Here are the last two installments of Steve Goldman’s excellent Pinstriped Bible column over the YES website (I’m sorry I forgot to link last week’s piece). Goldman offers objective analysis of the current Yankee team, while providing a thorough, and detailed historical context to measure their accomplishments by. It makes his weekly column a must-read for all Yankee fans.
This week, Goldman compares the 2003 Yanks with four other Yankee teams who got off to similar starts (1928, ’39, ’49, and ’58—yeah, all those teams went on to win the World Serious).
Here is what Goldman has to say about Nick “Godzookie” Johnson, since Joe Torre moved him to the 2-hole in the batting order:
Nick Johnson is now displaying the great eye at the plate that made him such a prized prospect. Credit Johnson and the Yankees brain trust for mental flexibility: Johnson’s minor league success came from crowding the plate within an inch of its life. He tried it last year, and other than earning him 12 free bases/bruises on HBPs, it didn’t work. This season Johnson has backed off — he hasn’t been hit once — and he’s found that not only can he still control the strike zone, but he can control it better. The mechanical issue resolved, the man’s natural ability has taken over. At this writing, Johnson is carrying a .982 OPS and there’s every reason to expect more of the same.
When Jeter returns, Torre is going to face a tough decision as to how to reorder his lineup. Respect for Jeter’s previous accomplishments dictates a return to the top of the order, but Johnson is doing things in the two-hole that aren’t in Jeter’s bag of tricks — Johnson is likely to draw twice as many walks as Jeter takes in a typical year. Jeter does many things well, and he could bat anywhere, and should be encouraged to do so. Johnson’s confident, he’s hot, and should be a fixture at the top of the order from now on.