DJ LeMahieu, the consummate baseball rat, is where he knows he belongs in Tampa and close to the Yankees Spring Training complex. Otherwise, he’d go insane.
When Yankees GM Brian Cashman approached DJ LeMahieu following eight seasons with the Colorado Rockies, a team going nowhere, he didn’t flinch when Cashman told him, “We don’t have a position for you, but you are going to play somewhere every day”.
Two years removed from the National League Batting Title, DJ LeMahieu signed a two-year team-friendly $24 million deal with the Yankees that raised a few eyebrows around the league. Why sign for so little?
DJ LeMahieu Is In Love
But anyone asking that question didn’t know much about DJ LeMahieu, a man in love with baseball.
Nor should anyone have been surprised when LeMahieu played in 145 games last year for a team riddled with injuries, dividing time at 1B, 2B, and 3B while making only six errors in 620 chances in the field.
And that was only half of LeMahieu’s contribution. Twenty-six home runs, 102 RBI, 109 runs scored, and an OPS of .893 capped off his .327 batting average and a fourth-place finish in the AL MVP voting.
There was some small talk in the early part of the offseason about the Yankees offering an extension to LeMahieu, whose contract expires at the end of 2020.
But that conversation was intercepted by the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus and the ensuing postponement of the MLB season.
Yankees Holding On, But…
Initially, the Yankees voted unanimously to keep their spring open, and Brian Cashman concurred, vowing to do all he can to maintain some semblance of normalcy amidst the daily increase in uncertainty.
When Yankees manager Aaron Boone packed his bags earlier this week and headed home to his family in Connecticut, the proverbial die seemed cast that for all the effort, “life” had overcome baseball.
But not for everyone. DJ LeMahieu and his wife are still in Tampa, and as far as LeMahieu is concerned, the camp is still open. The Yankees Lone Ranger explains:
“I really don’t want to go home. I’ll stay here,” the Michigan resident said Thursday morning while standing inside the players’ parking lot and talking to reporters through a chain-link fence. “Personally, it keeps me sane. At least workout and do some baseball stuff.” (New York Post)
DJ LeMahieu: Once A Baseball Rat Always A Baseball Rat
Brian Cashman vows to do all he can to accommodate LeMahieu and a few others, and Yankees hitting instructor Marcus Thames remains in Florida in a supporting role.
But DJ LeMahieu is swimming against the grain, and it’s only a matter of time before Cashman and the Yankees are forced to say – we can’t do this anymore, and it’s time for everyone to head home.
Reluctantly, a distressed DJ LeMahieu, together with his very understanding wife Jordan, will pack up his bats and their belongings to hit the road.
But just as predictable, Jordan will be at the wheel while DJ is scouring the landscape looking for any sign of a field where a college game or a pickup game is in progress.
Yankees: Let’s Not Forget That Extension
Anytime, anywhere DJ LeMahieu wants and needs the firm ground of a baseball field. Of course, he’s a throwback. It’s a no-doubt rarity in the game today.
But just as surely, that desire and commitment remain the main ingredient that supplies a lifetime .300+ batting average in an era when home runs are king.
DJ Lemahieu’s sanity will likely remain in check until the 2020 baseball gets underway.
But it should not go unnoticed that save for rehabbing players who need to be there like Giancarlo Stanton; he is the Last Man Standing in Yankees camp today.
And maybe as soon as some of the dust settles and baseball returns to some semblance of normalcy, it behooves the Yankees to lock this guy up for at least four more years (he’s only 31).
Or not, because just as he was when he left the Rockies, DJ LeMahieu is comfortable in his own shoes and with a bat in his hands – he’ll figure it out.