In our next edition of Should or Shouldn’t we examine the Hall of Fame case of Mark Teixeira. So far, we’ve looked at the cases of Adrian Beltre, Edgar Martinez, Chase Utley, Trevor Hoffman, Dustin Pedroia, Roy Halladay, and Yadier Molina. Clicking any of the previously mentioned names will take you to our Should or Shouldn’t for that player.
On Friday August 5th, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira announced he will retire from Major League Baseball after the 2016 season. The 36-year old switch hitter is in the final year of an eight-year, $180M deal.
His statistics – and his contract – epitomize the declining performance of the Yankees’ aging stars. Since 2009, the season in which Tex finished second in the AL MVP voting with an American League-high 39 HR with 122 RBI, he has struggled mightily on the field. He’s currently slashing just .199/.288/.341 with 10 HR and 27 RBI in 2016. If we go back to near the end of the 2012 season, we can count 298 games Teixeira missed with a variety of nagging injuries. Even when he seemed to be coming back from an extended absence, one thing after another continued to land him on the disabled list.
In 14 seasons since being drafted 5th overall out of Georgia Institute of Technology by the Texas Rangers, Teixeira established himself as one of the premier switch hitters of all-time, all the while wielding a wicked glove in the field. He enters the final weeks of the season with a career slash line of .269/.361/.511 with 404 HR, 1,838 hits, 1,281 RBI. The Yankees’ first baseman is a three-time All-Star with five Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards to his credit. In 2005, arguably his best season, he crushed 43 HR with 144 RBI as a member of the Texas Rangers.
After many successful seasons in Texas, it was clear the Rangers were not going to be able to re-sign the slugger after he rejected an eight-year, $140M offer in July of 2007. They opted to trade him to the Atlanta Braves in one of baseball’s historically bad trades. In exchange for Teixeira the Rangers received current big leaguers Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Matt Harrison. The following July, the Braves traded Tex to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. He led the Angels to their first 100-win season in franchise history, but the Angels faltered in the AL Divisional Series against the Red Sox even though Teixeira hit .467 with seven hits and one RBI. He signed the aforementioned eight-year deal with the Yankees that offseason and the rest is history.
He will finish his career as one of only five switch hitters in baseball history with 400 career home runs, trailing only Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468) and former Yankees teammate Carlos Beltran (415). Teixeira is certainly in great company in that regard, but I don’t believe it will be enough to propel him into the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2022.
Yes, Tex had eight seasons of at least 30 home runs, and ten seasons of at least 100 RBI. He had a couple clutch home runs in the 2009 playoffs to propel the Yankees to a World Series victory. His five Gold Gloves are a mere representation of his dexterity with a glove. Yet, he was only a three-time All-Star, finished in the top-ten in MVP voting just twice, and led his league in HR and RBI just once. Sorting through data provided by Baseball-Reference.com, the average Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of Hall of Fame first baseman is 65.9. In comparison, Tex has amassed just 52.1 WAR. He’ll fall short of 2,000 hits, 1,500 runs, and 1,500 RBI for his career.
He did not deserve the bad publicity shot at him when he spurned offers from his home-state Nationals and Orioles in the 2008 offseason. All in all, he comes off as a great person with a genuine personality, and impactful clubhouse presence. But at the end of the day, his career numbers don’t measure up to those already enshrined in baseball lore. Had Teixeira enjoyed a few more productive seasons in his 30’s, this conversation would be entirely different. We may be talking about the most dominant switch hitter in history, but instead we’re talking about a player with statistics representative of a productive peak, but spiraling decline plagued by Father Time.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com