3/04/2008 03:38:00 PM

Why Melky Can Become The Next Bernie

Posted by Mark McCray |

Mike Vacarro had a good piece on Melky Cabrera in the New York Post on February 26th, but I never came across it until now.

The article investigates where Melky Cabrera fits in the storied past of the valuable piece of real estate that is Yankee Stadium's center field. Vacarro thoughtfully questions whether Melky Cabrera has what it takes to burn his name into history as an effective and winning center fielder.

Personally, I am sold on Melky Cabrera and I think Mike Vacarro is as well.

If he thought about it the way you would think about it, the way I would think about it, then Mmelk elky Cabrera probably couldn't do the job he's going to be asked to do this season. Cabrera understands the value of the real estate he roams. He appreciates it. He reveres it. But he isn't overwhelmed by it. He can't afford to be.

"I know where I am when I am out there," Cabrera said. "It is an honor to play there. But I have a job to do, and I know my team relies on me to do it."

Eighty-one games left for the most important patch of land in baseball history, if not all of American sport. And Melky Cabrera will be the one who gets to patrol that precinct, walk that beat, most of the time.

"I'm sure the older he gets, the more he'll appreciate the other people who have roamed the position," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he's like the rest of us, the older we get the more we appreciate things like that."

Besides, Girardi said, the most important name of all, to a 23-year-old kid like Cabrera, belongs to Williams, who was also shy, also a switch-hitter, also something of a skeptical heir to the throne when he first drew the assignment almost 18 years ago.

"I would think," Girardi said, "that he knows all about Bernie."

"I do," Cabrera said. "Bernie is a guy who played the position well, who played the game for the New York Yankees the way I want to. I know he always said what an honor it was to play center field for the Yankees, and now I know exactly what he meant."

Williams first had to succumb at last to the inevitable rigors of age. Kenny Lofton had to all but light himself on fire. Carlos Beltran tried to offer himself at a discount; the Yankees said no, thank you. Johnny Damon was signed to a four-year deal, managed to serve only one full season in center. Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones were all available this offseason for the right price; in past years, the Yankees most assuredly would have met one of those numbers.

But these are the new Yankees, the youth-ignited Yankees, the fiscally restrained Yankees, and in that business plan Cabrera is a cozy fit guarding left-center to right-center. And on a team that shouldn't suffer for offense, the Yankees will gladly sign up for a similar year to the one Cabrera turned in last year: .273 average, eight homers, 73 RBIs, 13 steals.

More pertinently, he played a terrific center field, committed only four errors and had 16 outfield assists - 14 of them from center.

"Whatever I can do to be a help, I try to do," he said. "Center field is important on any team, but especially on this team."

He meant the position, of course, but only at Yankee Stadium could that also mean center field itself. All the names. All the years. And now 81 more games before the Yankees flee across the street, leaving center field to the ghosts, starting with a man named Whitey and ending with a kid named Melky.

I refuse to buy into the Melky hating club.

You can look at stats all you want but you can not measure the things that are most important in players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Melky Cabrera. I support Melky and so do the Yankees...you should too.

Also, do not discount the fact that A-Rod has taken Melky under his wing. Just look at what the Melk Man has done so far this Spring! Melk Man is batting .500 with a double and an RBI. That is not even counting the RBI single he hit today in the rain shortened game at Knology Park.

I know its only the first couple games of the Spring-- but let's not throw Melky under the bus before he even gets a chance to play a full season at Yankee Stadium.


Anonymous said...

melky owns.

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