To be sure, if the Yankees had to do it all over again, they would not have signed Jacoby Ellsbury to such an expensive long-term deal, and possibly they might not have signed him at all.
But that was then and this now, a time when we find entering his fourth season with the Yankees at the age of 33. And still, the question begs itself – Who is the real Jacoby Ellsbury – and if he knows would he please stand up and play baseball.
Yankees fans, let’s be clear. This piece is NOT intended to be another rant that trashes Ellsbury for what he hasn’t done as a Yankee. Because we are all Yankees fans, and we want all of our players to succeed. Still, there is a nagging element about Jacoby Ellsbury, as an enigma even more than an under producer.
The Yankees And The Ellsbury Dilemma
And with that, you almost have to wonder if he’s the kind of player who signs the big contract and then puts everything on cruise control comfortable with the fact that he and his family are set for life. But you wouldn’t expect that from a guy who says, “I understand the importance of giving back, and that’s something I definitely want to do.”
Or, is he one of those players who has a career year as he did in 2011 when he hit .323 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI, finishing 2nd in the MVP voting, only to find out that his ability doesn’t match up to those numbers and it was just a mirage.
To be fair, Ellsbury’s numbers with the Yankees haven’t been all that bad; it’s just that they haven’t been good enough to do the job he was hired to do. Twenty stolen bases last year when he once had 39 and 52 are not doing your job. An on-base percentage of .330 when he once was at .355 and .372 are is not doing your job. And a slugging percentage of .374 when he once had .426 and .552 is also not doing your job.
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To add some perspective, consider that Didi Gregorius (.447) and Starlin Castro (.433) both had better slugging percentages that Ellsbury. They also had more hits, more home runs, and more runs batted in that he did. So, there’s a problem here, and it’s more widespread than is usually thought.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have no choice but to play him, especially with the money they are paying him. And, they probably can’t trade him unless they decide to give him away while absorbing most of the money he is due. Which in the end might be the way this all ends if Ellsbury can’t have a bounce back year in 2017.
But Here’s The Good News For The Yankees
The good news though is that the Yankees don’t need him to have a year like he did five years ago. They just need him to be somewhere in between where he was last season and 2011, his breakout year. Singles and a bunch of doubles would be okay, along with being a menace while on base. The power is behind him, but obviously, home runs from Judge and Sanchez will do little good if they are solo shots.
Unless he’s a head case, and there is no indication of that, Ellsbury just needs to contribute more than has been doing. It shouldn’t be too much to ask.