Bobby Abreu must be used to living in other people’s shadows. After all, he stands in them every time he takes the field at Yankee Stadium.
And even when he’s on the bench in the shade of the dugout with his pinstriped teammates, he’s still considered to be ‘under the radar’.While Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were trying to work out whether they were mates or not, Bobby Abreu was quiet and out of the fierce media glare that makes the 100 degree summer sun seem like an Artic picnic.
In fact, Abreu was so quiet at the start of the season – he barely kept his batting average about the .200 mark during the month of April – you wondered if he even played for the Yankees. He was pretty bad when the snow was still falling in March and April, batting a woeful .253 with just one home run – short change for a man with a reputation for whacking the long ball.
May was even worse as Abreu hit a dismal .208, coupled with just one more dinger. That’s right folks, the new and expensive hope hit a spot over .230 with two homers. Making matters worse, the home run hitter tried to become Mr Finesse, attempting to bunt his way onto a base in an effort to end the hitless games he kept on putting up.
While Yankee fans may have secretly admired the effort to get to first base, but outwardly they booed him with the same vehemence they did a certain third baseman only a year before.
Although .283, 16 homers and 101 RBIs at the end of the year was certainly nothing to be sniffed at, his numbers paled into comparison to those put up a year before and seem nothing compared to the .314, 54 homer, 156 RBI Alex Rodriguez put up.
And while Abreu must have been happy to celebrate just one homer last year, A-Rod was celebrating No.500 with such a joy you would have thought the home run record came with it.
And if the talks fail with A-Rod and he and his GDP-sized contract finally turn their back on the Bronx, the onus will be on him to shine. After all, the Yanks did hand him a one-year, $16 million contract only a few days after the season ended.
And to make matters worse for Abreu, A-Rod jumped into his position at third baseman and looked pretty solid last year, dropping his 2007 error total to 13 from 24. Abreu, on the other hand, was a middling outfielder with four errors and just six assists.
And even the weight of expectation seemed too big for Abreu. While A-Rod happily hit home runs despite being tagged as the “new Hank Aaron” (no-one pays any attention to Barry Bonds anymore), Abeu has struggled since his times in Philly, when he crushed no less than 20 dingers per season for seven straight years.
He also put himself further in the media spotlight when he won the Home Run Derby of 2005, jacking 41 homers on a balmy night in Detroit during All-Star week. But then, that was too much. In New York, he’s only hit 23 in one-and-a-half years.
So what will happen? If A-Rod stays, Abreu may just shine. He’ll get over 100 runs scored this year, and will probably break the 100 barrier in RBIs, too – simply because the likes of Jeter, A-Rod, and Johnny Damon walk too much. Just don’t expect him to hit over 50 homers.
And if A-Rod does go – which is looking increasingly unlikely by the day, this could well be ‘Bobby’s year’. But then again, you never know.