Cleat Geeks

The Pinstripe Post; Mariekson Julius… Who?

Yep. Is that a player on the current Yankees roster? Or working in the front office? Anyone you’ve had park your car recently? Sold you a cold beer or hot dog at a game?

I can assure you that the man named Mariekson is hard at work behind the scenes, and not doing the YMCA at the Stadium. He’s our mad tweeter, Didi Gregorius. He adopted his father’s nickname of Didi when his earlier teammates couldn’t pronounce his name.

First discovered by a Cincinnati Reds scout in his native Netherlands in 2006, Didi was signed by them in 2007. Through trades, he began playing in the minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. Because of injury, he came up with the Diamondback big league team on April 13. In his first at bat with the team, he hit a home run off Phil Hughes on the first pitch. That season he hit .252 in 103 games, but struggled against LHP, only managing a .200 average.

Image result for didi gregorius reds

An open starting role for shortstop of the New York Yankees became available in 2015 after the retirement of certain Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. This was obviously much anticipated by everyone. Who would take over for the face of MLB? Possibly the best loved player of all time?

Brian Cashman traded in the 2014-2015 off-season for Didi. In a three team deal, the player given up by Cashman was pitcher Shane Green. Certainly an expendable player for the Yankees. Who was this “Didi” guy who no one really knew and acquired for nothing that really hurt the Yankees? How could he fill the void left behind by Jeter?

Didi had a very rocky beginning playing in pinstripes. In April and May of 2015, he batted .222 and committed 6 errors. Plays that Jeter would have made possibly and of course the comparisons were made. Would this get to the new man on the block and into his head? Would the pressure of taking over for the legend of Derek Jeter and playing on the biggest stage in professional baseball break him?

Didi put in the work to hone his craft and slowly improved over the course of the 2015 season. At the end of the year, he was nominated for a Golden Glove award, but lost to Escobar. His bat improved also and he ended his first season in New York at a respectable .265 with 9 homers and 56 RBIs.

Arrive 2017. Didi played for his home team of the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and suffered a shoulder injury which sidelined him for the first month of the season. He was activated on April 28 and like with his first MLB at bat, proved himself by knocking in a run with a RBI double. He also hit a RBI single in that game, helping his team notch a victory against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Image result for didi gregorius yankeesThis season Didi has outperformed offensively, having his most productive year ever with his bat. Currently slashing .291/.325/.820, he also has a 3.7 WAR. He has hit many milestones this season including June 20 his 500th MLB hit, his 50th home run on June 21 and July 20 through 23, hit home runs in consecutive games. He has also significantly improved hitting off lefties with a current average of .266 versus southpaws. Possibly most impressive is his ability to be clutch this season, with a batting average of .311 with runners in scoring position.

Equally impressive is Didi’s glove. He has flashed some major leather this year, only committing 9 errors in 1105 2/3 innings, with a fielding percentage of .981. He and second baseman Starlin Castro have provided solid infield play for the Yankees.

A shortstop typically isn’t thought of as a power hitter. However, Didi proved that he isn’t your run of the mill shortstop by last night hitting his 25th home run of 2017, eclipsing the record of an aforementioned certain first ballot Hall of Famer, and possibly the best loved Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter. When asked about power hitting, Didi recently admitted he’s sometimes surprised by it. He said, “Mostly I’m trying to hit line drives. If I hit it, I hit it.”

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A great glove, a hot bat. He has proven that. But another attribute Didi Gregorius has brought to the team is leadership and an unbelievable humbleness. He is also known for his post-game tweets, in which Didi sums up victories (he only tweets when the team wins) with his signature “start spreading the news” and “what a game” hash tags. He has given each teammate an emoji and Twitter users look forward to new emojis and his post game recaps. However, he NEVER mentions himself. He could have the best game of his career, and it’s all about the team and the accomplishments of others. His tweet yesterday following his record setting home run wasn’t even about the Yankees. Unfortunately a child was hit by a foul ball during the game and hospitalized and Didi tweeted a get well wish for her. What a game? No, what a man.

Didi has more than proven himself worthy to be the starting shortstop of the New York Yankees with his personal qualities, bat and glove. The next Derek Jeter? No. He’s Mariekson Julius “Didi” Gregorius and has made the position his own with his signature style. No comparison needed to the past. The future belongs to this man.

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