When Brian Cashman fulfilled one of his dreams last week by finally landing Arizona third baseman Brandon Drury, most fans took a, “Hey, that’s nice,” and moved on to the stories about the Yankees bashers taking batting practice. But very quietly, the Yankees have replicated a team-building move that has served them well over the years.
Any major league manager will, at some point in his tenure, be heard to utter, “It takes all 25 players in the clubhouse to win in this league”, a cliche we are all familiar with. Except that cliches, as with this one, are apt to be true. And once again, the Yankees are out to prove its veracity again this year by continuing a team tradition at third base.
I didn’t particularly notice it until I made the efforts to think about it, but do you recall the number of Yankees over the years who have held down the third base position, primarily as role players on teams fortified with future Hall of Famers and All-Stars?
In the mood for a quiz? Try this. Who was the Opening Day center fielder on the Yankees 1961 Championship Team? Got that one, right? It was Mickey Mantle. Now, who was the Opening Day third baseman for the team? Mmm…if you said Clete Boyer, you are correct. The same Boyer (right) who played stellar defense at third, while contributing 11 home runs and 55 RBI, complementing the M & M Boys.
How about 1996? Who played shortstop for the Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves? Number 2, of course. How about the third baseman, remember him? Guessing Charlie Hayes would be correct. Hayes, a career .262 hitter, had three hits for the Yankees that day, scored a run and drove in another. He also caught the final out of the Series.
You get the idea. And when you tack on former Yankees like Scott Brosius, who hit .314 in 20 World Series games with four home runs and thirteen driven home, with overshadowing teammates that included, Jeter, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Darryl Strawberry, et al., the focus becomes clear.
Add on Graig Nettles (right), Aaron Boone, Wade Boggs, and more recently, Todd Frazier. With the exception of Boggs, none of these players is likely to appear on any list of the greatest Yankees who ever lived. And yet, they all were crucial elements making significant contributions to the teams they played on.
Over the winter, Brian Cashman sent Chase Headley and his $11 million salary way to the San Diego Padres. Headley played a key role for the Yankees in 2017, largely remaining in the background while Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, etc. soaked up the media attention.
But it was Headley who went to then manager, Joe Girardi, announcing he was willing to give first base a try when Cashman finally sent Chris Carter on his way and Greg Bird remained injured. That move solidified the Yankees infield, which became even more fortified when Todd Frazier arrived, allowing Girardi the opportunity to flip-flop the two from day to day.
The tradition of having a steady, though not glamorous, bat in the lineup at third base continues this season with Brandon Drury. At this point, the only thing that can be safely said about Drury is he will not hurt the Yankees, and he will be given an honest chance to hold the job. Miguel Andujar might have something to say about that, but for now, the job belongs to Drury.
Here’s a snapshot of the season Drury is projected to have in 2018:
Compare those numbers to the season Chase Headley had last season for the Yankees, and you have an almost replica replacement in Drury. Plus as a bonus, the Yankees save $10 million, which can now be put in the bank with the $25 million they have yet to spend before exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $197 million.
All in all, it’s a pretty shrewd move by Cashman. And more significantly, it follows in the tradition of the Yankees having a player at third base who is consistent though not flashy, and who puts up some decent power numbers while being reliable defensively.
Twenty-five players will win the Yankees 28th World Championship, not just the five or six All-Stars they’ll be sending to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. for this year’s All-Star Game in July. Count on it.
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