Having a captain on a professional sports team should be redundant. Nevertheless, the value of a team captain is often underestimated. So if and when the Yankees decide it’s time to appoint a new captain, no choice will be better than Didi Gregorius.
Over the course of their long history, the New York Yankees have had eleven team captains, the most recent of course being Derek Jeter, who served twelve of his twenty big league seasons in that role beginning in 2003.
Since Jeter’s departure in 2014, the Yankees have gotten by with two unofficial captains who stepped into that role without asking, but with the welcome of the Yankees brass. Veterans CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner have emerged as the go-to guys for the media to descend on with the tough questions that arise during a season.
But each is well into the twilight of their career, and knowing that it’s likely the Yankees have decided to take a pass on having the position filled, at least for now.
Didi Gregorius just keeps getting better and better with his performance on the field. Check any category in his seven-season career, be it home runs, RBI, doubles or whatever, and the trend you’ll see is upward. 2018 is no different, and Gregorius currently leads the league in RBI (24) and Slugging (.746) on a team that on paper at least is supposed to have other big-name bashers.
But that only accounts for Didi Gregorius, the player. There needs to be more if Gregorius is future leadership material, and in his case, there is more. Early in Spring Training this year, Aaron Boone quietly let it be known he is already thinking along those lines, issuing this challenge to the 28-year-old:
Most certainly, that sure sounds like a Yankees captain in the making. But there is no rush. Didi Gregorius is checking all the boxes this season mentoring Brandon Drury, Miguel Andujar, and now, Gleyber Torres from his position in the middle of the infield with rookies on both sides.
There are no written responsibilities or duties for a team captain. Most make it up as they go along. The front office views the captain as the face of the team, and for that reason, it is likely the team will undergo some serious vetting of the player before making an appointment.
Didi Gregorius has yet to enter this realm, but when he does he’s going to be the guy in the clubhouse who tells a player, “Hey, the music is getting a little loud in this corner”, or to a younger player, “That’s not the way we do things here. You should be dressed and ready to take the field by now”.
Typically, big league managers tend to leave the domain of the clubhouse to the players, seldom venturing inside. If Aaron Boone has something to address with a player, he’ll seek the player out on the field during batting practice.
So when you consider 25 men converging in an area the size of only a small house, from as many as ten different countries and cultures, 162 times a year, there are bound to be a few tense moments calling for someone with leadership ability to step in and quickly mend fences. Hence, the importance of a team captain.
A glimpse into the charter of Didi Gregorius comes through in this video made available by YES:
Didi Gregorius speaks four languages fluently, including English and Spanish. Known for his quiet ways, he can be projected as someone who will speak softly but carry a big stick. Walking the tightrope between not showing up a teammate but still getting a needed message across is something Gregorius may or may not be suited for. And it could be something he doesn’t even want, desiring only to play at his highest potential helping the Yankees win.
That would not be a crime and the Yankees will take his production on the field anytime, rather than thrust something on Didi Gregorius he doesn’t want. Still, they’ve put him on a course for him to be named the Yankees 12th captain.
Derek Jeter was a year older than Gregorius at 29 when he became the Yankees captain. This is a timeless matter, though, and maybe I didn’t mention it but I should – Didi Gregorius is a lifer as a Yankee.
Gregorius will have one year of arbitration in 2019 before he becomes a free agent in 2020. If the team doesn’t offer him an extension on his expiring contract, be sure there is no way the Yankees will let him go elsewhere as a free agent.
Yankees fans were left wondering how the void of Jeter would be managed by the Yankees when he left in 2014. Little did they realize when they stole Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks for what amounted to Shane Greene, the answer was on a plane headed for New York City and Yankee Stadium.
Didi Gregorius, the next Captain of the New York Yankees? Hands down, he’d be my choice. But in the meantime, I can’t wait to watch him play another game.
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