Yankees Talk: Give Greg Bird Some Time to Replace Mark Teixeira

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After missing the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery, Greg Bird has the inside track on the starting first base job for the New York Yankees.

The fickle nature of fans and media members is almost too much to bear sometimes. Take Mark Teixeira’s time with the Yankees for instance. When Tex signed with the organization back in the winter of 2008, people couldn’t wait to push Jason Giambi’s all or nothing performances out the door. How quickly we forget about his clutch home runs and esteemed clubhouse leadership – even after PED allegations came to light.

Over the course of the past eight years, Teixeira was a consummate professional – a legitimate power threat – and one of the best defensive first baseman the game has ever seen.

True, his first World Series winning season with the Yankees in 2009 was the only season with the club in which he batted above .290, but he averaged almost 26 home runs and 78 RBI in his time with the Yankees, while also winning three Gold Glove Awards.

In 2013, injuries started to take their toll on Teixeira – only playing in 15 games that season – and before you knew it, the skeptics were wondering aloud how long until the club was regretting that $180M contract.

When Greg Bird exploded upon the scene in 2015 after Tex broke his shin, it seemed as though the handwriting was on the wall – only to find out a few months later, that the Yankees had convinced Bird to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

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So we were hopeful Teixeira could at least come close to the numbers he put up prior to fouling that ball off the bottom of his leg. But that didn’t happen, and then the rebuild began. Tex, the easy target, announced his retirement on Aug. 5, effective at the conclusion of the season.

Fast forward to Bird’s lackluster performance in the Arizona Fall League (a .215 batting average with only one home run), and all of a sudden, those same skeptics are out in full force. But Bird isn’t concerned about the recent small sample size. “The plan was to get at-bats,” said Bird. “I just want to get back to the team and get in the locker room with the guys.”

Should Bird fail to pick up where he left off in ’15, some would like to see recently signed Matt Holliday play first base (though over the span of his 13-year MLB career, he’s only played a total of 10 games there.) Others propose that second-year slugger Tyler Austin can man the position (though, he too is a natural outfielder).

Bird is no Teixeira with the glove, but he’s an above average defender that has only played the one position during his four seasons of professional ball. So it’s the hope of those within the organization that increased arm strength and accuracy will be a result of the shoulder surgery.

Utilizing the likes of Rob Refsnyder, Chris Parmelee, Ike Davis, or Austin Romine at first base should never happen again. So why is it that people are suddenly questioning the importance of a solid defensive first baseman? If Teixeira proved one thing it’s that even if a guy is fighting through a slump with the stick, he can more than make up for it with stellar defensive play.

When asked about his thoughts on replacing his former mentor Teixeira, Bird said, “I don’t look at it like that. In a sense, you are always replacing somebody. But [2015] was a good experience for me. It eased the transition for me. I came into a clubhouse with older guys and that helped on and off the field.”

So before the next pundit readies the rumor mill about who should man first base for the Yankees, let’s give Bird the benefit of the doubt. After all, in 2015 he was the next coming of Anthony Rizzo. If you don’t believe me, remember he pummelled right-handed pitching to the tune of a .270 BA, nine home runs, 24 RBI and a .915 OPS in just 46 games.

Next: Jose Quintana Won't Come Cheap

A complete season playing half his games at Yankee Stadium with a swing made for that short right field porch should result in another string of time where no one wonders who’s next man up at the first base bag.