The Yankees took a flier on Troy Tulowitzki. In turn, he took one on himself. Burning with a desire to continue the game he loves, failure is not an option.
Troy Tulowitzki, a New York Yankee? C’mon, you can say all those things you thought out loud. That Brian Cashman may be a genius, but he’s not God, and what the hell is he doing bringing in a 35-year old to play shortstop, with double-heel surgery under his belt, and a total of 66 games played dating back to the final two months of the 2017 season?
And maybe you took a peek at the free agent shortstops, pausing at the name Jose Iglesias, who happens to hold the major league career record for fielding percentage by a shortstop. Or, maybe you said to yourself – why not call back Ronald Torreyes for a replay from two seasons ago when Didi Gregorius also started the season on the Injured List?
No, instead, the Yankees picked Troy Tulowitzki. But as we’re learning, it’s equally significant that Tulowitzki picked the Yankees, proving once again that all the analytics and cross-stats will never replace the human gut.
Troy Tulowitzki is a man on a mission, looking to answer, not with words – just with plain old baseball production – all the doubters and critics, and that includes the team he left behind in Toronto. His gut told him he had a lot of baseball games left in him, and somewhere along the line, whether with Cashman or his scouting department, the Yankees said – “You know what, this guy deserves a chance”.
“This Guy” was a five-time All-Star with the Colorado Rockies, and he finished in the Top Ten of the MVP voting three times. Over Tulowitzki’s 13 year career, Baseball Reference lists his 162 game average at .290 with 28 home runs and 98 RBI.
Almost to the point of making Troy Tulowitzki his pet project this spring, Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, weaned Tulo onto the playing field, never playing him in back-to-back games until the very end of Spring Training. Tulowitzki responded with three home runs, each one a confidence builder. Cashman chipped in too, saying from day one that Tulo is the Yankees shortstop to start the season.
And so it was that Troy Tulowitzki stood in the sunshine at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day, cracking a line drive into the left-field corner for a double. Pump-fisting rounding first base, Tulo was caught by the YES cameras standing on second with a tear in his eye.
The base hit meant nothing as the Yankees trounced the Orioles in a game that never contested. But that hit meant everything to Tulowitzki.
Tulowitzki is a throwback in the same vein as Nick Swisher, who almost had to be carried off the field to announce his retirement. The fire burns and age doesn’t matter, at least for the player.
This, in the midst of a rapidly changing game in which owners are saying – “Hold on, age certainly does matter”. Players now reaching free agency at 32 or 33 no longer qualify for long-term deals. Teams have figured out that paying players before and during their best years is a good business plan. Thus, the extensions we see now are based on that premise.
For Troy Tulowitzki, it’s one year at a time. He’s a free agent again in 2020. Along with his agent, it’s likely we’ll see Tulo roaming the halls at the Winter Meetings in December looking for a job. If he can stay healthy and continue to put up numbers worthy of a major league shortstop, Tulowitzki will get the chance to recover the player he once was, or at least get close.
With Tulo, it’s not a question of money as he’ll be collecting the $38 million remaining on his contract with Toronto, whether he plays or not. No, this about something else entirely. And the Yankees are fortunate to be a part of this baseball story.