Baseball fans are noted for their fickleness. Love me today, hate me tomorrow. But all this talk about the Yankees replacing Didi Gregorius with that player from Baltimore during the offseason or even sooner is precisely that – talk.
Didi Gregorius is in the midst of a slump for all ages. A month ago he was batting .372 and on his way to being named the April’s Player of the Month in the American League. Today, he is struggling to not fall below .240 and is the subject of ridicule and despair among some fans and media.
The temptation to leap before looking 200 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike to Baltimore where one, Manny Machado, resides and is tearing up the league as a prelude to his upcoming free agency, can’t be stopped. But the trash-talking accompanying the discussion about Didi Gregorius is mindless and demonstrated little acumen for baseball.
We’ve been through this before, and in a widely read column titled Didi Gregorius And The Anatomy Of A Baseball Slump, it became apparent that even the best minds in baseball have nothing to contribute to when it comes to figuring out ways of escaping from a slump like the one Gregorius is in now.
Didi Gregorius has not forgotten how to hit. It’s just that bad habits are as easily acquired as good habits. Sometimes, things come easy for us, and sometimes they don’t. The teacher with a brilliant and well thought out lesson plan delivers it to one class, and the students are rapt in their attention, only to find that same lesson plan bombs in the next three classes. Why did that happen?
The construction worker digs a perfect hole well within the assigned tolerance. He takes a short break and then digs three more holes, all of which are beyond tolerance, asking himself later where did I go wrong? All he knows, though, is what he sees – his batting average for digging holes is on the way down.
So it is with Didi Gregorius these days. One would have thought the four days off this week might have helped, but apparently, the bottom hasn’t been hit yet as last night produced another 0-4 with one strikeout.
Didi Gregorius receives $8,250,000 to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. His contract with the Yankees reflects a steady rise in salary from the league minimum three short years ago and expires at the end of this season when he becomes eligible for arbitration. He will become a free agent in 2020.
A month ago, the clamor was for the Yankees to sign Didi Gregorius to a long-term deal now, well in advance of free agency. Unlike other teams, the Yankees have shown a reluctance to do that with any of their players, and Gregorius was not likely to be an exception, despite the indisputable steady rise in his production over the past three seasons.
Didi Gregorius is going to figure this thing out, and the Yankees know it. They know this in the same way they know Greg Bird, once he is healthy, is their first baseman for the near future, and Gary Sanchez, despite his penchant for passed balls, is their catcher for the next ten years.
The thing is this. Brian Cashman does not panic. Yes, Manny Machado is sitting out there throwing lures in the water and a slew of teams will be biting beginning any moment now, and indeed in July when the Orioles will be putting the finishing touches on one of their worst seasons ever.
But Machado has nothing to do with Didi Gregorius. If anything, the Yankees might consider Machado as their third baseman if Miguel Andujar continues to stumble. Even that scenario, though, borders on panic, given the faith the Yankees express in Andujar.
Moreover, the Yankees need starting pitching, not a shortstop. Cashman has said time, and again that will be his focus if the Yankees are to engage in dealmaking this summer. And he means it.
Lest we forget too, the Yankees are 10-3 in May, tied for first place with the Red Sox, and are showing no signs of being affected by the slump of Gregorius.
Aaron Boone will continue to juggle Gregorius in the lineup, experimenting last night, for example, batting him third. That placement is not likely to last long, but there is no way Didi Gregorius will not be somewhere in the lineup for as long as he is healthy.
Calm down, folks. This will soon be over, and all the talk will revert to questioning why Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t hit 30 home runs by the All-Star break and why the Sonny Gray deal stinks to high heaven. Just like old times, Didi Gregorius will resume being an impact player for the Yankees and the cheers (how can you boo this guy?) will return.