Okay, so today I would like to write in defence of Jacoby Ellsbury because he is getting too much slack from the media and particularly in the Bronx Pinstripe Podcast. Now, this isn’t an attempt to slag off the guys on that podcast because I really enjoy their show and for the most part I agree with a lot of what they say about things pertaining to the Yankees.
But it comes to a point when a person has to speak up for someone else because the discourse has become unbalanced. So I shall try to offer a counterpoint to some of the Ellsbury bashings that have become the hobby of the moment.
For one thing, I agree completely when people say that the contract that he was given was one of the most ill-thought out and idiotic contracts that were ever given to the player. They handed him $153m for seven years, which breaks down at about $21,142,857 per annum. I mean that is a crazy-stupid contract to give a player whose performance is built on speed and on the health of his legs. It is obvious that such a contract was ill conceived because anyone with even half a brain would know that here is a player who is not going to keep the performance levels up. He was never a power bat apart from one season, his performances have dropped off and to be honest there was no sense offering him a contract like the one the Yankees gave him when the team that developed him refused to pay him that kind of money.
The Yankees signed him as a knee jerk reaction. First to try and appease the fans for the loss of Cano, something the Yankees should never let happen, but they did and were forced to try and bring in a guy that they thought could be the linchpin of the team they were building for no reason other than to have a good news story. The fact that Jacoby happened to be an ex-Red Sox player was just the cherry on top for the Yankee front office who seemed to let cheap point scoring at the expense of the BoSox get in the way of sound judgment. So if you are going to be annoyed about Ellsbury’s contract be annoyed at Hank, Hal, and whoever else made this move and offered this money because to be honest, being mad at a player who took this contract is just plain dumb. Of course, he was going to take the money that was offered. Who wouldn’t? He had no idea that he was going to pick up injuries that sped up the decaying of his playing performances and abilities. The Yankees should have known that he was already at peak performance and that he would not be the sound investment they claimed he was going to be.
The next thing to deal with is that he is a bum and that he has no incentive for playing well and is out there just going through the motions. They claim that he is not putting in the effort, citing his poor batting returns, or his lack of steals. But let’s look at this. As I already stated, he was never a power hitter, and his batting has been affected by the health issues that he has picked up. You can’t just say that it is Jacoby who is injured all the time. The Yankees have a really serious problem with players being injured and taking forever to recover, I mean recently we had a coward in the front office gripe about Bird and his injury and recovery time. This is a kid who has been prone to serious injuries, so should we be surprised that a guy who is ageing is starting to struggle with injuries and that this has cut down on his playing time and affected his hitting?
Also as far as the base running goes, it is common sense that he is not going to run as well as when he was younger, but actually there is another problem that is out of his control that means his steals will be down, and that lies with Joe Girardi who is one of the most conservative managers out there. He does not seem to have a whole lot of faith in the small ball game and is not keen on ordering bunt plays, steals and the like. Quite simply, the style of play that best suits Jacoby Ellsbury is the exact opposite of the style of play that Joe Girardi.
The claim that he is not playing with heart is just plain insulting to a professional athlete, and not at all in line with the truth when you look at the plays that he has made when he has taken the field. I mean the guy damn near killed himself this year chasing a fly ball down when he crashed hard into the wall. The resulting concussion affected him badly. Did we see someone there who was just going through the motions of appearing to play, pulling a Hal Chase out there? No, we saw someone make a flat out play, catching the ball and holding it, despite smashing into the wall and the ground. Plus let us not forget the game against Tampa in April of last year when the guy just flat out stole home… YES, HE STOLE HOME. The first Yankee to do that for 15 years. It was an incredible play. He has had 121 chances this year 118 of which were put outs, with just 2 errors made. That’s not lying down on the job. He is taking care of business where he still can. Last year he had 280 chances and only 3
His fielding has certainly not been poor either when you look at the figures. So far this year he has had 121 chances 118 of which were put outs, with just 2 errors made. That’s not lying down on the job. He is taking care of business where he still can. Last year he had 280 chances and only 3 errors, in 2015 he had 237 defensive chances and 0 yes zero errors, and in his first year with the Yankees he 384 chances and just 1 measly error in the field. So yeah while his batting has not been quite what they expected and he has not given much with base stealing as was hoped, he has been a fine fielder for the Yankees and has put his body on the line more than once.
So when I hear people claiming that he is a bum, worthless, not committing to the team because he has no incentive, and perhaps the worst signing in Yankees history I have to laugh. Because while his contract is ludicrous, it cannot be said that he has not given the Yankees much in return. That steal of home, a straight steal too, was definitely worth it. As has his reckless lack of self-regard when it comes to making plays in the field. There have been many signings that were miles worse for the Yankees that have not produced anything at all near as the value.
When you look at what Jake has given this team it is fair to say that he was not worth the contract that he was given, but again it must be made clear that the contract was the fault of the owners and the front office. It is not his fault that age and injury has slowed him down, or that he makes mistakes in base running when he is brought into a game that he is pinch running in, that can happen because the player might not be up to game speed as he would if he was in the game from the start. But to me, he was not the worst contract ever in the history of the Yankees despite the size of his pay cheque. For me, the worst signing will always be Kei Igawa who was paid basically $46m for 5 years, in which he played a sum total of 16 games over 2 years, and where he posted just two wins and ERA of 6.66 before spending the rest of his contract in A-Ball. $46m for just two wins. THAT is the worst signing by the Yanks. Jacoby, while not exactly living up to what he was paid, still has not let us down the as bad as some make out. Those who say he has are just speaking out of pay cheque envy and the resentment of a player who used to play for the Sox. They need to let it go and move on.