Throughout the summer, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman repeatedly said that while he wasn’t actively looking to make a trade to replace Brett Gardner, he didn’t want to “overexpose” Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, who shared the majority of duties in left field until the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki on July 23.
Right now, Yankees fans seem to be finding out exactly why Cashman expressed those thoughts…and when combined with the slump the entire team has gone into, the wonder of whether or not Jones and Ibanez played “too much” this season is only magnified.
To wit: In the first half, Ibanez hit .240/.755-11-36 in 221 at-bats over 70 games, while Jones was .244/.862-11-22 in 127 at-bats over 49 games – and if you told manager Joe Girardi that the two guys who were supposed to be his “DH platoon” would hit 22 homers and drive in 58 runs in 350 first-half at-bats, he surely would’ve been ecstatic.
But in the second half, the tale of the two former All-Star outfielders has been a rocky one. In 116 AB over 41 games through Thursday, Ibanez is hitting just .207/.663-4-17, and has regressed as time has passed; he hit just .196 in August, hasn’t hit a home run since August 5, and is 1-for-14 in September so far while in the midst of a 3-for-41 (.073) slump over the last three calendar weeks.
Jones, meanwhile, is just 12-for-85 (.141) in the second half with two homers and nine RBIs; he hasn’t homered since August 16, and since that dinger is 4-for-31 (.129) with just three walks and a hit by pitch to add to his OBP.
True, the Yankees have yet to really play with their optimal lineup this season; they got just a handful of games out of their “starting seven” (Teixeira/Cano/Jeter/A-Rod/Swisher/Granderson/Gardner) before Brett Gardner got hurt, and since acquiring Ichiro to “replace” him, the Yankees have been missing at least one of Swisher, Rodriguez, or Teixeira every day since – so that septet still hasn’t played together since April 18.
But with everyone healthy once Teixeira returns (possibly this weekend) and rosters expanded to 40, perhaps the “old men” can get a bit of a breather and refresh for the final stretch run.
The Orioles will throw three lefties this weekend, meaning Ibanez (and Eric Chavez, who himself is just 8-for-43 or .186 over the last three weeks since his torrid string of six straight multi-hit games ended) will likely spend most of the rest of their stay in Camden Yards on the bench. Jones might too, depending on how he feels after being plunked in the leg by Randy Wolf Thursday night.
Perhaps the rest will do them good, because with the entire team struggling, it might once again be up to the “bench” – the aforementioned trio included – to get hot and be the Yankees’ September saviors.