Yesterday, Mark Teixeira announced his retirement after 14 seasons, the last eight with the Yankees.
I’ve gotten used to retirements by now. I used up everything I had when I saw Rivera and Jeter bow out in 2013 and 2014. And Teixeira is nowhere near the transcendent player that those guys were – he isn’t a homegrown player, he isn’t a Hall of Famer, he didn’t play on those championship teams in the late 90s and early 2000s.
But I’ve always liked Tex. And I will miss him.
I remember when the Yankees signed Teixeira on December 23rd, 2008. It was like an early Christmas gift – ’twas a cold December evening in my senior year of high school. The newswires brought good tidings, and the Yankees had their first baseman of the future. It was a massive contract – eight years, $180 million. At the time, it was the third largest contract ever signed by a player behind Jeter and A-Rod.*
*It’s now the 15th largest.
And for the first few years, he did not disappoint. In 2009, he led the American League in home runs, RBI’s, and total bases. He was #2 in the MVP voting, behind Joe Mauer. He was the #3 hitter on a team that won 103 games and the World Series. He didn’t play that well in the playoffs, but he did hit a dramatic, extra-inning walkoff home run in Game 2 of the ALDS. These were good times in Yankeeland.
On a warm May night in 2011, I saw him get absolutely mobbed behind second base after he hit a walk-off single.
The Yankees were trailing 4-3 going into the ninth. An odd series of events followed. Jorge Posada, in his final year, pinch hit for Eduardo Nunez and hit a double to right field, thanks to a misplay by the right fielder. Chris Dickerson pinch-ran for Posada. Then with two outs, Curtis Granderson hit a single into right that scored Dickerson to tie the game. Then Granderson stole second base. And then Mark Teixeira stepped up to the plate. And then this happened:
I’ll remember that night for two things. First, a great comeback win in the ninth. And second, the fan giveaway was… grass seed mix.
Tex had a weird knack for yelling obscenities after getting hit by a pitch. And, boy, did he get hit. He never stood particularly close to the plate, but somehow he was hit 36 times in his first three years as a Yankee. Like this. Owww:
And this. Owwwwwwwwww:
And sometimes he liked to yell at pitchers. Throw the ball over the plate!
Vincente Padilla hit him all the time:
Oh, Teixeira’s beef with Padilla was legendary. It went back to the early 2000s, when they were teammates in Texas. Padilla is a notoriously terrible person – he used to hit guys on purpose just because he wanted to, and then the opposing teams would retailiate, often by hitting Teixeira. Teixeira told Padilla to, like, stop hitting guys, and Padilla didn’t listen.
Tex: Padilla has no friends in the game because of his head-hunting ways.
Padilla: In this sport, as competitive ball players, we get pretty fired up. So I think, maybe, (Teixeira) picked the wrong profession. I think he’d be better off playing a women’s sport.
Hoo boy! Then Padilla accused Teixeira of having a vendetta against Latin players. Teixeira, of course, denied this:
Tex: I ask you guys to interview every one of my Latin teammates in this clubhouse right now and ask them. That’s why it is funny because it is completely erroneous. That’s a good word.
Padilla: He is always crying and complaining. If he has a base hit, he cries, if he doesn’t, he cries. I just meant that not even women complain as much as him.
Tex faced Padilla 19 times. He hit 3 homers and was hit 3 times.
They faced each other one final time in 2012, when Padilla was on the Red Sox. The Yankees were trailing 6-4 in the eighth. Tex was up as the tying run. And then this happened:
I was at that game. It. Was. Awesome. Tex milked that home run, and then some. He stared into the night and walked half way down the first line. It was the only time he ever did that.
Joe Buck’s call was perfect. Ripped! He got ’em! Tie game!
Tex was injured for most of 2013. He had a terrible, injury-plagued season in 2014. He was having a nice year in 2015 – 31 homers in 111 games – but then broke his leg and missed the rest of the season.
And now here we are in 2016, the last year of Teixeira’s contract, and the last year of his major league career. He’s having an awful year. But he’s shown glimpses of what he used to be. On Wednesday, he hit a home run and reached base four times. Last month in a game in San Diego, he hit two home runs, the second of which was his 400th career blast.
He still plays a great first base. Gold Gloves are pretty meaningless, but he’s won three as a Yankee, and he continues to be one of the best fielders in the league. I don’t know how many errors he’s saved Chase Headley by scooping up balls in the dirt that would have otherwise gone into the dugout. It’s been … a considerable amount.
He also looks a lot like Rachel Maddow:
And everyone on Twitter thinks he looks like a horse. I don’t really see it. But the tweets are hilarious.
Everyone gets old, and everyone leaves the game, sometimes with a bang, but most of the time with a whimper. Tex will be remembered as a good, solid player who may or may not have been worth the $180 million the Yankees paid him. I’ll just remember watching him play on those late, hot summer nights – his wide open stance, his weird bat waggle, his booming home runs, his frustrating groundballs into the shift, and his penchant for getting hit by pitches.
It was a good run in pinstripes, from that chilly December evening in 2008 to this frikkin hot August heat in 2016. Farewell, Marcus.