Greg Bird may or may not have a job with the Yankees come April. The humanness of his story, though, makes it hard not to hope he does…
Greg Bird has always had a sweet swing that makes the Yankees and fans dream of a full season with the short porch in right field an inviting target. Not too long ago, it was Brian Cashman proclaiming that Bird was “the best pure hitter” in the Yankees organization.
And yet, Greg Bird no longer has a job as the first baseman for the Yankees. Come Spring Training, first base belongs to Luke Voit, and it will be his job to lose.
It’s not that the Yankees don’t like Greg Bird anymore. It’s merely that Bird, even when healthy, has not been able to produce when playing on a daily basis. A .199 batting average last season, while playing in half the games on the Yankees schedule, does not cut it. Combined with a paltry .286 on-base percentage and an OPS of .672, and it’s no wonder Luke Voit looks like Babe Ruth compared to Bird.
Still, if you take Greg Bird’s power numbers over his three-year career with the Yankees (176 games or about one full season), Bird has 31 home runs and 97 runs driven in. Any team, including the Yankees, will take these numbers from a corner infielder provided they all come in one season.
The fate of Greg Bird has yet to be determined by the Yankees. Only 26, the 5th round draft choice by the Yankees in 2011 may well find himself taking bus rides with the Yankees Triple-A team in Scranton, Pennsylvania when the 2019 season begins.
It’s apparent the Yankees have all but lost faith and trust in Greg Bird. The team still mouths the words about Bird’s potential for greatness wearing the pinstripes, but it does not seem like their heart is in it. In brief, the Yankees are ready to move on – if they have to.
But it’s the other side of the equation that’s more compelling – which is – what is Greg Bird thinking these days? Has he prepared himself, for instance, for a demotion mentally? His body is finally healthy, but what is the state of his mind, or in translation, his confidence level?
We are reminded, of course, the words of wisdom from Yogi Berra, who deadpanned, “Baseball is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical.” For Greg Bird, though, he has been through this before during his months of recovery from ankle surgeries. Fans will recall the cowardly writer who claimed that Bird was “soft,” a term any professional ballplayer winces at.
However, Greg Bird came right back at his critics insisting he would be playing by the end of that season. He did play, and in fact, he hit that deciding home run off Andrew Miller in the playoffs to accent a Yankees win against Cleveland in the 2017 ALDS. What a tease, though.
The discussion becomes moot if the Yankees give in and join the sweepstakes for Bryce Harper, dreaming of his much-need lefty power bat lofting balls into the right-field porch, and in the process taking over first base for X number of years.
Instead of that, though, while taking nothing away from Luke Voit who has his own story to tell about the trials of making it to the major leagues, this is one fan who can’t help himself in rooting for Greg Bird.
We wait for pitchers to develop, giving them four and five years to “find it.” Nathan Eovaldi is a good example, coming out of nowhere to be a primary target in this year’s race to sign free agents.
But, for some reason, we are not quite as patient with hitters. Make no mistake though, Greg Bird is running out of time to begin a career that has been stalled now for three years. Excluding a Spring Training in which he tears the league up, a ticket punched for Triple-A, and the minor leagues could be what’s needed to get Bird back on track.
It’s a tough way to go, but Greg Bird has battled adversity before with his health, beating the odds of double and triple surgeries. The time is now to beat the odds, reclaiming his job at first base and powering the Yankees through the 2019 season.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor