When Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the New York Yankees, did you leap out of your chair and pump your fist in the air? Or, were you thinking at the time, that´s money that could have been better spent trying to keep a former Yankee, one who eventually betrayed us to grab a big contract in Seattle?
It´s easy to shake our heads and wonder what the Yankees were thinking. After all, Brett Gardner is every bit as good as Ellsbury defensively. If Gardy could just strike out a little less, his batting average would be just as good , and his resulting improvement in on-base percentage would lead to more stolen bases.
But before we dismiss Ellsbury as a retread from the despised Red Sox, let´s see how his career numbers stack up against some of the top center fielders who have worn the pinstripes. That way, we can get a better handle on how much he will help the Yankees, as other former Sox including Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and of course Babe Ruth have done. So here is a breakdown of how Ellsbury compares to the numbers of other Yankees center-fielders.
First, no one expects Ellsbury to match the power numbers of Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio. Mantle hit 536 homers in his career and DiMaggio had 361. Even matching Bobby Murcer, Rickey Henderson or Bernie Williams is unrealistic. Henderson had 297, Williams 287 and Murcer 252. Ellsbury has belted only 65, 32 of which came in one season.
Instead, Ellsbury comes to the Bronx more in the mold of Mickey Rivers , at least on the basepaths. His 241 career stolen bases puts him right behind Rivers´267. Once he surpasses Rivers, he can set his sights on Henderson. But he´ll need a pair of binoculars, as Rickey swiped 1406 in his career.
Still, a look at Ellsbury´s recent success at Yankee Stadium is very encouraging. In 2013, he hit .350 (7-for-20) with an on-base percentage of .381. In his career, Ellsbury has scored more than 90 runs in every season that he has played at least 100 games. So he may provide the Yankees with their most dynamic lead- off hitter since Henderson. And his speed does allow the Yankees to play Alfonso Soriano in left and Carlos Beltran in right, both of whom may have lost a step from what they once had.
So was Ellsbury worth the money? Let´s put it this way. Why not give it to a guy who wants to wear the Yankees uniform, instead of throwing it at one who was willing to travel all the way to Seattle just to get it?
Of course, the value of pulling away a major component to Boston´s success can never be overstated. Every time the Yankees do that, it´s double the pleasure.
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