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The Yankees' Dead Weight


It's been no secret that Raul Ibanez hasn't been the Raul Ibanez he was for a while at the beginning of the season. You never really felt good about his trips to the plate, but he managed to run into enough slop to surprise you from time to time. He was never meant to be used as a regular outfielder, but that is what he became. Except for the fielding part, which he always insisted on making an adventure.

The obvious thing is that those surprise dingers into the second deck aren't really happening like they were. These days, it's more like flailing around at the plate to whiff at pitches in the dirt. Since August began, Ibanez has hit only one home run and driven in only eight runs. He's played 25 of the team's 31 games during that time. It's true that there weren't a lot of options before; it's not like Andruw Jones inspires a ton of confidence. With the roster expanded, the fact that he is still being used as a starter is a little baffling. Chris Dickerson was called up from AAA on a hot streak that he has seemingly carried over in his few at-bats with the big club. His defense alone would be reason to get him into the lineup over Ibanez, but it doesn't seem like that's what's happening.

With the way these two are being used, it appears that Raul Ibanez is still the starter, and I can't figure out why. Since August, his batting line stands at .171/.266/.300. That just isn't starter quality when other options exist on the bench. For someone who was supposed to strictly be a platoon player, Ibanez has accumulated 53 plate attempts vs. left handed pitchers this season. He has all of nine hits. It's inexplicable why he's been allowed to face as many lefties as he has on a team where the manager eats, sleeps, and breathes match ups. Until they come to Raul Ibanez, I guess. You obviously can't pull him every time it's his turn to face a lefty, especially not when his platoon partner has been somehow worse, but the painful memories of Ibanez vs. a lefty with runners on late in the game will haunt me.

The other side of that platoon is also the problem. Andruw Jones has been as disappointing as a player brought in to face one kind of pitcher can be. He's equaled his home run total from last year, but that's really where the comparison ends. His .203/.288/.420 line, including only a .207 average against lefties is a pretty big departure from last season's .247/.356/.495 marks. Without his fantastic series against the Red Sox earlier this year, his numbers would look even worse.

Ibanez and Jones are still used as though they are options number one and two, though. The excuse for batting Jones cleanup was the hope that it would "get him going". Maybe it's just time to accept that they are old baseball players who have gotten worn down by the absence of Brett Gardner forcing them into a more regular role. There's nothing wrong with admitting that when options exist that soften the blow. It's hard to argue that Dickerson, at least for now, wouldn't be better suited taking some of their at-bats, or most of them, if only for his defense alone.

The thing is that Ibanez and Jones will almost certainly be on the postseason roster as starters should the Yankees be fortunate enough to earn a spot over the next 25 games. Even if Dickerson is included to replace Gardner, I can't convince myself he'd be used over the gritty veterans, even if it's in the best interest of the team. It's easy for us to want them to give up on someone as soon as they fail to produce, but it's probably even easier for the team, after time has passed, to try to ignore all the evidence and hold onto a veteran player that's failing long past when they probably should just give up, on the hope that the next time will finally be the time they turn things around. It's possible that the team has done just that in hoping against hope that Ibanez and Jones can be viable starters in September on a playoff caliber team. Wanting them to field the team that gives them the best chance to win shouldn't be too much to ask.