Any team with six All-Stars in their starting lineup is bound to have one or two players who live in the shadows. The Yankees have a player, who was tagged this week by a respected former Yankee, as “The best Young Hitter I’ve Ever seen.” And he is not the first Yankee to ring the bell on Greg Bird…
Tino Martinez was born in 1967, which means that over his half-century on this planet he has witnessed Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero, and Barry Bonds, among others, all handle a bat pretty well over the course of their career. And yet, when asked recently to name the best hitter in the game today, he didn’t hesitate in anointing Greg Bird, the Yankees starting first baseman for 2018.
And it’s not the first time someone in the Yankees organization has voluntarily come forth bursting with enthusiasm about the 25-year-old fifth-round draft choice of the Yankees in 2011. Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, used another superlative adjective referring to Bird as “the best pure hitter on the Yankees.”
Now, one of two things is happening here. Either the Yankees are hyping the hell out of this guy because they intend to use him as bait in a future trade (not likely), or the Yankees genuinely see stardom written all over for Greg Bird, who as we know, has yet to play a full season with the team.
But as we were reminded by Bob Dylan, we “don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The same is true when it comes to any fan of baseball who has seen Greg Bird swing a bat. Short through the zone, with a natural uppercut, the ball jumps off his bat.
Nonbelievers, witness only this blast by Bird into the upper deck in Game 3 of the 2017 ALCS off lefty All-Star Andrew Miller and ask yourself, did that ball get of there quick, or what?
I’ve been ringing the bell for Greg Bird for some time now. And I still believe he is going to be the Aaron Judge of the Yankees 2018 season. I mean that, of course, only in terms suggesting Bird will be among the leaders when it comes to the team’s MVP vote at the conclusion of the season. He’ll put up some numbers too and a 30 -100-100 season from him should not surprise.
To fulfill that promise, Bird must remain on the field playing a minimum of 140 games at first base, complemented with DH appearances to keep his bat in the lineup as a worthy distraction for Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez to run havoc over pitchers.
All indications point to the ankle injury being a thing of the past. Bird regained confidence when a second surgery was performed late last season, and doctors told him (paraphrasing), “Greg, it’s not gonna get any better, but you should feel good in knowing it’s not’s going to get any worse either. Just go out there and play”.
Which he did, and there have been no hiccups since.
If you play for the Yankees, it’s a good thing to have Brian Cashman in your corner. And Cashman has been there for Bird throughout, never wavering when asked who the first baseman is for the New York Yankees.
But as everyone knows, and most especially Greg Bird knows, there comes a time when you have to put those grueling, depressing, and challenging months of rehab when your team was playing without you aside. Bird is with the team now, and that’s all that matters.
And no one knows better than the Memphis, Tennessee native that this is the season when the best pure hitter on the Yankees meets a new challenge to be precisely that, in the same way, he battled to come back to be where he is now. Should be quite a hoot if he can