Via the Daily News -
Mark Teixeira makes it all sound very mysterious.
He wasn’t talking about his 0-for-5 on Sunday night, or the Yankees’ 3-2 loss to the Red Sox. The Yankees may have hit a bit of a lull here, losing seven of their last 10, but their lead in the AL East is still too big to pretend they’re in any trouble.
No, this is about Teixeira’s turnaround to his season, and what led to it. It’s about his hot July, in which he has driven in 27 runs, the most in the majors entering Sunday, and how he finally defied a voice from above to get there, taking a stand about who he is as a hitter.
It was a little more than a year ago, at about the time Teixeira, a switch hitter, had 25 home runs by the end of June, when he says someone of prominence in the Yankee organization essentially insisted that he stop trying to pull everything as a lefthanded hitter, and start using the whole field in an effort to boost his batting average.
“It wasn’t my decision,’’ he said on Sunday.
Teixeira doesn’t want to say who it was, except to say that it wasn’t hitting coach Kevin Long. Joe Girardi indicated on Sunday that it wasn’t him, saying it was a general feeling in the organization, and GM Brian Cashman said flatly that it wasn’t him.
It’s hard to imagine who else of importance would have gone to Teixeira, but the Yankee first baseman made it clear it was more than a request. And, in retrospect, he’s not happy about it.
“Hey, listen, halfway through last season I was on pace for 50 home runs and 130 RBI,’’ he said, “and I had people telling me, ‘you need to hit the ball the other way.’ I probably shouldn’t have listened to them but I try to please the people that I work for, and it didn’t work out.’’
Asked if he felt he had a choice in the matter, Teixeira was emphatic: “I was told to do something so I tried it,’’ he said.
It sounds like something George Steinbrenner would have done in his heyday, but Hal Steinbrenner, the new big boss, steers completely clear from such on-the-field baseball matters.
Wherever the order came from, it was based on Teixeira’s declining batting average. For much of his career he was a .300 or near-.300 hitter, but in 2010 his average fell to .256, and last season, even after he tried to stop pulling the ball so much when he hit lefthanded, he wound up at .248.
Teixeira, who is now batting .258, says he doesn’t understand such fuss over his average, since he continued to put up big production numbers, hitting 39 home runs with 111 RBI last season.
“It’s all about producing runs,’’ he said. “I’d love to hit .300 every year. It would make everybody happy, but I’d much rather drive in 100 runs every year.
“With the short porch here, why wouldn’t I want to take advantage of that? I’ve played in ballparks where you get rewarded in center field and left-center, but here the ball doesn’t carry to center and left-center. It’s 399 feet to the alley in left-center. It’s a big park that way.
“I tried to do it the other way in the second half last season and again this season, and the numbers weren’t good. Early in the season, I was swinging at pitches middle-away and hitting lazy fly balls to left or ground balls to short. I’d rather take that pitch and wait for a mistake. I want to do damage.’’
Not Long, Girardi or Cashman?