Going into the 2015 season, it was difficult to find Yankees fans who were optimistic about Mark Teixeira. The veteran first baseman came to the Bronx with sky-high expectations after signing a monster eight-year, $180 million deal in the 2008-09 off-season, and he paid dividends immediately. Advertised as a Jason Giambi bat combined with a Don Mattingly glove, he was everything the Yankees could have hoped he would be in 2009. He was runner-up in AL MVP voting, hit .292/.383/.565 with a league-leading 39 homers and a 142 wRC+ as the Ynakees won their first World Series in nine years.
Since then, it's been a tale of extremes for Tex. If he had joined a team without as many unbelievably popular players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte, his 2009 campaign might have earned him a lifetime pass from even the rabid Yankee Stadium fans. (Hey, one standout season was enough for Scott Brosius.) However, that wasn't the case, as his 2010 and 2011 seasons were solid but not quite as splashy as his first season in pinstripes. He still hit a boatload of homers, sending 72 bombs out of the park over the two seasons, but like Giambi did after his first season, he saw his batting average dip to the .250s territory, drawing the ire of fans more interested in the traditional statistics. To them, he was nice, but he wasn't worth the high salary. Nonetheless, the Yankees still made the playoffs both years, so that was enough to keep most of the anger at bay.
The past three seasons though were a free-fall into near-irrelevance. Statistically, his 2012 was pretty close to his previous two seasons, but he began to suffer from the injury bug for really the first time in his career. Prior to 2012, he had averaged 153 games per season since his rookie year of 2003, including at least 156 in six of the previous seven years. An injured calf curtailed a good chunk of his second half in 2012 though, limiting him to 123 games. Then, batting practice for the 2013 World Baseball Classic happened, and Tex felt a pop in his wrist. It didn't seem like much at the time, but it ruined his next two seasons. He was injured for the vast majority of 2013, held to just 15 games and eventually needing season-ending wrist surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath. In his first full season back, he wasn't the same player at all, limited to a .216/.313/. 398 triple slash and 22 homers, the lowest of his career save for the injury-ravaged 2013.
So going into 2015 with two years and yet $46 million left on his contact, Yankees fans were exactly feeling pleased as peach about Teixeira. Two months into 2015 however, Tex looks about as good as he has appeared since 2012. Despite a .236 average, his OBP and slugging percentage are much better at .362 and .563, respectively, particularly thanks to his 13 homers, which rank second in the league early on. That's good for a 147 wRC+, which is fantastic. His glove's as good as ever, so that makes him certainly a valuable commodity for the Yankees. Sure, he might only be hitting about as well as Adam Dunn, but what's wrong with that?
Teixeira has a .236/.362/.563 triple slash this year, and that's with an uncharacteristically low .188 BABIP. In the final three years of Dunn's career, he hit .214/.329/.443 with a 111 wRC+, and that was all while being a DH. Tex is a switch-hitter and still has a fine glove at first base, making him better than Dunn, even while acknowledging that he's unlikely to slug .563 all year. If the 111 wRC+ bat of Dunn from 2012-14 is his base performance, then the Yankees will be in pretty good shape. Anyone would want a useful bat like that in the lineup. Yankees fans should no longer expect him to be a roughly $20 million player. Few players are by the end of a long-term contract. Should he be better than the mediocre bat he was last year, and have his bat produce at least late-career Dunn levels, then both management and Yankees fans should sign up in a heartbeat.
Shine on, you goofy man. Also bring back "Foul Territory" while the good vibes linger.