[21 games into the season represents roughly 1/8th of the schedule, and the end of the first month seems like a good time to analyze what has thus far occurred. Following a tradition started by Boston Bren, mid-term evaluations are called Progress Reports (not Report Cards). These ratings are somewhat subjective, as they attempt to balance expectations and salary with value contributed to the team.
We already tackled the starting rotation and the infield, and later today we will weigh in on the bullpen.]
Nick Swisher - A+
Comments: Nick is one of my very favorite students and is very well liked by his classmates.
Swish broke onto the scene in New York like no one else I can remember. He hit .219 and had an OPS+ of 92 (below league average) last year. Cashman picked him up for spare parts (Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez) during the offseason, and I don't think even Cash could have expected how well this has worked out so far. Swish has smashed home runs, made great catches, and even pitched an inning in relief. The guy always has a smile on his face, and it's basically impossible not to like him. Who knows if it will last, but let's just appreciate it while it's happening.
Johnny Damon - A
Comments: Johnny doesn't speak up in class very often, but does make thoughtful contributions to the discussion.
This is probably extending the metaphor a little too far, but Damon goes largely unnoticed by Yankees fans. He's a solid hitter, even for a corner outfielder, rarely strikes out, still hits home runs, can steal bases... The ambivalence obviously stems from his previous team. We've gotten over the initial revulsion of him being on the roster, but he will never be truly embraced or appreciated for what he does in Pinstripes save for some future postseason heroics. Let's just not forget that he's an extremely competent hitter and decent in left field.
Brett Gardner - D
Comments: Despite trying his very hardest, Brett is simply not equipped to handle the coursework of this grade level.
It would be an F, but my expectations for the gutsy scrapper weren't really that high to begin with. Just like he did in 127 PAs last year, Gardner has amassed a line that doesn't exceed .300 in average, on-base or slugging. See Melky Cabrera for more.
Hideki Matsui - B
Comments: While he can not participate in all classroom activities, Hideki has done well with the tasks he has been assigned.
I'm tossing him in with the OF's because that is his natural position, but it doesn't look like he's going to see any action in the field anytime soon. Giving him a "B" is mostly a function of his .410 OBP, which is totally acceptable even if his average and slugging are pretty low. Godzirra is in the last year of his contract and due to his knee problems, it looks like this could be the end of his career in the MLB.
Melky Cabrera - A+
Comments: After failing several classes last year, Melky has shown tremendous improvement and an eagerness to get back on track.
I've gotta give credit where credit is due here. When I launched my assault on Melky a little over a week ago, I didn't bother to compare his numbers to Brett Gardner's. Pretty lazy, I know, but it was 15 games into the season and last year devoured any love I had for the guy. After doing a side by side, it's pretty obvious that no amount of differential in fielding range or speed on the basepaths could make Gardner as valuable as Melky has been thus far. It's gotta be a mirage... Melky is hitting like an All-Star CF right now. It's only 55 plate appearances, so I feel pretty comfortable saying that if his OPS+ is still 150 at the All-Star break, I'll eat a live goldfish. And then you can kick me in the balls. It will be worth it.
Xavier Nady - INC
Comments: Xavier has missed too many classes and may have to repeat the grade if he tansfers to another school next year.
His injury really screws Nady considering that this is his walk year. Even though Boras is his agent, it's going to cost him multiple millions of dollars on the open market. It's not great for the Yanks either. X was the only pure right handed hitter in the OF and was actually hitting at a decent clip when he went down with his elbow injury. Due to Swisher's blistering start, Nady is mostly forgotten about in the minds of most Yanks fans, but it will be nice to get him back off the DL.