This weekend, by playoff probability at least, means nothing. Even though the Yankees will get to play spoiler against a team, the Orioles, that is fighting to stay in the wild card race, the Yankees have nothing to gain. At the very least, we know these games won’t end in a tie.
They’re not really meaningless, though. No baseball game is. I am lucky enough to be attending these final two games at Yankee Stadium, and I find it more emotional than usual. I’m not usually at the Stadium in October—I’ve never attended a playoff game, and I’ve just never attended a late-season game until I was an adult.
What’s special is that Mark Teixeira is playing his final series at Yankee Stadium, and there’s no other way to say that I’m really broken up about it. Sure, he has been broken down and injured since 2012. He has only hit .222/.320/.432 (105 OPS+) in that remaining time—just 362 games—but, nonetheless, he is still one of the best Yankees first basemen in history.
While the Yankees were honoring David Ortiz just a couple of days ago—and considering what he’s done in his career, he deserves it—it’s worthy to note that Ortiz and Teixeira are back-to-back on the first base JAWS rankings. Of course Ortiz is more of a designated hitter, and that’s how he’ll be remembered, but it’s important to remember that Teixeira’s peak was out of this world, even if we didn’t see all of it while he was in pinstripes.
Then there’s 2009. 2009 was a very important year for the franchise, and, along with the new ballpark, it vaulted the Yankees into an era where they had more money and influence than any other team in baseball. That only lasted until the end of 2012, but it still happened. That was a bright spot for the franchise, and this was hands-down Teixeira’s most dramatic moment as a Yankee:
The other thing that we’ll always remember Teixeira for is his defense. What really separates him from Jason Giambi, in my mind, is the ability for Teixeira to create value with his glove as well as bat. Of course there’s the argument to be made that Giambi was overall more valuable, but my point stands: even when Teixeira was injured or slumped with his bat, he could still make these plays:
Of first basemen since 2003, only three players (John Olerud, Anthony Rizzo, and Albert Pujols) have a higher UZR/150. And in terms of total value, he was also one of the best first basemen since 2003: only Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto have accumulated more fWAR.
That’s a pretty good primer for his career, actually. He finds himself just outside of all-time greats, but not one himself. Honestly, I’m fine with that. Teixeira has gotten a very poor reputation in the past few years, at least in Yankees fans circles, because of the lack of value for what he was paid. However, considering the contracts of today—the massive Pujols deal, the Cabrera extension, the Prince Fielder contract—Teixeira’s looks modest in comparison. Betting on first basemen rarely works out, even for the best players, and the Yankees find themselves on the right side of history here. He had a better career than pretty much every Yankees first baseman except for Giambi and Lou Gehrig, which is some pretty rare company.
And there was the personality. Teixeira was a total goof. There was Foul Territory, the greatest player show of all time, his spate with the bees of spring training, his obsession with juices, and his famous comment about his baby wrist. Caitlin did a nice post on this, and it makes me miss him more than any on-the-field thing he’s ever done.
Mark Teixeira was everything you could ask for as a Yankee, and more. This is the last we’ll see of the position players that contributed to the 2009 title, unless you count Brett Gardner. He will be missed in so many different ways, and I can’t wait to be among the Yankee Stadium fans as we wish him goodbye. Thanks for everything, Tex.