Archive for Doug Mientkiewicz
Long before the days of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees had an annual hunt to find a solid first baseman that could handle the position and relegate Jason Giambi to the role he was most qualified for: designated hitter. The names are all too familiar and none really wowed us: Andy Phillips, Morgan Ensberg, Craig Wilson, Tony Clark, John Olerud, the Tino Martinez redux … all forgettable in their own way. Then there’s Doug Mientkiewicz, who had his Yankees stint abbreviated by injuries.
Signed to be that Giambi caddy, Mientkiewicz got more attention for being Alex Rodriguez‘s high school buddy than he did for being a member of the Yankees. There were articles and columns written about how having a long-time friend around might help Alex relax, since we were in the middle of the “A-Rod can’t handle the pressure!” era. The Yankees gave Mientkiewicz just $1.5M, peanuts compared to the rest of the roster.
His first appearance came in the first game of the season, when he pinch hit for Phelps in the sixth inning. The then-Devil Rays had replaced left Scott Kazmir with righty Shawn Camp, so Joe Torre went for the platoon advantage down two runs. Mientkiewicz sac bunted Jorge Posada to third and Robbie Cano to second with one out, and both came around to score when Derek Jeter singled two batters later. His leadoff single in the eighth started a three-run rally that put the Yankees ahead for good. Minky went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the next game, but then he went into a prolonged slump.
From April 6th through April 28th, a span of 19 team games, Mientkiewicz went just 4-for-46 with four walks (.087/.176/.174). He was so bad that God started killing kittens every time he batted. The poor play limited Minky to late-inning defensive replacement duties, but he earned a start against the Red Sox on April 28th, with the Yankees six-and-a-half games out of first. Mientkiewicz took Julian Tavarez deep in the third inning, turning a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. Although the Red Sox would eventually win because Scott Proctor and Sean Henn stunk, it was enough to buy Mientkiewicz some more playing time.
Over the next 30 team games, Minky hit .284/.333/.486 with three homers and six doubles in 83 plate appearances. A 3-for-4 game with a double and a homer off the facing of the upper deck off Curt Schilling on May 23rd highlighted a stretch in which the Yankees won just five of 18 games. It was also the highlight of his Yankees tenure. Boston would get revenge though. About two weeks later, Mike Lowell collided with Mientkiewicz while running out a ground ball, giving the first baseman a concussion and a fractured bone in his right wrist. Minky would spend the next 90 days on the disabled list, forcing Phelps, Phillips, Wilson Betemit, and Miguel Cairo to play the majority of the time at first base in the second half.
Mientkiewicz returned on September 4th, first serving as a defensive replacement exclusively. He assumed starting first base duties again in the middle of the month, and finished the season with a 17-for-45 flourish (.459/.545/.676). Like most of the Yankees, Minky didn’t do much of anything in postseason, going 0-for-6 with a walk against Cleveland.
Overall, Mientkiewicz hit .277/.349/.440 with five homers in 192 plate appearances as a Yankee. He struck out just 23 times and walked 16, plate discipline numbers consistent with the rest of his career. His .346 wOBA was damn close to the .349 mark Giambi posted and better than Johnny Damon‘s .340 wOBA. Minky also played his usual stellar defense, posting a +4.0 UZR (+15.0 UZR/150) and +5 on John Dewan’s +/- system, numbers right in line with the rest of his career. All told, Mientkiewicz was worth 0.9 WAR in 72 games and 192 plate appearances, a 2.8 WAR pace over 600 plate appearances.
By no means was Mientkiewicz great in New York, but he was almost certainly the best of that first base lot that ran through town during the mid-aughts. He had a few notable hits and made plenty of brilliant defensive plays, though the injury ruined what could have been an even more productive season. For $1.5M, Minky was a relative bargain.
Based on this post by Peter Abraham, I have to believe that Doug Mientkiewicz is the starting first baseman going forward. Last night, he put on a show at first base and went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Torre loves the defense at first. So, for better or worse, at this point, it’s Dougie’s job to lose.
Thought you guys might enjoy this ‘lil video:
Tip o the hat to Babes Love Baseball
Don’t look now, but Doug Mientkiewicz isÂ 6 for 15 (.400) with 2 homers and 6 steaks in his last 5 starts, while playing his usual phenomenal-but-never-fully-appreciated defense at first. Funny how Minky stepped itÂ up the day after this post appeared at RAB.Â
The Boss has spoken, and Cashman and Torre are safe for the time being. This may be upsetting to some, but it’s a relief for others. The Yankees head to Texas in tact, in search of a few wins (with Phil Hughes‘s’ first as a collateral gain).
This doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be any shakeups. There are a few roster moves that could be made over the next few weeks that will completely alter the team’s game plan headed into the season. But that’s the beautify of baseball: the season is long, so if your initial plan fails, there’s still time to tinker with it and create something that works. And when you have a bank account like the Yanks, changing courses becomes that much easier.
Before any moves are made, questions must be asked. Is this person going to work out? Are we dealing with too small a sample size to make a decision? If we don’t unload this person now, what are the possible ramifications down the road? And on and on. We’re all pretty familiar with the team’s shortcomings right now, so let’s get down to it.
Most want him DFA’d, and I can’t disagree. Myers’s job is to get out tough lefties, but he’s been more of a mop up man this year — and there’s been tons of mopping to do. And, when he has been summoned to get a lefty out, he hasn’t been at the top of his game (though an Ortiz double and the Crawford slam are the only ones standing out in my mind).
There is little reason to carry Myers on the roster. Even though the numbers say he’s been better against righties this year, once again we’re faced with a tiny sample size. If he returns to his career norms, he’ll lose value as a mop-up man. And merely having a LOOGY on staff is a questionable practice, especially for a contenting team like the Yanks.
The solution: DFA him and call up Chris Britton. He’ll be able to work in higher leverage situations than Myers without giving the entire Stadium a heart attack. Britton handled his own in the AL East last year. He’s only pitched seven innings this year, and could definitely use the work. This is an easy to execute and smart move. In the words of California’s governor: Do it! Do it now!
As we stew and stew over last night’s loss, here’s something to chew on. Doug Mientkiewicz’s last hit was on April 5, the second game of the season. Over his last 22 plate appearances, he is 0 for 21 with 1 walk. That’s a .045 OBP. What will it take to get someone â€” anyone â€” else into his spot in the lineup?