for the majors in July or August.

  • Chip

    It literally just dawned on me that there are only four Yankees hitting .250 or better. SKJRM, Chris Young, Ellsbury and Gardner.

    • Asher Dratel

      Tex is putting up a good enough overall slash line that his BA doesn’t upset me.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      You forgot Arod, McCann, and Headley and Tex are not far behind. How many teams have 300+ BA players right now? All the guys at the bottom are situational/UTL/bench guys…oof except Beltran (and Drew).

      • LazerTown

        53 players .300 or higher with at least 70 PA. That would make having 2 better than average.

  • Septhinox

    Cashman: “Alex, Can you help Didi with his defense”

    Arod: “Sure, anything to help the team and a young player.”

    Cashman: “Thanks. You do truly love the game. BTW, here’s our formal grievance to not pay your HR bonus.”

    • Farewell Mo and Jeet

      Cashman: “Alex, Can you help Didi with his defense”

      Arod: “Sure, I’ll do it for the discounted price of $6 million”

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’d love to see the day where “helpful teammate” Alex Rodriguez rises above everything else. What an asset to this sport he would be. For shame.

  • Captain Clutch

  • Bret The Hitman

    Did Alex turn to Didi for help with Alex’s offense?

  • Bret The Hitman

    Help him the way you did Cervelli, Montero and Melky. Wink, wink.

    • MikhelB

      Melky was more in tune with Canó, Robinson has been working during the offseason with a trainer banned from MLB for distributing steroids, and who was the contact of Alex Rodríguez’s cousin Yuri at some point when Alex was with the Rangers, which is when other clients of said trainer also tested positive: Manny Ramírez, Miguel Tejada, David Ortíz and others in that test MLB conducted. Other clients of that trainer: Bartolo, Melky, Juan González.

  • MikhelB

    Using their career numbers.

    With Didi as a SS there have been 7149 PA;
    Of those, 32% have ended up being ground balls (about 2288 ground balls);
    Didi has fielded 29.41% of those (673);
    Of those 673 plays Didi made, 89% ended up with at least 1 out in the play (has an 89.% success rate in converting plays onto at least 1 out).

    With Jeter as a SS there were 99771 PA;
    Of those, 31% ended up being ground balls (about 30926 ground balls);
    Jeter fielded 27.41% of those (8478);
    Of those 8478 plays Jeter made, 90% ended up with at least 1 out in the play (had a 90% success rate).

    So, even though Didi boast a superior UZR, RnR, etc… he is as effective geting to balls as Jeter was… I do not get why the Yanks acquired him if they already had Brendan Ryan (he was not injuried when the Yankees traded for Didi) who hits more or less the same than Didi with the same (non existant) power, and is a better fielder with more instincts, Didi lacks those instincts that made Jeter stand above a lof of SS, because an infielder has to have in his mind who is running, what’s his/their speed, and where you might have a play, and whithin fractions of a second decide whether to go for the sure out at first or make a good accurate throw to another base to nail a more advanced runner (Drew is similar to Didi in that respect).

    I know we laughed at Kay when he repeated how good Jayson Nix was… and as of this moment I’d rather have Nix as SS than Didi, at least Nix can give you something offensively, they would have kept Prado and Shane Greene (not for what Greene is doing but for what he did and his value is above a SS who lacks instincts).