The retiring Mark Teixeira is not a Hall a Famer, even though there is a legitimate case to be made for his enshrinement one day. He is not a lifelong Yankee or in the pantheon of Yankees greats. However, the 36-year old was a terrific player for his time and he’s one of the best all-around first baseman in baseball history not only on both sides of the ball, but on both sides of the plate as well.
The switch-hitting slugger is the only first baseman in the history of the game with more than 400 homers, 1,200 RBI, 900 walks and five Gold Gloves. Along with Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, Teixeira is one of just three first basemen with eight straight seasons of 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs. In his prime, Teixeira was among the premier players in the sport. From 2003-2012—Teixeira’s first 10 years in the big leagues—he ranked sixth among all position players in WAR.
With 409 home runs, “Tex” will finish his career fifth-all time in home runs among switch hitters, behind Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones and Carlos Beltran. The first two are Hall of Famers and the last two will be.
“I feel connected to every one of the switch-hitters,” Teixeira said earlier this season after becoming the 55th man to join the 400-homerun club. “Mickey Mantle played for the Yankees. Eddie Murray is the reason that I’m a switch-hitter; I watched him growing up in Baltimore. I got to play with Chipper Jones for a year in Atlanta, which was an unbelievable experience. And now I’m here with ‘Los and we do it in the same year. It’s really cool. I’ll always be able to take that with me.”
The Maryland native is 13th all-time in bWAR among switch-hitters, with Reggie Smith the only man ahead of him who didn’t land in Cooperstown. He has fourth highest career OPS among the group, trailing only The Mick, Lance Berkman and Chipper. He is also the only switch-hitter in major-league history to hit at least 400 doubles and 400 home runs within the first 14 seasons of his career, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave. Blues.
While Teixeira is more than deserving of induction into the Hall of Pretty Damn Good, he came close to having a Cooperstown-worthy peak. According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS scores, the average Hall of Fame first baseman was worth 42.5 bWAR in his seven best seasons; Teixeira was worth 37.9 in his. But with less than 2,000 career hits and the inability to hang on for a few extra seasons for counting stats like, say, 500 homers, it’s safe to say he falls short of being a Hall of Famer.
If his fifth-inning single on Saturday ends up being his last career hit, Teixeira will finish with 409 homers, 408 doubles, 1,862 hits and 1,298 RBIs. He was a titanic influence in New York’s World Series win in 2009, leading the AL in home runs (39), RBIs (122) and total bases (344). He was also a three-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger winner and no one else in history brought Teixeira’s combination of power and defense to first base.
Teixeira, who was a candidate for most valuable player just a season ago until he fractured a shin in mid-August, has been hit by the injury bug in recent years and played in just 487 of 809 possible games over the last five years. He has also been plagued by the increased use of shifts. As recently as this spring, Teixeira talked about playing five more seasons, but he realized his body can’t withstand the grind of 162 games anymore.
In the past three decades, the Yankees have primarily used four first basemen. They’ve transitioned from Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez to Jason Giambi to Teixeira. Now they will transition again with youngster Greg Bird seemingly ready to take the reins, but Teixeira deserves to be remembered fondly for the player he was at his best, not the shell of that player he became towards the end.