Greg Bird’s nine lives as a New York Yankee have, along with all the hope and hype of a promising career, fizzled. A compelling baseball story…
Greg Bird‘s career can best be summed up by noting he has totaled 611 at-bats over the course of his career, roughly the equivalent of one season for a regular player. His 32 home runs and 98 RBI jump off the page when you see them, and it isn’t until you find Bird’s batting average at .211 with 189 strikeouts that you begin to wonder. The wondering ceases, however, when you realize are not looking at stats for one season – and that Bird’s numbers have been accumulated over four years.
More than numbers, the Greg Bird story has been and continues to be about injuries and the human side of baseball. The most Bird has managed to play in a Yankees uniform is a half-season, 82 games in 2017. He’s been under 50 games for his remaining time, including the 2019 season where he is listed by Baseball Reference with this tag under Injured Player: (Foot): Bird has been designated for 10-day injured list with a left plantar fascia tear and is likely to away from the field until at least the end of May. (Updated May 05, 2019).
From there, my head, though not necessarily my heart, tells me that Greg Bird is likely to be thrust into Yankee’s oblivion. He will recover as he has with all of his injuries and be pronounced by team doctors as fit to resume all baseball activities. But Greg Bird will never have another at-bat with the New York Yankees.
Instead, Bird will be sent to Triple-A Scranton in what will be described as a rehab assignment. Except this rehab will not end until he shows he can play and produce every day over an extended period, upon which he will be included in a trade with another team. Experiment over – game over.
I thought long and hard to come up with a word that best describes the Yankee’s treatment of Greg Bird over the last four years, and the one I settled on is cavalier. Exemplifying the class organization they are, the Yankees (until now when you barely hear a peep from them about Bird) have treated Bird with dignity and hope that one-day, injuries would be behind him and his career would take off as planned.
Not by accident, Greg Bird has been featured twelve times in columns I’ve written for Reflections On Baseball in stories ranging from his much-hyped battle with Luke Voit this Spring for the job at first base – to another that centered on why it’s hard not to root for Bird – to another one written in October 2017 that pronounced the Greg Bird Coupon Officially Redeemed. That last one, of course, mainly referenced his mammoth home run off Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the ALDS against Cleveland (video)
Greg Bird may or may not ever rise to heights like that one again. He certainly has no chance if his injury-riddled career continues. Another certainty is the Yankees have their first baseman for the next decade and they no longer have room for Greg Bird in their plans for the future. Luke Voit is among league leaders in home runs and RBI, and this is only the beginning of a solid career with the Yankees.
Greg Bird is eligible for his first year of arbitration in 2020, and he will reach free agent status in 2022. The Yankees are paying Bird $1.2 million this season, which doubled his salary of 2018, again showing their benevolent treatment of Bird.
As an option, the Yankees can designate Bird for assignment, in effect releasing him where Bird could be claimed on the waiver wire by any team. Like the Yankees, however, opposing teams are more likely to want to see Bird in action over a period of time, which puts the timetable for a move by the Yankees more in the July trade deadline framework.
Greg Bird is a professional ballplayer. He knows what’s coming and hopefully, he’s preparing mentally for the changes that have reached the point of inevitability. Mentally, Bird has always been strong as proven by the countless times he has gone through rehabbing various injuries.
For Greg Bird, the challenge remains a physical one in which his body can prove Brian Cashman’s claim that – “Greg Bird is the purest hitter in the Yankee’s organization”…
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Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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