There is plenty of Yankee headlines going into 2014. Derek Jeter will be under the microscope all season, as it is his last. C.C. Sabathia looks to have a bounce back season. This will be the first season since 1997 that Mariano Rivera will not be the closer. Yankee management spent a ton of money this off-season to bring in high-priced free agents like Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka. So who is the most important player for the Yankees to make a World Series push?
The answer is Mark Teixeira. The first baseman has not been talked about as much as the new acquisitions or the retiring captain. In my opinion, having Teixeira’s bat in the middle of the lineup as well as his Gold Glove-ability at first, is paramount to the Bombers success. Number 25 has his flaws. Yankee fans have been frustrated for years with his reluctance to go the other way as opposed to constantly pulling the ball to the short porch in right. He has not hit for a decent average since 2009 when he hit for .292. His power however, is undeniable. In his first four seasons in pinstripes, Teixeira has averaged about 34 homers and 106 RBI. There is no beating around the bush. The Yankees need their first baseman to play at or near an All-Star level. They need him to be the meat in the middle of the lineup to protect Beltran. His presence will open up opportunities for guys like McCann and Kelly Johnson. aside from his offense, there is no one on the roster anywhere near as good defensively as Tex.
Teixeira is on record as saying he doesn’t know if he’ll be 100% by opening day. The Yankees hope he won’t be far behind schedule. An injury-free season should allow Mark to put up the numbers we are accustomed to seeing from him. If he gets hurt or is not able to regain his form, the Yanks are in trouble. Kelly Johnson is the backup first baseman and that speaks for itself. The lineup becomes very top-heavy without Teixeira.
Maybe it’s a good thing Mark Teixeira has not been the topic of most Yankee conversations. Maybe its good that all the focus was and is on other players and other stories. But do not discount his importance to the 2014 New York Yankees.