Thursday, February 28, 2019

Is Greg Bird Teasing Us Again?

I promised myself that I was done with Greg Bird. After all the hype about his sweet swing and his MiLB success, hopes were built and expectations were set. Outstanding Spring Training performances occurred in 2015 and 2017 and led to the big tease. The result was a total letdown of major proportions. The tease did not even lead to decent numbers. They led to oblivion.

And thus, it was somewhat liberating to just write him off. The mindset was not particularly cruel. After all, for a position on the field that has an expectation to hit the ball effectively, Bird, flopped spectacularly. During the last two seasons, his wCR+ has been 86 and 81 respectively. According to Fangraphs, his offense in the past two seasons has been worth -11.9. Yeesh.

But it was worse than that for those of us who watched all those games. Greg Bird batted .133 with the bases loaded. He came to the plate seven times with the bases loaded and only one out. He went zero for seven in those opportunities. In late and close games in 2018, Bird batted .154 in those situations.

He was the rally killer. He was the candle snuffer. Just when it looked like the Yankees had an offensive surge coming, Greg Bird would take the life out of it. That made it very easy to jump on the Luke Voit bandwagon once the big guy performed his Shane Spencer imitation. No second thoughts were even given to Greg Bird not even making the post season rosters.

Much like a baker who puts the bread in the oven, I was more than willing to brush my hands of the Greg Bird experience. It seemed time to move on.

But one thing that seems to hold true about Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone is a loyalty you would not expect in a kill or be killed game. Cashman and Boone have remained steadfast concerning not only Greg Bird, but also Gary Sanchez after the bad egg he laid in 2018 himself.

Personally, I was not confident of the Yankees' first base position heading into the 2019 season. Sure, the Luke Voit thing was fun. But is it sustainable? And would a Voit / Bird platoon work? The first alarming thing about a platoon is that Bird hit lefties better than right-handed pitching in 2018, which, granted, is not saying much. But not only is the offensive tandem worrisome, but the fielding between the two is terrible.

I have long stated that a first baseman's defense is one of the most underrated aspects of baseball. If you have a squad full of ground ball pitchers and an infield of very young players, then you need first basemen who can make all the scoops and have all that footwork down. Neither Voit or Bird are strong defenders and their marks on and others show that to be the case.

Here we are in Spring Training once again. Both Voit and Greg Bird have had a good start in smacking the ball around. Of course, it is all meaningless at this point, but it is encouraging. And that is the problem.

I do not want to get sucked into the Greg Bird narrative again. I do not want to read articles about how he is finally where he needs to be both physically and mentally. I do not want to hear it when Boone says that Bird could be a large contributor this season. We have been down that road too many times before and, each time, it has turned to dust.

But....what if they are right? Nuh uh! Can't be! Won't happen! But what if it does? Darnit! It's happening again...

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