When Mark Teixeira struck out for the fifth time against the Blue Jays on Saturday, it did more than just match the worst individual performance of his career.
It also marked the exact moment the Yankees first baseman finally hit rock bottom.
It had been a long, strange trip to get there, prolonged slumps followed by promising breakouts followed by prolonged slumps. Teixeira's confidence eroded with each strikeout at Rogers Centre, his approach growing more tentative with each failure.
The two-time All-Star got ahead in the count 3-0 and still struck out, feebly waving at a pedestrian slider to conclude his day. He dipped his head and walked back to the dugout, the Diamond-Encrusted Sombrero resting firmly upon his head.
Yankees broadcaster John Sterling has a well-worn maxim he uses whenever something unexpected happens and it goes something like this: "Ya know Suzyn...you CAN'T figure out baseball!" He usually chuckles after he makes this statement then references a Broadway play from the 1920s.
I'm not sure if Sterling has uttered that line about Teixeira's 2010 season, but it absolutely applies. Because there's really no way to understand how 57 games into the season, Mark Teixeira has been one of baseball's worst hitters.
And make no mistake, he has been one of the league's worst offensive players. I don't exactly count myself among the Sabermetric enlightened, but Teixeira has to be ground zero in the argument that the RBI is baseball's most misleading statistic.
Teixeira has driven in 34 runs this season. The average total for a Major League first baseman is 21. Weird, right?
From an outsider's perspective it would seem that Teixeira is coming around. He finished May with a very respectable .280 average, hitting six homers with 25 RBIs.
But for those who have watched the majority of his at-bats—including, one can assume, most of the people reading this very blog right now—you know that Teixeira's May was a smoke-and-mirrors job all the way. Fifty percent of his homers and 20 percent of his RBIs for the month came in one blowout win at Fenway Park on May 8. In some ways, his second month was more frustrating than his washout of an April.
Teixeira followed his nightmare Saturday with another 0-for-4 on Sunday, dropping his average to .211. If he can't come out of his slump this week—and with a trip to Camden Yards and the 16-41 Orioles on the horizon, he won't have much of an excuse—then the whispers will turn into a roar for Teixeira to be dropped out of his customary No. 3 spot in the order.
Girardi is notoriously stubborn, so I doubt any changes will come. From his perspective, you have to believe he doesn't want to mess with Robbie Cano (the presumed No. 3 fill-in), who has taken to the fifth spot so well.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and we've reached virgin-on-prom-night levels of gloom here. Joe Torre once dropped Alex Rodriguez to eighth in the Yankees lineup (in a playoff game, no less!), a move, that despite its best intentions was pretty, well, stupid.
In Teixiera's case, nothing nearly that rash is necessary. But he could use the change of scenery to get his mind in a different place. Perhaps flip-flop him with Jorge Posada, another switch-hitter, proven run producer, and a veteran who the mental makeup to produce wherever he bats. Teixeira can hit behind Cano and get his confidence back to 2009-levels of robotic efficiency.
Then, when the time is right, re-insert him at the third spot and away you go.
It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life of baseball. Six months of action lends itself to blowing things out of proportion. Look no further than at Javier Vazquez, who 90 percent of Yankees would've traded for a bucket of rocks 30 days ago. Now he has the same number of wins as CC Sabathia.
Chances are that Teixeira will figure this out. Career .286 hitters don't just go into a tailspin in the middle of their primes. But perhaps Teixeira could use a little push in the right direction. A trip south in the lineup may be just the mental vacation he needs.