You know he’s there because you see him stroking hit after hit in the Yankees lineup every night. Comfortable in the shadows is the team MVP…
DJ LeMahieu follows a long line of Yankees who quietly bring their lunchpail to work with them every night, and with little or no fanfare contribute to the team’s success. They wouldn’t be defined as role players, they are stars in their own right. But they seek no headlines and rarely get attention from the media. All they want to do is help their team win.
Yankees fans will recall players of this type from past generations. Elston Howard, for instance, hit .348 for the Yankees with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, and a .936 OPS. The trouble was that in the same year (1961) the M & M Boys, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went on a home run tear capturing the back page of newspapers from May to September. The Yankees won 109 games, capturing their 26th World Title.
Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera) instead of the Core Five, won a Batting Title in 1998. Williams .339 batting average led the American League and he tacked on 27 home runs and 97 RBI for good measure. Nearly all the credit for the 114 wins that season and a sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series went to aforementioned Yankees. Not a peep out of Bernie.
DJ LeMahieu, though few know it, also has a Batting Title under his belt. It came just three seasons ago in 2016 when he was with the Colorado Rockies. Slamming 51 of his 192 hits for extra bases, LeMahieu hit .348 that season. LeMahieu heard the whispered asides – “He’s a one-hit wonder playing in Coors Field” – but he ignored the jibes.
Instead, the Gold Glove winner in 2014 worked tirelessly on his hitting. His goal was simple – to become more consistent at the plate (Video: Le Mahieu Talks About Consistency) Don’t give away at-bats, square the ball up on the barrel and good things will happen. It worked, paving the way for a new lease on his baseball life with the New York Yankees.
Before Brian Cashman executed another of his ingenious moves by signing DJ LeMahieu to a two-year deal worth only (it’s all relative) $24 million as a free agent, LeMehieu had been cast aside by two teams.
The Chicago Cubs, who drafted Le Mahieu in the second round of the 2009 Amateur Draft, traded him on December 8, 2011, with Tyler Colvin to the Colorado Rockies for Casey Weathers (minors) and Ian Stewart. In turn, when LeMehieu qualified as an unrestricted free agent, the Rockies, for reasons they have yet to share, did not offer LeMahieu a contract.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Or at least, history in the making. Currently, DJ LeMahieu is hitting ,312, good enough to place him among the American League leaders. But that’s only a portion of his story in terms of his value to the Yankees. This video tells part of the rest…
With men on base, LeMehieu is batting .419, and with runners in scoring position, an astounding .474. (Source: Baseball Reference). With 78 hits to his credit thus far, LeMahieu is on pace to reach 200 or more this season.
Power is not Dj LeMahieu’s game, as witnessed by his total of seven this year. Still, his 41 RBI give him an even shot of finishing with 95-105 runs driven in. As the Yankees primary leadoff batter, LeMahieu’s job and value to the team is to get on base, while Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, and soon to come Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton play their role on the Bombers team.
Aaron Boone knows and appreciates LeMahieu’s value and style of play to the team. Using graphic language to make his point, Boone told the Athletic, “He’s up there to rip your heart out”. Pitchers know what he’s talking about.
When Cashman signed DJ LeMahieu, he made it clear to the player his role as a jack-of-all-trades in the Yankees infield, moving from position to position. At the time, Miguel Andujar had the hold on third base and Troy Tulowitzki was being primed at shortstop. Gio Urshela was nowhere in the picture.
To this day, DJ LeMahieu does not have a regular job with the Yankees. With the return of Didi Gregorius, together with the emergence of Urshela, there was concern LeMahieu, despite his stats, would become the odd man out.
No way said, Aaron Boone. True to his word, Boone is finding a place for LeMahieu every night, realizing his “hit machine” has to be in there somewhere.
Consistency is what LeMahieu sought and consistency is what he’s giving the Yankees. MVP of the team? A solid argument can be made. But all that matters is the team is winning – and DJ LeMahieu – quietly and very efficiently is getting his job done.