The Wednesday Word – Tex not the apple of NY’s eye

November 04, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Those sports page headlines are either frame-worthy and proudly displayed in your trophy room — or — they make you shiver with tension and fright.

The one that Mark Teixeira saw in the New York Daily News on Tuesday morning won’t be going up in his house anytime soon.

The photo:  Teixeira flailing at a shoetop change-up from Ryan Madson for strike 3 – and the final out – in Monday’s Game #5.  The caption summed up a city’s opinion of his post-season play to date:

“$181 million for this?”

Yep, it ALWAYS comes back to the money.

Especially in New York, where everyone makes more, spends more and brags about it more.  

In Tex’s case, he earned his salary in the regular season with some mammoth offensive numbers. But they don’t give out big trophies and rings in the regular season.  This — the playoff season — is where you earn your own money in New York.

C.C. Sabathia deserves a raise, in fact.  He’s earned every bit of his $21 million this month…and then some.

But Teixeira’s post-season work at the plate has been nothing short of futile.  He did have a game-winning HR in the Minnesota series and had a big round-tripper in Game 2 of the World Series, but to say his bat has been quiet this Fall would be an understatement.  In medical terms, Teixeira’s bat had its jaw wired shut about three weeks ago.  It continues to starve.

His only saving grace, and it certainly doesn’t make up for his woeful production with the lumber, has been an out-of-this-world fielding display at first base in the 14 games of the 2009 post-season to date.  He has literally saved a post-season game or two with his handi-work at first base. That has to account for something, I suppose.

But Game 6 tonight could be his final chance to make an impact at the plate.  If the Yankees go on to win the World Series, some of the sting will be diminished simply because the New Yorkers will be world champions and everyone’s shortcomings won’t be nearly as memorable.  Robinson Cano, for example, has been horrible at the plate throughout the World Series but no one will remember that – or care – if the Yankees win one of the next two games.  Then again, Cano doesn’t make $23 million a year like Teixeira.

While others in the lineup are seemingly enjoying the spotlight in this post-season, Tex appears overwhelmed by it all.  He continues to swing at anything even remotely close to the plate and, particularly from the left side, he looks out of sync and more interested in hitting a 5-run homer than just making good contact.  He’s trying to make up for a month’s worth of bad swings in one trip to the plate.  

Mind you, it’s probably easy to get overwhelmed with the New York throng watching your every move.  Fans and media equate every at-bat to cash — “how much money was that strike-out worth?” — and when you make $20 million or more, the odds are pretty decent that you’re never going to give everyone their perceived money’s worth unless you go 13-for-25 with 5 HR’s and 11 RBI in 6 games. 

That’s the chance you take when you sign on the dotted line. 

Make that:  That’s the chance you take when you sign in NEW YORK.

If Teixeira would have signed in Baltimore for $23 million, his ’09 would have included 33 HR’s, 121 RBI’s, 73 wins and a regular 9:40 am tee-time with his dad at Chartwell Country Club starting on Monday, October 5.  Everywhere he went, folks would say, “Helluva season Mark, if they just get some other players like you, they’ll be fine.”

In New York, he IS “the other player”. 

He’s the guy they signed in the off-season to take some of the heat off of A-Rod, and Jeter, and Cano, and Posada.  He’s the hand-picked bonus baby, the guy they plucked away from the Red Sox and Angels during last winter’s version of “The Price Is Right”.  

For $181 million, “the other player” better be able to deliver with the game on the line in October.

Instead, at least in the post-season, he’s looking more suited for a last-place team like the Orioles, where he can put up brag-worthy regular season numbers and then head to Cancun for some R&R instead of playing post-season baseball. 

In Baltimore, where almost every player has a morning coffee and bagel in complete obscurity, Tex wouldn’t have this problem of gagging in the post-season because, well… – “they don’t play baseball in Baltimore in October”, according to the Director-of-Facts, Ian Eagle of CBS Sports.

Last December, the pride of Severna Park inked his mega-deal with the Yankees because he wanted a handful of opportunitites to win the World Series over the next decade.  He wanted to be the toast of the town.  He wanted to be the team’s new “Mr. October”.

Be careful what you ask for, kids, cuz’ you just might get it.

It’s not going to get any easier for Teixeira, no matter the outcome of Game 6 and/or (possibly) Game 7.  Unless he hits the game-winning grand slam in one of the next two affairs at Yankee Stadium, his ’09 playoff campaign will go down as dreadful…the subject of much off-season discussion on talk radio and the world wide web.  And no matter what he does in the 2010 regular season, all they’re gonna say in The Bronx is “Yeah, but remember what happened last year?  He was great in the regular season and then he s**t the bed in the playoffs.”

It can take a while to get that playoff monkey off your back.  Just ask A-Rod. 

Yankees broadcaster Ken Singleton was with me on The Comcast Morning Show last week and he said Teixeira is “the nicest kid in the world.”

That might be true.  I trust Ken’s opinion.  Good, solid people – like Singleton – are generally adept at judging the character of others.  

But in New York, right now, Mark Teixeira’s not being judged on whether or not he’s a good kid. 

He’s being judged on making $23 million and not delivering a product worthy of that kind of money.

And he only has 7 years left to prove himself.   

And he has 7 years to prove the Yankees were right – or wrong – for taking him into their home.