The New York Yankees are back in the World Series again. With American League pennant No. 40 under their belt, as well as the groanings of Red Sox and Angels fans alike as background noise. The Yankees will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies for Games One and Two in the new Yankee Stadium, trying to win World Championship No. 27.
Numbers are an interesting thing to look at come October. While the number 27, both on the back of manager Joe Girardi’s jersey as well as the hunt to put a 27th World Series trophy in the halls of Yankees history, another number comes to mind when thinking about how the Yankees got here.
That number would be 25. As in Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira tied for the American League lead in home runs during the regular season with Carlos Pena of the Tampa Bay Rays with 39 long balls. He led the AL in RBI during the regular season with 122. He finished third in the AL with a .565 slugging percentage.
While Tex’s hitting in the postseason hasn’t been as spectacular as many Yankees fans would have hoped, with him having gone 6-for-27 in the ALCS with zero home runs, his glove has been more than golden.
More like he’s built a brick wall around first base when he’s there.
During the season, Tex only made four errors. He had a fielding percentage of .997.
Tex has made clutch plays practically every game in the playoffs thus far. His diving stop in Game Six of the ALCS that saved a run, his leaping grab that would probably have been a double in Game Three, getting the Yankees out of a jam by making two of the three outs in the inning with smart plays.
One of the smartest plays made during the entire playoffs was when Bobby Abreu hit a double into center field. Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter were out as cut-off men.
Teixeira smartly covered second base and was there when Jeter threw him the ball for the tag out on Abreu, who had gotten greedy trying to stretch the double into a triple.
While that isn’t an amazing play and some might say that “it’s what a first baseman is supposed to do,” it’s what the Yankees needed to make it this far into their playoff run.
They’ve needed smart baseball plays such as the ones made by Mark Teixeira.
When’s the last time Yankees fans were this confident about a ball not getting through the first base side of the infield?
You only need to look down two numbers from Teixeira.
No. 23: Don Mattingly.
Mattingly, like Teixeira, led the American League in RBI, with 145 in 1985. Also in 1985, Mattingly had 35 home runs, which was good for fourth in the AL that year.
The only thing that Mattingly has on Teixeira history-wise, is the MVP award in 1985, six All-Star game appearances, and nine Gold Gloves.
Mattingly also had his number retired and his plaque sits in Monument Park.
I don’t think the Teixeira-Mattingly comparison is that far off. Mattingly was a Yankee his entire career and while Teixeira has played for Texas and Anaheim, the Yankees secured him away for a while with the free agent deal they gave him this past off-season.
Yankees fans may also remember No. 24, Tino Martinez, and his handy field work during the Yankees dynasty run of 1996, 1998-2000.
While Teixeria may not have Mattingly-esque numbers quite yet, or the four rings that Martinez has, he does have a great cast around him with Robinson Cano, Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez.
Mark Teixeira came in with the same high expectations of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. All pricey free agent acquisitions that Brian Cashman brought in with the hopes that they would lead the Yankees to a World Series title.
I’m not saying that Sabathia and Burnett haven’t been great for the Yankees. But I think that Teixeira’s role in the Yankees regular season and post-season success might have fallen by the wayside with Sabathia’s dominance and A-Rod’s post-season resurgence.
I don’t know if Teixeira will reach Mattingly like fame in New York. Only time will tell on that point. However, Teixeira is only four wins away from winning a World Series title for the Yankees, something that sadly Mattingly never accomplished in his great career.
One thing is for sure though. With Teixeira’s brick wall that he has practically constructed by first base at Yankee Stadium as well as on the road, Yankee fans can breathe a little easier if the ball is hit that way.
All statistics courtesy of mlb.com.