Earlier in the week Mark Teixeira looked youthful and energized while making a one-night-only appearance in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages”. But the cold reality is, at just 32-years-old — he‘ll turn 33 in April — Teixeira is getting up there in baseball years, and is at the tail end of his prime.
That's just the way it is, but you might be shocked to hear that the first person who realizes and has accepted that fact just happens to be Teixeira himself.
The Yankees first baseman admitted as much during a candid interview with Dan Barbirisi of the Wall Street Journal. Teixeira also discussed how he knows it will become increasingly difficult to be productive on the field, or least productive enough to live up to the mega-contract he’s locked into — he's still owed $90 million through 2016 — and that he understands fans will be justified in calling him overpaid.
Here are a few excerpts from the must read interview, beginning with accepting his prime years will soon be behind him:
"I looked at the first six or seven years of my career, I was in my 20s, it was easy. I wasn't searching for the right formula. To think that I'm going to get remarkably better, as I get older and breaking down a little bit more, it's not going to happen."
On the inevitable deterioration in skills:
"Maybe I'm slowing down a tick. Look, I'm not going to play forever. Eventually you start, I don't want to say declining, but it gets harder and harder to put up 30 [homers] and 100 [RBI]."
"This is my 11th year. I'm not going to play 10 more years. I want 5 or 6 good ones. So that would say I'm on the backside of my career. And instead of trying to do things differently on the backside of my career, why not focus on the things I do well, and try to be very good at that?"
On his overall value and being overpaid:
"Agents are probably going to hate me for saying it. You're not very valuable when you're making $20 million. When you're Mike Trout, making the minimum, you are crazy valuable. My first six years, before I was a free agent, I was very valuable. But there's nothing you can do that can justify a $20 million contract."
On failing to hit .260 each of the past three seasons:
"I want to be the player who hits home runs, drives in runs. I'd love to get back to the player that I've always been, but if I hit .250, .260, instead of .280, so be it."
Brutal honesty may not go a long way in the eyes of fans who focus only on salaries and stats, but I have to think a player being honest with himself will help ease the mental burden that goes along with a decline in skills. In turn, that could help him avoid extended slumps and allow him to stay ahead of the curve.
Of course physically it could be a whole different story. In fact, just last season Teixeira missed 39 games with a calf injury and a brutal case of bronchitis. There's no telling when the human body will start throwing up red flags or begin the process of breaking down, but a strong and accepting mindset might go a long way towards overcoming those hurdles as well.
There's plenty more to read in the interview, including comments from Brian Cashman, who understands the point Teixeira has reached in his career. I'd suggest giving it a look if you have a few spare minutes.