The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Holliday Delivers Just What the Yankees Ordered

No, Matt Holliday isn’t delivering pizzas to the Yankees’ clubhouse.  At least not yet.  But he sure is making the Yankees’ front office look good by getting off to a fantastic start this season, after being acquired as a free agent over the winter.

Over the last couple of years, the Yankees have engineered a make-over of its team, shedding big-dollar contracts of older veterans and infusing the roster with some of its upstarts from their farm system.  In fact, they’ve now become known as the “Baby Bombers” for the offensive breakout by several of the young players.

Among the players displaced from the team over the winter were Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, long-time, well-respected veterans of the big-leagues, who were able to provide the newcomers with leadership required in the clubhouse.  Beltran and McCann became expendable because the Yankees didn’t want to extend the contracts of the aging players at the salaries they would command.

Recognizing the leadership void this would create in the clubhouse, Yankee GM Brian Cashman pursued Holliday, whom the St. Louis Cardinals released to free agency for the same economic reasons.

Just a few years ago, Holliday had been a premier outfielder, an all-star selection in seven seasons.  However, the Yankees took somewhat of a gamble on the 37-year-old because he had been plagued with injuries over the previous two seasons with St. Louis and saw a drop in offensive production.  An outfielder practically all of his career, his skills were diminishing there, too.  Yet Cashman signed him to a one-year deal for $13M, which would limit the Yankees’ commitment and liability if he didn’t work out.

Well, Holliday hasn’t disappointed the Yankee brass or their fans.  Used primarily as the team’s designated hitter, he’s responded better than expected with 12 home runs, 35 RBI, and a .363 on-base percentage as of June 3. His power numbers on the team rank only behind Aaron Judge, one of those new rookie upstarts with the Yankees.  Holliday has provided some flexibility in the Yankees’ lineup by also serving as an occasional first-baseman.  If needed, he could also be pressed into service in the outfield, as well.

During the off-season the list of high-profile free agents didn’t include Holliday.  Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and Jose Bautista got most the attention and the big bucks.  But Holliday has been as productive this season as any of those guys.

His impact on the Yankees has been immense.  They are currently 10 games above .500.  They’ve been in first-place of the American League East Division for over half of the season.  They’ve been one of the biggest surprises of the year in Major League Baseball so far, and Holliday has been a significant contributor to that, along with Judge and the better-than-expected pitching staff.

Holliday’s presence in the clubhouse has been equally noticeable as it has been on the field.  The veteran’s locker was purposefully located next to Judge’s who consults with him every day about the hitting plan for the day’s opposing pitcher.  They discuss mechanics, approach, and philosophy.  Holliday has been a resource for the other young hitters, as well.  Yankee manager Joe Girardi practically has another coach on the team in Holliday.

 After 7 ½ seasons with the Cardinals, they had decided after last season it was time to move on without Holliday.  But now with the Yankees he’s an integral part of the team.  He’s demonstrating the type of clutch competitor he’s been in the past, and the rest of the team is feeding off that.

If the Yankees continue their winning ways and indeed make the post-season playoffs, Holliday will be a good guy to have around.  He’s no stranger to the post-season, having played in three different World Series—one with Colorado Rockies and two the Cardinals, claiming one World Series ring.  He has 13 home runs and 37 RBI in seven years of post-season competition.

Holliday seems to have re-energized his career and in turn energized the Yankees by his addition to the team.  At his age, who knows how long it will last.  But for now, he’ll be the one ordering the pizzas, not delivering them.

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