One start into his Yankees career, Andrew Heaney doesn’t look like a big-league starter. Joely Rodriguez certainly doesn’t look like someone who should enter in the fifth inning of a winnable baseball game.
But give the stat nerds this win on an otherwise-brutal day: DJ LeMahieu, in his current state, has no business leading off a baseball game.
In deference to the MVP candidate from 2019 and 2020, he has a certain pedigree that indicates bat-on-ball success and doubles into the gap will follow wherever he goes.
Now, in there interest of fairness to LeMahieu’s detractors, even his massive recent on-base streak was predicated mainly on singles. There’s been no power whatsoever, both pre- and post-triceps issue that arose over the weekend.
In Monday’s particularly loathsome loss — right as the “NEW YANKEES” had begun to gain some momentum! — LeMahieu stuck out like a sore…something, combining a lack of wisened approach with a penchant for dribblers in any situation.
If these grounders are going to continue, there’s no reason LeMahieu should be grandfathered into the leadoff spot in the lineup while he figures it all out. If a slumping Gary Sanchez can move, so too can post-payday LeMahieu.
The Yankees need to move DJ LeMahieu down in the order.
It can’t be overstated: these were fans that fell in love with LeMahieu in 2019 and 2020. This fan base was as pro-LeMahieu as possible, supporting their second baseman more than the generational superstars who also happened to be on this roster.
He built up endless goodwill over the course of the past two seasons, and there was almost no chance he could squander it after Brian Cashman gave him a well-deserved long-term contract following 2020.
Cashman was certainly snapped up in a catch-22 this past offseason, the more pathetic version of the Mookie Betts talks. The Red Sox sold their 28-year-old MVP candidate for Alex Verdugo, who’s good but worse, and Jeter Downs, who’s fine but not up yet. It’s an embarrassing deal that only gets more embarrassing by the day (the first-place Sox would be better with Betts, folks!). LeMahieu? After the past two seasons, he felt almost as necessary to the Yankees’ machine as Betts — despite, yes, being a far worse player. Cashman figured there was no harm in a backloaded, long-term deal for someone who would be, at worst, a utility player for this team four or five years down the line.
Instead? Everything’s vanished, and the number of rallies the previously-named RISP master has killed with an ill-advised double play can’t be counted on four hands. His at-bat against Cesar Valdez with first-and-second, no out on Monday was particularly galling.
Doesn’t LeMahieu usually wait out pitchers well? Why did he bail out a struggling arm and roll over Ball 2 for a mood-killing DP? Why is he also regressing mentally?
When LeMahieu is an engine, this has historically been a great team.
When LeMahieu is a sleeping pill, as he’s been far too often in 2021, this team doesn’t work.
Perhaps someday, he’ll once again be a true leadoff hitter, someone capable of making the pitcher work and putting pressure on an opponent. Right now, he’s a struggling slap hitter who set the wrong tone for a momentum-killing loss to a pitcher with a 6.19 ERA entering this game. This was supposed to be the Yankees’ unveiling of a “new team,” post-deadline. Instead? It was a return to terrible normalcy for 2021 LeMahieu.
If Sanchez can be demoted in the order when he’s not functioning properly, so can LeMahieu. Enough with the kid gloves just because he’s got some Gold Gloves.
For the Yankees’ sake, they’d better hope it’s only temporary.