State of the Yankees: First Base Responsibilities Now Solely on Overbay’s Shoulders
The Yankee fan base would have had an undoubtedly hard time grasping the idea during spring training that journeyman Lyle Overbay would play first base for the majority of the games this season.
It would be a classic classroom scene, where the Yankee fans would play the role of the teacher asking the class a question, and Overbay would play the part of the disliked student who is the only one in the room to raise his hand.
“Is there anyone else?” the exasperated teacher/fans would ask. “Anyone else?!”
Fast forward to late June, however, and the Yankees organization and their fans have had a different response to the news that Overbay is changing from a fill in player to an everyday regular due to Mark Teixeira undergoing season ending surgery on his right wrist.
That response? Acceptance.
Their change in overall attitude towards the 36 year old first baseman can be completely attributed to what he has not only done on the field but off it as well.
For starters, Overbay has performed way past expectations at the plate so far this season. Entering Thursday’s afternoon game against the Rangers, he had 9 homers, 34 RBI’s and a .239 batting average. Considering Overbay had 11 home runs combined during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Bronx Bombers have to be happy, and shocked, with the 9 long balls he has so far this year.
Not to mention, he has hit 4 go ahead homers for New York this season and 3 of them have come in the 7th inning or later.
Also take into account that Overbay is on pace for an over 70 RBI season. He has not reached that mark since the 2006 season, and has only driven in over 70 RBI’s three times in his career (87 in 2004, 72 in 2005, and 92 in 2006).
Are those Mark Teixeira type numbers? No, of course not. Overbay has never hit over 30 homers in a season, let alone 8 times like Teixeira has, or has he never driven in over 100 RBI’s, meanwhile Tex has accomplished that feat 8 times as well. In fact, very few first basemen in the league have put up Teixeira-like numbers.
But keep in mind that the now inactive first baseman only drove in 81 RBI’s last year, something that Overbay could potentially match during the 2013 campaign. And while Overbay’s batting average of .239 is obviously not ideal, neither was Teixeira’s the past 3 seasons (.256 in 2010, .248 in 2011, and .251 in 2012).
Off the field, Overbay has handled all of the pressure of playing baseball in New York exceptionally well. He avoids controversy, talks to reporters, and keeps his name out of the tabloids (I’m looking at you, A-Rod). Even when Overbay was playing some of his best baseball in years, he was still benched instantly, and almost cut, when Teixeira made his brief comeback. Tex hit 3 homers, drove in 12 runs, but only batted .151 in his first and last 15 games of the season.
The benching never got to Overbay, however. He still got ready to play every day, and he was prepared for any role that the Yankees were going to give him (even if it means playing outfield, which he had never done in his career before this year).
The role the Pinstripes are asking from Overbay now is to be their starting first baseman and to bring them consistent production. Not to be Mark Teixeira or to bring in those type of numbers, but to bring them enough production to remain playoff contenders.
If Overbay continues to produce during the second half of the season like he has for the first half, then fans will look back and may be able to point to him as a major reason why the Yankees were able to make the postseason.
Nolan Silbernagel covers MLB (Yankees) for WFUV Sports.