The Yankees' best player? As Chad Jennings points out, it might be the guy without the news conferences:
- Tucked away in the far corner of the Yankees' spring-training clubhouse, Mark Teixeira was surrounded but smiling, as friendly and optimistic as he was big and strong. One year earlier, Teixeira had been the Yankees' great addition, the player general manager Brian Cashman coaxed the Steinbrenner family into signing even after they had poured millions of dollars into the Yankees' rotation, but on Tuesday he stood as a cornerstone of the team's championship rebirth.
All three are outstanding players. Obviously. As for which will be the Yankees' best in 2010, you might as well draw a name out of a hat. If I have to bet on one, though? Teixeira's probably my man. He's easily the youngest of the three. He's exceptionally durable. And of course he's brilliant.
Still -- and I know this is a stretch, but please bear with me -- if you're looking for a small chink in the Yankee armor in the coming decade, it's that Mark Teixeira might be their best player. He'll be in his 30s, and he'll be playing first base. Ideally, your best player is a bit younger, and playing in the middle of the field. Cal Ripken. Alex Rodriguez when he played shortstop. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench.
All of those fellows were the best players in their leagues at one point or another. Is there anyone now on the Yankees' roster with a decent shot at being the best player in the American League in 2011? One of the five best players in the league? I don't think so. Which probably won't matter much. But if one or two of the veterans falls off more than expected, it would be nice if the Yankees had a young superstar ready to step into the breach.
They don't have that guy, not in the majors and probably not in the minors. The only candidate is 20-year-old catcher Jesus Montero, who John Sickels describes as "an amazing young hitter" ... but probably not a catcher for long, as he throws well enough but doesn't do much else behind the plate. And he can't move to first base because of Teixeira. DH? Well, that's probably where Jeter or Rodriguez wind up in two or three years. Anyway, we're back to the Yankees without a young middle-of-the-diamond superstar.
There's still hope, I suppose. Maybe the Twins won't lock up Joe Mauer. Maybe the Marlins will tire of paying Hanley Ramirez (who's under contract through 2014). Maybe the Rockies will consider trading Troy Tulowitzki in a few years. But otherwise I just don't see where they might find that guy.
Again, it probably won't matter. But if you're desperate for a reason to avoid picking the Yankees to win the World Series every year for as far as we can see ...