By Pete Zamplas- Cameron Maybin might be the good-luck charm the New York Yankees need with his bat and base speed and championship pedigree, and he also benefits fantasy baseball owners in their playoffs that typically start this week.
Maybin, who is batting a crisp .291, seeks his second World Series ring in three seasons as he again has gone to a prime contender. In 2017, he went from the so-so Angels late in the regular season to the Houston Astros who went on to win their first-ever World Series in 56 seasons. In contrast, the Yankees have won the World Series 27 times — more than twice the 11 of the runner-up Cardinals. The Yankees’ last Series triumph was a decade ago, in 2009 over the Phillies. Thus, New York fans are hungry to win it all again.
Maybin told The Tribune soon after that winning the 2017 World Series it felt both “exciting” and “humbling” to finally become a champion. He said “I’ve done my time,” after a decade in the big leagues without even reaching playoffs.
This time the 2005 T.C. Roberson grad joined a contender (NYY) early in the season, after starting with Cleveland’s AAA team.
The Yanks have won more games than anyone. Their winning mark with a month to go is .652 — just ahead of Houston (.645) in the American League and N.L.-leading L.A. Dodgers (.640). Atlanta Braves at .609 are among merely five franchises over the lofty .600 mark; the other is revived Minnesota (.618).
The NYY lead the A.L. East by ten games, over upstart Tampa Bay. Ironically, after Houston traded for more talent while the Yanks stood pat it made Maybin’s former team Houston the favorite in much of the national media. The Yanks’ arch rival Boston won it all last year, but trails in the wild card race by five games and might miss playoffs.
Maybin, 32, is having one of his finest seasons at the plate by hitting .291. That is his second best, in 13 MLB seasons. He hit a career-best .315 in ’16 with the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him tenth overall in 2005. His career mark is .254.
He is a streaky hitter, as are many MLB players. He had two hits and two runs scored in three successive games in early June, and eight hits and five runs in three games in mid-June within a stretch in which he hit safely in nine of ten games.
Maybin sizzled early in August. He racked up ten hits (four on Aug. 7 including a homer) and seven runs in a four-game streak. He was batting .327. He was playing in most games and usually batted fifth, in the “heart of the lineup.” Other times, the lanky 6-foot-2, 196-pound right-handed hitter has platooned such as with lefty slugger Mike Tauchman.
Maybin remains one of the faster players in baseball, in the field and on the base paths. In 2017, he was second-best in the A.L. with 33 steals (29 with the Angels, and one out of the lead). He has 174 career stolen bases, and 60 home runs — peaking with ten for Atlanta in 2015. That was among his three seasons with more than 500 at bats, and starts in more than 125 of the 162 regular-season games. The other two were 2011 and ’12, both with San Diego.
He has played for eight MLB teams — twice each for Detroit and Miami. He is in the biggest market of them all in New York, but has played in Los Angeles with the Angels and in Atlanta.
Maybin has been sought-after for pennant runs. Last year, he went from the Marlins to playoff hopeful Seattle. He has had a series of brief contracts, which explains his going from team to team.
This year Maybin has about 200 at bats, as part of a loaded NYY lineup. That is a third of a full season. Maybin has dealt with a variety of injuries. Most recent was an ailing left wrist. That sidelined him for merely two games, before he returned to the lineup on Aug. 28. He missed a full month earlier, to late July.
His speed helps balance the power-laden New York lineup. He has often played center field, but this year also handles left field duties. Other NYY outfielders include sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (usually the DH), good-hitting rookies Tauchman and Clint Frazier, and veterans Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. When injuries hit some of those players, others such as Maybin play more regularly.
Cameron’s Maybin Mission has put on Holiday Project luncheons in recent years, to feed local children and provide them Christmas gifts.
Now, the local hero can help the Big Apple celebrate the holidays early.