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Bronx bum

Yankees have a hitter more useless than Giambi

Posted: Tuesday June 14, 2005 1:20PM; Updated: Tuesday June 14, 2005 1:50PM
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Tony Womack
Tony Womack has stolen 16 bases in 19 attempts, but he has zero home runs in 213 at-bats this season.
Chuck Solomon/SI
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By now it should be obvious that the guy can't hit, especially for extra bases, and he has no business taking up a roster spot, so it's time for the Yankees to consider his inflated salary as sunk money and just release him. And come to think of it, the same could be said for Jason Giambi. (More on The Sultan of Shot below.)

The albatross is Tony Womack.

The Yankees made a mistake in signing Womack to a two-year, $4 million deal rather than keeping Miguel Cairo. They made the blunder bigger by playing Womack every day. They made things even worse by batting him first or second, giving a guy with a .289 OBP extra plate appearances. And they goofed again by moving him to left field, as if an American League team can simply write off offense from a corner outfield position.

It boggles the mind to think that after 62 games, only Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield have taken more at-bats for the Yankees than Womack. It is a mystery why the Yankees have no bona fide backup outfielder -- a Shane Spencer/Chad Curtis type. But even more mind-blowing than that oversight is that manager Joe Torre keeps writing Womack's name in the lineup, especially near the top.

Womack has been so bad that you can boil down his year to this harsh conclusion: He's on track to be the worst outfielder in 99 years.

Womack has zero home runs. Yes, you say, but he's a speedy gap hitter, right? That must be why Torre bats him near the top of his lineup. But do you know how many doubles Womack has since April 26? One. Triples? Zero. One extra-base hit in seven weeks. Five for the entire season.

And do you know how many times all year this "catalyst" has stolen a base and scored a run in the same game? Five. That's it. And yet Torre is on track to give this guy 557 at-bats this year.

Here are Womack's projected numbers for the season:

AB 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. OBP Slg.
557 10 3 0 26 .249 .289 .277

Those are historically horrible numbers.

Only five players in history have had such low on-base and slugging percentages without hitting a home run while getting at least 550 at-bats. Here they are:

Kid Gleason, 2B (1898 N.Y. Giants)
Billy Maloney, OF (1906 Brooklyn Superbas)
Gil Torres, SS (1945 Washington Senators)
Don Kessinger, SS (1967 Chicago Cubs)
Ozzie Smith, SS (1979 San Diego Padres)

Only one of them played the outfield: Maloney, Womack's doppelganger as career profiles go. Like Womack (5-foot-9, 160), Maloney was a small (5-10, 177), speedy player who switched positions (catcher to outfield), batted left-handed, threw right-handed and was a National League stolen-base champion. The 1906 Superbas kept running Billy out there on their way to finishing 66-86, 50 games behind the first-place Cubs. Maloney's 1906 season closely resembles Womack's projection:

Player AB 2B 3B HR RBI Avg. OBP Slg.
Womack 557 10 3 0 26 .249 .289 .277
Maloney 566 15 7 0 32 .221 .286 .272

Two years later, on Sept. 9, 1908, the Superbas employed Maloney as their emergency catcher against the New York Giants. Before that season, Maloney had not caught since 1902. McGraw's Giants stole nine bases off Maloney, who was so upset he quit at the close of the season. And since then the game has never seen such a bad-hitting outfielder get regular playing time. Until Womack.

Many things are wrong with the Yankees, including the construction of their roster, too many dead arms in the bullpen, a brutal defense, a mystifying decline by Matsui, the bad karma of Kevin Brown and Giambi, a failure to embrace situational baseball, etc. Womack is not the only reason or most important reason the Yankees are the biggest underachievers in baseball. He may simply be the most obvious -- the easiest to address. He's a good guy who tries hard and may have some value as an NL bench player or a roster filler on a bad team. He has no value as a corner outfielder for an AL contender.