Yes, we scoffed a year ago when the Yankees signed 39-year-old Raúl Ibañez.
No, Ibañez didn't exactly tear up the American League. But the Yankees ultimately paid Ibañez just $3 million, and in part-time duties, he posted a 104 OPS+ and came up with some huge hits in October.
Yes, we scoffed when the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki last July.
But his services were acquired for just $2.5 million and a couple of middling prospects, and he basically nailed his career numbers -- career numbers, by the way, that will probably get him into the Hall of Fame -- down the stretch as the Yankees won the American League East by two games.
With Ibañez and Suzuki, Brian Cashman and his front-office colleagues acquired some performance and some benefit of the doubt; the next time the New York Yankees acquired a seemingly washed-up erstwhile All-Star, we shouldn't be so quick to scoff, right?
Well, yeah ... but Ibañez wasn't that good last season. Perhaps more to the point, he seemed to benefit greatly from playing half his games at New Yankee Stadium; in fact he was terrible in the Yankees' road games, while batting .273/.349/.545 in the Bronx. Of his 19 regular-season home runs, 15 came at home.
Ichiro, same thing. After joining the Yankees, Ichiro batted .359 with five home runs at the Yankee Stadium; away from the Yankee Stadium, Ichiro batted .282 with zero home runs. Oh, and here's my Super-Favorite Bonus Statistic: in 31 road games as a Yankee, Ichiro drew ONE BASE ON BALLS.
None of this should be particularly surprising, as New Yankee Stadium has been the easiest American League home-run ballpark for left-handed hitters, by far. I'm not saying that Ibañez and Ichiro were creations of their home ballpark, but to a large degree, Ibañez and Ichiro were creations of their home ballpark.
Did I mention that both Ibañez and Ichiro bat left-handed? Didn't need to mention it, because you already knew it. I will mention that Vernon Wells bats right-handed, because you might not remember that.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Or what you might be thinking. You might be thinking, "But hey Rob isn't Vernon Wells a professional hitter and maybe he'll be smacking some home runs to the opposite field all the time like Derek Jeter or somebody."
I have some statistics I would like to share with you, and they are numbers. According to FanGraphs, last season Vernon Wells batted .088 -- three hits in 35 at-bats -- when hitting to the opposite field; the year before that, he batted .182 when going the other way. Basically, Wells has demonstrated approximately zero ability to go the other way with any authority at all. And there's little reason to think he's going to start now.
Look, the Yankees "needed" a right-handed-hitting outfielder two months ago. That was before half the lineup landed on the Opening Day disabled list. Now they're desperate for something, anything. And since Kyle Lohse, for all his talents, can't really play the outfield or hit much at all, they did something else. While the Yankees aren't on the hook for all of the $42 million Wells has coming to him over these next couple of seasons, the early word is that they're going to pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$14 million. Which does lead to a terribly obvious question ... If they had that kind of money to spend, why not spend it a few months ago when it might have gotten them a good player?
Ah, but they didn't think they needed to spend it a few months ago. Hal Steinbrenner thought the Yankees were good enough to at least contend for a Wild Card or something. But here's the problem with aiming for 90 wins instead of 100: When you're shooting for 90 and a few things go wrong, all of the sudden you're staring 84-78 real hard in the face.
So you spend the money after all. Which is better than not spending it. Except in this case, spending it bumps you from 84-78 all the way to 84-78. Seems like an odd way to spend the family money.
For much more about Vernon Wells and his new employers, please visit Pinstriped Bible.