Baseball season is officially underway! Kind of… if you count those two games that pretty much nobody watched. Joe Girardi has one week to figure out who is going to make that 25-man roster. One of the spots he has been looking at all spring is that final infield player. The problem is that no one wants to step up and claim it.
It’s probably a moot point because whomever he chooses will probably just be a stop-gap until defensive wizard Brendan Ryan returns from the DL. There is one guy who really gets me riled up though. I continually defend him, I have even written a piece here on Yanks Go Yard explaining why it is so important that he finally steps up and claims the job that should rightfully be his. The Bronx is boiling, folks, and I need to blow some steam.
I have absolutely no problem admitting it. You know how when Eduardo Nunez conversations come up, someone always says, “Does anybody actually like this guy?” The answer was yes and it used to be me. Until today. I am officially done being the president and lone member of the Eduardo Nunez fan club.
Let me tell you what a day in the life of some one who really wants Eduardo Nunez to succeed is like. I am very active on Twitter (@UofDWayne) in the Yankee Twitterverse. I have conversations daily about players or line-ups or minor leaguers. This past Saturday, Eduardo Nunez’s name came up and instantly there was an endless amount of tweets about how they need to cut this guy loose. I, as usual, defended him and said to give him a chance. Do you know how Mr. Nunez repaid me? In the second inning of Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays he made yet another error on a routine ground ball which would allow a run to score and, although unearned, put a blemish on an otherwise perfect spring from Michael Pineda.
I don’t get it. Last season Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez went down and he had a golden opportunity to seize the day. Nagging injuries wound up holding him back, but he just didn’t get it done. He wasn’t terrible — he hit .260 with 3 HRs in 90 games. He simply wasn’t good enough.
Nunez has been up and down with the big league team for the last four years. He will be 27 by mid-season. It’s time to ask ourselves, “What have we learned about Eduardo Nunez?” Sadly, it isn’t good. We have learned that what looked to be a .285 to .300 hitter in the minors, can barley hit .265 in the bigs. The reason, or at least what we were lead to believe, that Girardi keeps him around is his ability to play every infield position and even some at the corner outfield positions.
Perhaps this is where the ultimate problem exists. Webster’s Dictionary says the word ability is defined as possession of the means or skill to do something. Now, does Nunez have the physical ability to walk out to whatever position of the day he is told to play? Yes. Does he have the means or skills to PLAY said position? I’m not so sure anymore.
The nicknames in the Twitterverse are pretty bad, but they all revolve around his error-prone style of play. NunE5 is the one that I chuckle at the most. Nunez simply has a case of what I have always called the Knoblauchs. I would imagine Mets’ fans calling it the Mackey Sassers. Most call it the yips. Whatever you choose to call it, Nunez has it at every position. A bench player with the experience Nunez has at this point in his career either has to be an Adam Dunn who does nothing but hit home runs or a Brendan Ryan who fields the ball with a magic glove. Nunez does none of this. His fielding is atrocious. This spring he has logged a .917 fielding percentage in 24 chances. I could have a 1.000 fielding percentage in 24 chances! Chuck Knoblauch could have 1.000 fielding percentage on 24 chances! At the short stopposition, 24 chances is probably about 3 games and he is making about an error a game. His career fielding percentage is .940. Compare that to Derek Jeter. Don’t forget, Yankee fans, as enamored as you are about the Yankee Captain, his range and defense has been questioned since he entered the league. Still, in 19 seasons and 10,268 chances, he has registered a .976 career fielding percentage. Nunez has become a liability in the field, a player who could ultimately cost the Yankees a game without the offensive prowess to win it for them.
Somehow, Girardi keeps bringing him back. Somehow, every year, I was excited to see him on the roster, and I was ready to go to bat to defend him. “Finding utility guys like that is like finding a needle in a haystack,” I would say. Most of the time the reply would be, “Have you ever seen him actually play?” I did. I think I had false hope that he would be the next home grown guy to step up and take over third base or maybe even short stop once the old guys hung it up. I just don’t have the faith anymore that he is that guy.
Now, think about this — the players competing for the utility role are:
Dean Anna: A 27-year-old minor leaguer who couldn’t crack the Padres roster.
Russ Canzler: Another 27-year-old minor leaguer, who I personally like, but has been labeled a Quad-A hitter.
Scott Sizemore: This is the guy we ultimately need to step up, but he is fighting back from back-to-back ACL surgeries and he may not be healthy enough just yet.
Yangervis Solarte: A 26-year-old career minor leaguer who is having a monstrous spring but has 0 major league games under his belt.
This all adds up to one thing. Nunez has the upper hand to make the Opening Day roster based on his experience, no matter how dumbfounding the results have been. If he makes the roster, I will certainly pull for him and root for him to finally step up, prove the doubters wrong, and do something good. I’m not sure my rooting will ever be enough.