I strongly disliked the Jesus Montero–Michael Pineda for many reasons. Pineda’s weak second half in 2011 scared me. Shipping away a 22-year-old hitter who was tailor made for Yankee Stadium angered me. Trading a near sure-thing for a question mark with potential made me feel that Brian Cashman’s legacy now depends on the success or failure of this move. But in between my fear or Michal Pineda becoming the next one-hit-wonder and Jesus Montero becoming the greatest player in Mariners history is one involving the position Montero vacated in January. One of my biggest fears in regards to the Yankees is one that’s already been realized twice in just five games. It’s Eduardo Nunez making error after error in the field while Girardi implements the dreaded rotating DH for the aging veterans.
I understand why the rotating DH is good on paper. You give your aging veterans a half-day off here and there, which reduces the wear of a long season and keeps them fresher for the stretch run and the playoffs. The chance for injury goes down. All of that good stuff should come with a rotating DH slot, with the keyword being “should”. A rotating DH will undoubtedly fail if your backup infielder, who will be playing significant time, is a butcher with the glove while your starters are in the conversation for a gold glove at their respective positions, year in and year out. In my opinion, Eduardo Nunez would make Bill the Butcher from the film Gangs of New York blush. And Raul Ibanez isn’t any better. The worst part is that, just five games into the season; we’ve already seen multiple examples of this.
It’s already gotten out of control in my mind. In the second game of the season, Eduardo Nunez got the start at shortstop while Derek Jeter patrolled the dugout during the bottom of every inning, waiting for his next at bat. Is Joe Girardi for real? Why does Derek Jeter need a half day off? He just came off of a month filled with ground ball drills and two at bats per game under a beautiful Florida sunny sky, not a stretch of 15 games in as many days during the dog days of summer. There’s no excuse for this. None. Is it the tough turf at the Trop that’s supposedly hard on the legs, Joe? The logic behind this move escapes me.
But regardless, Nunez made arguably the most predictable error of all time in the first inning, which led to two unearned runs and an eventual Yankees loss. Last year, he committed 20 errors as a backup, good for the most on the team and fifth in the American League. With his substantial increase in playing time this season with the rotating DH, there is no reason to believe that he will cut down on his error totals. To be honest, I would not be shocked in the least if he committed 30 or more errors. He may give last year’s league leader Mark Reynolds and his sieve for a glove a run for his money. Last time I checked, you needed a slick fielding backup in order for a rotating DH to work instead of a guy that would make mid-2000’s Chuck Knoblauch chuckle at his television. He isn’t good enough with the lumber to make up for his embarrassing play in the field, in my mind. I almost wish our old friend Ramiro Pena was on the roster instead.
Eduardo Nunez’s poor glove work is not the only criminal here. Raul Ibanez is to Watson as Nunez is to Sherlock Holmes. Ibanez was here to be the designated hitter, yet he was in right field in just the third game of the season, spelling Nick Swisher. Now I understand this move a little more, as Swisher battled a groin injury towards the end of spring training. But is Andruw Jones that incapable of hitting righties that Ibanez had to get the start? Yes, I know Jones only recorded eight of his 33 RBI’s against righties last year but should that supersede their differences with the glove? Jones is far from his gold glove days patrolling centerfield in Atlanta, but he’s still leagues better defensively than Ibanez. In the first inning of the final game of the Rays series, Ibanez obscenely misplayed a sinking liner hit by Matt Joyce, which ended up being a run scoring triple and all the run support Jeremy Hellickson would need. No surprise there, as Ibanez can’t even fake playing the outfield. Let’s hope we don’t have to watch Ibanez attempt to play right field too often, I don’t think my heart can take too many grossly misplayed balls this year. Eric Chavez can produce with the glove at a (somewhat) old age, why can’t you, Grandpa Raul?
Even late in Wednesday night’s game, Eduardo Nunez was lifted in the 10th inning of the Orioles-Yankees game for a defensive replacement in Chavez. Joe Girardi is proving my point for me. The Yankees clearly should not strictly adhere to the rotating DH, as the man who will be filling in defensively for three of the best infielders of the past decade is not good enough with the glove to take the field in the late innings. Oh, Eduardo, even with the helmet-falling-off-your-head act, you make it so hard to love you.